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The Content Wars

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In today’s hyper-connected world, the winners of the content wars will be the brands who have created and shared exceptional content.   The best brands recognize that people – not ads or messages – are the new voice of their companies.    In a crowded digital landscape, it has become harder than ever to ignite and connect with a community of loyal advocates for your brand by engaging them with good content – and here's why.

People Consume Content Differently Today

If your content strategy hasn’t changed dramatically in the last five years, you’re probably losing the content war.  Think about the content you read.  The competition for your time is almost endless. To get attention, content needs to be compelling, experiential and tell a great story or solve a real problem. The best brands are finding ways to engage prospects by creating exceptional online experiences and scaling their core message across relevant digital properties. One way to achieve scale is to take content and repurpose it.  Take one research paper, turn it into tweets, blogs, videos, webinars. Another way to achieve this shift is to engage bloggers to promote your message to their communities to extend your reach above and beyond what you can produce on your own.   

Prospects are Jaded about Marketing  

Consumers are getting shell-shocked. They’re the targets of too much messaging. That’s why good content needs to mimic a conversation with your customer that creates meaningful engagement.    The right conversation will help to solve a problem and build a relationship with your customer that will be sustained and reinforced with each interaction.   Consider mapping out an editorial calendar as you publish content. Lay out your web site in a way that’s designed as if you were having a talk with your customer on a topic that interests them. Your brand voice needs to connect over multiple interactions before you can move to a selling conversation.  Prospects will let down their guard if you become a trusted source of information.

Only the Exceptional Will Stand Out  

Fortune favors the brave.  Good content needs to be relevant, differentiated, and compelling.  Your brand voice needs to connect in a meaningful way with your audience.  It needs to be provocative or interesting and it needs to come at the speed of an old fashioned PR machine, rather than a slow-moving marketing production schedule.   If you don’t have a journalist on your marketing team, you may want to consider hiring one. Exceptional content at scale, with speed is the objective.

So while content marketing has been around as long as people have been telling stories, the laws have changed and the battle for attention has intensified.  Many companies are slow to move from the traditional focus on outbound messaging to a targeted content strategy geared toward building engagement, collective awareness and buzz.  The transition is a hard one—it takes a lot of work to shift your entire content strategy. The new winners will be those who can engage, delight, entertain, and teach.

How are you building engagement with your customers?  Are you winning the war, or just adding to the noise?

20 Responses

  1. Ted Rubin says:

    The marketing shift to branded storytelling also means that companies need to re-think metrics. It’s not enough today to simply measure impressions as a factor of campaign ROI—we need to think in terms of measuring our influence as well and our SOV (Share of Voice). Tracking the quality of engagement with our messaging is crucial to measuring overall effectiveness.

    So whether your business is selling widgets or services, success depends on thinking more in terms of delivering stories about those widgets or services and how people use them than about pumping out feature-rich fact sheets or ads. Your customers want to hear those stories, so find more ways to tell them! Reach out to your brand advocates and collaborate with them, and don’t forget to include quality of engagement in your metrics for a better overall view of how you’re doing. In other words, think like a publisher—you’ll get better results.

  2. Great points Ted especially the point about storytelling vs selling!   I like your thought on thinking like a publisher.  This is the 'mindshift' change that needs to take place. 

  3. Could not agree more on the storytelling aspect. I try my hardest not to use slides and prefer a simple backdrop as a way to tell a series of interwoven stories. I have quiet a big storybook so will always try and engage the audience when I present and ask individuals questions to develop a theme or scenario that build throughout – I never talk about product

    Another thing I really like to do is to get around as many of the participants before I get up to speak, this way I can pull a chapter or two from my mind and talk to that person as I walk the audience (did I mention I am not to keen on stages either:) and give industry specific examples

    My good friend, Gary Swale from Knowledge Dimension in South Africa, gave an interview a month or so back after being presented with the IBM Beacon Award for their win at McDonalds, and talked about Africa being a "Nation of storytellers" and hence why this style resonated so well in the ever changing marketplace.

    Great insight Tami, really thought provoking

     

     

    • Thank you David for your comment!  You make a great point that basic storytelling is the primary ingredient in successful selling. I”m glad to hear this resonates in South Africa – a nation of storytellers – very cool.  Thanks for sharing.

