I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked: is content marketing just another word for advertising? No. Advertising isn’t content marketing, it’s advertising – which still has a place in the world, although a changed place.
Can an advert be considered content marketing? Well yes, a great ad that makes us feel, cry, laugh or think can be considered content marketing, it’s just delivered by the medium called advertising and is typically part of a much bigger brand focus.
Alternatively, a terrible advert that just wants to interrupt us to sell us something we don’t need, well it’s still an ad, but it’s not content marketing, because it delivers no value to our life. Advertising is advertising – whether it’s brilliant or crap. Content marketing, however, is not one thing.
So what is content marketing?
I believe it’s time we stepped back collectively and understood content marketing on a much deeper level, because I don’t think we’re going anywhere at the moment.
More than anything, content marketing is a philosophy and we must stop thinking of it as a tactic, or an add-on to the existing marketing department.
For an organisation to be truly focused on content marketing, the entire business must embrace it from deep within the soul of the company. It must become the beating heart of the business. Every role, every function, top to bottom. The challenge is, typically, the marketing team delivers content marketing within a silo – and that’s precisely where we’re going wrong.
Marketing must enable content marketing and own this function, but every single silo of the business needs to get on board. If sales aren’t involved, it’s almost impossible to do content marketing – because they know the customer. Beyond sales – customer service, R&D, PR/comms, executive leadership, HR, finance, legal, business development, channel managers, CSR teams, digital media teams, advertising teams, etc, etc, etc all need to be on board.
Essentially, anyone who has any insight into the customer must be part of the change to create a content marketing driven organisation.
Can you see how big that is? Can you see what a massive change management process that is? Because that’s what’s required. It’s a fundamental shift in how we do business (not just marketing), from let me sell you something to let me serve you and build your trust and loyalty to my brand.
Without that fundamental focus, brands are just creating noise and adding to content landfill. And with customers so ambivalent towards brands today, the only thing that matters is working out how you can be relevant to your customer based on how they’re interacting digitally and socially.
Because customers don’t care about you. No really, they don’t. Frankly, they’d switch off your life support machine to recharge their phone.
Let’s say you’ve been a Mercedes buyer (sorry Mercedes, just a scenario) for 20 years and you’re not getting a lot of love from the brand. While local relationships with dealers are a critical part of brand success with Mercedes customers, the brand Mercedes has little control over that. However, they can control the quality of content the global customers see.
But still, the customer is miffed and goes on Facebook, saying to their friends: what do you think? Is it time to move to a Range Rover? Why Range Rover? Well Range Rover have consistently been delivering awesome content into the customer’s digital world, because they’ve recognised a level of disgruntlement and identified Mercedes owners as a good potential target. So they use content marketing to build brand awareness and loyalty, which eventually turns into new customers.
In the meantime, on Facebook, your pals leap in with advice and ideas, which matters, because according to affilinet, family and friends are the number one and two most trusted sources on social media.
After that it’s bloggers, social media connections, colleagues, journalists, religious leaders, celebrities, brands, and then politicians. Which makes sense after the US election right?
From a content marketing point of view, two brands are vying for a buy here, and there are advertising and content initiatives you can put in place – programmatic-real-time-bidding-type-stuff. However, the shift needs to be made holistically, with brands consistently delivering high-value content throughout the entire consideration cycle for all potential customers – like Range Rover did in the scenario, and like Mercedes should’ve been doing all along as well.
Which brings us back to brand trust. How do you reach customers in their bubble of trust when you’re an untrustworthy brand? That’s the goal with content marketing.
You must tap into their need, educate them and enhance their life. Make them laugh. Answer their questions. Engage with them in a way they want to be engaged with. Be in their awareness in a way that makes them want to read/watch/absorb you, and then buy from you because you enrich their life.
But I don’t sell cars
Whatever you sell, all brands have a job to identify how they can help their customers on their journey – however that makes sense to your brand.
Regardless of industry, your customer has a challenge they’re facing and your job is to identify it, align your brand to it, and then create world-class content that your customers can’t resist.
