I’ve had the great privilege to do a few speaking spots recently, and it’s given me an opportunity to really hone my thinking around how I present about content marketing, as well as to hear perspectives from other professionals in the field. Content marketing is actually a massive topic, with lots of different angles to consider – personal branding, social selling, storytelling, the brand editor, etc are all part of it – so it’s not a simple discussion and the deeper you go, the more complex it appears. However, the good news is we’re having the discussion in Asia and that’s terrific.
If I summed up content marketing, I’d say it is the art of communicating with customers and prospects without selling anything to them directly. It is continuous marketing, and should be non-interruptive. Today you should no longer pitch or sell a customer, and instead focus on delivering information to make your buyer more intelligent, successful or both. The essence is that if you deliver valuable information to customers, they will reward you with business and loyalty.
In the last couple of weeks, one of the topics I’ve been focused on is what, I believe, is holding businesses back from embracing content marketing as a primary discipline sitting at the heart of business.
Because this insight has been garnering such interest, I thought it would be worth writing it down to share it more broadly. The sooner we address all of these issues, the sooner we can get cracking and deliver world-class content marketing that makes our customers adore our brands.
So what is holding businesses back?
- Not understanding what it is and how it’s fundamentally different to what is already being done. Content marketing is moving the story from “look at what we’ve got to sell you” to “how can I help you succeed?” It’s about talking to the whole customer and helping them be successful. It’s about understanding the customer and addressing your information to their needs, as opposed to what you want out of the relationship. It’s long term, fundamentally different, and as a discipline, it speaks to me, because it’s authentic, meaningful, and it is a marketing philosophy to get people to fall in love with your brand.
- Measurement – probably the hottest topic of all is measurement and ROI. Today, the vast majority of businesses are structured to measure success short-term. You create a product/service, define the messaging, launch, measure and do it all over again next week, next month, or next quarter. Content marketing is a long-term relationship, so measuring success is fundamentally different. Someone said it’s like a one night stand versus a marriage and I thought that was a perfect analogy. Business structured to measure short-term success today must rethink how they measure the longer term investment required of content marketing, and it’s a complete flip for businesses that are structured monthly or quarterly. I’ll give you a quick personal example. Hubspot is the brand I give most credit for taking me on my content marketing journey from an education perspective. I’ve been reading its blog since the end of the last decade and right now I have the opportunity to become their customer. It’s the first time I’ve had this opportunity to buy their solution, and I’m very keen to make this happen because they have given me so much. I am completely loyal to them, but how do you measure that? And let’s look at that sales cycle – at least six years! Content marketing is continuous marketing, and therefore, a big change is required to move into this space
- Selling & telling – because many businesses aren’t understanding content marketing as a philosophy, they may be creating more content, but it’s the same content they’ve always done, getting pumped into new social channels. This is not endearing customers to a brand, and if it keeps happening, the customer’s will go where the great information is – so if it’s your competition, you lose. We’re competing for eye-balls and people’s time, on-the-go, so what we share has to really engage, thrill and excite a customer. You want your customers to feel something, because emotion is powerful, and getting them to feel grateful is a good goal as well. We’re all selling to people fundamentally, so if we’re creating content with emotion at heart, we have a much greater chance to be successful today – even for B2B, because people work there too
- Hierarchy & egos – unfortunately, this is a big challenge in Asia, where people believe they need to please those above them, versus pleasing those outside the organisation – the customer. Also if you have a culture of ‘do as you’re told,’ you will find it challenging to succeed in content marketing. To change this, executives must be inspired and see the content marketing light, because they must lead this change – especially in Asia. Everything a business does today, the CEO needs to challenge marketing and sales with the question – how are we delighting our customers here?
- C-level buy-in – as an extension of four, to move your organisation towards content marketing, you must get senior leaders to buy into the philosophy and become champions of it for your business. They need to be role models of the behaviour required by your organisation to make your customers love you. It starts at the top. If they only want it to be about them/the organisation, you can’t succeed, because your message to the market will be confusing, diluted and well, uninspiring. Get them bought in, unleash the organisation to create, move your customers to a place of loyalty to your brand and the sales will increase
- Global, Regional, Local – this is a big challenge in Asia. Global companies may be doing awesome content marketing, but is it coming down into the field, and is the field then free to create their own, relevant, local content? Or are the field offices so overwhelmed they just don’t have the bandwidth to create local content and win hearts? Or are they so overwhelmed they don’t have time to even think about this, as many have to wear so many hats? Or are you part of a regional or local company that just does not have the budget or talent to embrace this new way of marketing, and don’t even know where to start? We see amazing content coming out – especially from the US – but bringing this into the region, with all of the different languages, cultures, etiquettes, etc.. is a challenge. One recommendation is start with curation and feed your sales/biz dev teams with the great content already being created – serve it up to them on a plate. Build a need and design your content marketing strategy from this place
- Social media, social selling sophistication – unfortunately, this is a huge weakness in the region, and while research indicates people in Asia read content, those distributing, sharing, commenting, participating, etc.. is not an area of strength. The community that has embraced social media in Asia is very small and executives, sales and business development professionals need to be inspired (not just trained) to use social media tools to build their personal brand, engage with customers, share their knowledge, and embrace the concept that social media is about giving. Content marketing is the fodder of giving, and it helps individuals build professional credibility, and by default, the brands they work for benefit. Companies don’t speak, people do, so ensuring your team is sophisticated in using social tools is critical to content marketing success. None of these things exist separately
- Current agency model being disrupted – when digital agencies exploded onto the scene, they rocked the agency world. Today content agencies have that honour. The challenge is, today, there are many agencies saying they can do content and are vying to own it, but they are not content marketing agencies. They are marketing agencies and the output is very different. Novus Asia has a team of experienced journalists (15-20 years of experience) and for their entire careers they have written for the customer. Traditional marketing/advertising/digital agencies are writing for the client. It’s a big change and it needs everyone to step back and admit that this is a different skill set, which requires a different structure and deeper partnerships. Content creators also need to sit at the big table – at the beginning of planning – as opposed to bringing them in once all has been decided.
I talk a lot about heart and love when speaking or writing about content marketing, but here’s the essence of what I believe it’s all about.
Content needs to become the heart of business, because doing amazing content creates conversations and that is how you get your customers to love you and buy from you.
B2B, B2C, B2G or whatever your audience, that’s the crux of it. Write, create and curate content that touches your customer’s hearts and makes them more successful or improves their lives, then you will have the conversations that lead to business growth. Continue down the same path of talking about yourself and well, let’s just hope your competition aren’t getting savvy about content marketing huh?
What do you think are the biggest things holding brands back from content marketing success in Asia? What have I missed? Would love to hear your thoughts.