  4. Amar Trivedi says:

    Another stellar post, Tami. Excellent round of spot-on, smart business thinking. 

    Over my years in content marketing (craft, creation, strategy, brand exp), I've learnt: "Content is air. Without it, media wouldn't exist. Quality content, however, is the oxygen we breathe in = engage with/ allow past our built-in media filter (share, like, comment).

    I'm with Ted and Dave on the virtues of Storytelling. Data Science tells us Who are customers are, Social Media tells us what they're saying, Algorithms tell us Where, Strategy tells us When… so the differential i.e. the critical human input – lies in 'How' we're connecting, relating, communicating, serving, helping, adding value via content…

    Trust, Experience, Speed, Scale, Mapping… you've nailed the key concepts in your post. I'd love your feedback on my post: 7 Steps to Master the Content Marketing Loop.

    Developing on the oxygen analogy, your blog - post after superb post – comes as a breath of fresh air. Cheers :-) and more importantly, Many Thanks for the value-add.

    ps: Teach, Inform, Entertain, Delight, Amuse, Excite… Have fun with content. They get it.

  5. Scott Chepow says:

    Great read and how true it is that content needs to be quick and engaging. So, sans marketing calendar- how does one know when to 'freshen up' content? And, a follow up question, with the reaction time greatly reduced (and assuming the market research time as well) how do you know in what direction to alter the messaging to remain engaging? I'd love to have a journalist on board to craft the message, but, what do I tell them to craft?

    • Hi Scott,    Thanks for your comment.    It really depends on the purpose of your website and the type of engagement you are trying to drive.  ie whether it’s an outbound campaign, microsite, corporate page with solutions etc.    If your web site is instrumented with analytics, you will begin to see the natural cadence of engagement decline when assets are ‘stale’     In terms of journalists, you can use them to blog, post content on social properties to drive to your website & boost SEA, and build assets at more rapid pace. Journalists can also help keep the message consistent yet fresh in terms of writing different angles on the same story.   I hope this is helpful!

  6. I ask this simple question:

    If not content, then what?

    I don't think that there is any alternative, at this stage. It's to the point where you either own the content space for your product, service or cause, or your competitor does.

    I think that's the clarion call. If you're not doing it, you're competitor is.

     

  7. great post Tammy. I'm all with you. I just wonder what's going to happen when everyone is fighting for the attention of the customer, all with great content.

    And that's very likely and possible. Customers might get more confused, and unsure about what they need to buy. Choosing will become more difficult.

    That's where integrated marketing comes in. The whole brand experience matters now. It's not only your content, but also your actions that will define who you are, and how you are perceived by your customers. 

    I call that the DNA of a company. That's what will differentiate you. It's something that needs to be cultivated, and actively shown to your audience.

    I hope this adds. 

    Best regards,

    Tom De Baere

  8. [...] today’s hyper-connected world, the winners of the content wars will be the brands who have created and shared exceptional content.   The [...]

  9. John Lane says:

    Great post, Tami. Thanks for writing it. A couple stats to support the argument for good content: 

    1. 60-70% of the B2B buying process is done before the first contact with a sales respresentative — whether in person, via chat, social or phone. And what wins that battle for the attention and mind of the consumer during the first 60%? Content!

    2. Further, 70% of B2B buyers are starting their journey with search. And people don't Google just to find a long list of results. The Google to find the content behind the results!

    A brand/business that isn't creating quality content that is tuned to be found in the places a target audience is already living online is bound to be left behind. In other words: You have to plan to win attention through content. (And here's a presentation — The Content Marketing Art of War, dovetailing with your theme — on how to do that: http://cdig.co/11iiLh9)

    Thanks again!

    jl

  10. Thank you John. What a great pitch.   I'd love to use an example or two in my upcoming presentation at Summit if you're open to it!

  11. Marc Zazeela says:

    Tami,

    Indeed, only the exceptional will stand out. Important to think about your target audience before you begin. Also, remember that if you nothing worthwhile to say, say nothing. And lastly, something I have begun practicing only recently, write your piece and then eliminate half of the words.

    I really enjoy your perspective.

    Cheers,
    Marc

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