The channels you distribute content across is an important facet to be considered, but it is only a part of the greater whole.
The quality and intent of the content is what’s important. It requires a hunger. A desire to solve your customer’s problems. A sense of urgency in how you think and plan. A true obsession to help customers. And if you’re half assed about it, you won’t succeed. No really, you’re just a noise maker wasting digital space and annoying potential customers.
Here are a few scenarios where research/feedback from sales has uncovered what the customer cares about and the potential businesses that could deliver it. The customer wants:
- Great information and advice to help plan for travel and holidays (travel & tourism industry, medical insurance)
- Step-by-step guidance to transform IT infrastructure for the digital age (tech, consulting)
- Dog training tips and tricks for a more peaceful home (dog food brands, pet accessory suppliers, animal rescue centres)
- A big picture understanding of business transformation and the necessary steps to transform successfully (consulting, leadership coaches)
- Guidance and advice on how to be a better leader to grow career opportunities (HR, recruitment)
- Strategies and tactics to a calm mind to be a better and more effective business professional (health and wellness, mindfulness coaches)
- Healthy eating and living information for a better life (chefs, lifestyle apps or hospitals)
- Strategies and advice to become a successful marketing professional in the digital world (marketing tech, content marketing strategists)
- Insight into improving the customer experience (sales tech, marketing tech, social selling leaders)
- Beauty tips and tricks to a more remarkable you (beauty brands, fashion brands, health and wellness)
How about toilet paper?
And then yesterday, during the Digimind Webinar on Content Marketing, Robin Hicks of Mumbrella Asia, asked how boring brands – say a toilet paper company – could do content marketing? So Robin, I had my epiphany on toilet paper companies for their angle to take on content marketing.
1. A luxury toilet paper brand could own a conversation around The Best Things in Life – featuring great content on the world’s best wine, whiskeys, luxury foods, best train journeys in the world, the most exotic destinations, etc…
2. A toilet paper brand that is recycled and with a strong environmental message, could own a conversation tied to environmental issues and find a very specific angle in the discussion, which could expand across sponsorship by promoting environmental organisations (World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, etc..) and become a central driver for all the company does
3. And for those who buy cheap toilet paper (which I don’t) you could own a discussion around Life Hacks for Saving Money in the Home. There would definitely be a big customer base for a great content hub focused on this topic
What would be the goal of this for all three toilet paper brands? Definitely increasing brand awareness, which could ultimately lead to more sales, thus ROI. But every brand needs to work out if the investment is worth it for the brand.
However, no matter what, every brand has a story they can align to customer need. How you measure success is a whole other topic, which I’ll share more on in the future. But in the above case, the toilet paper company owning the environmental message could measure, as an example, success through employee pride in the brand they work for, thus employee retention. There are many ways to measure content marketing success.
Here is the deck I presented for the Digimind Webinar.
Identify customer need
The important part is identifying the customer need or challenge that’s aligned to your brand, and then becoming useful to your customer in solving that challenge.
Now is the time we must change the content marketing conversation, because it isn’t a tactic. It’s a core belief system the entire business must embrace if you want to have a future. Today we have to turn the conversation around, because we are at the beginning of a revolution!
Consumers don’t care about brands, and you, as a consumer yourself, are with us. The truth is, we haven’t cared for a long time, because we have better, more trusted channels for advice.
So let’s stop the low quality content plague and focus on crafting a content strategy that’s 100% aligned to the customer, and then create content so good our customers gag for more. Put yourselves in the customer’s shoes and makes us feel spectacularly informed so we’ll say thank you by buying from you.
Content marketing is the digital shop front for your business. Is your window tantalising enough for us to walk in or will we walk past?
What do you think?
Beating heart image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Thank you so much for reading my blog. I really appreciate it. If you like it, I’d love a comment, or perhaps you can share with me your favorite brand content hub? Of course, please feel free to share with your communities, because that’s what this is all about today – sharing and giving to each other.
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