Content Marketing 2.0
The new generation of content and why you’re being left behind
It’s amazing how much can change in just a few short years. In 2012, Google+ was the hot new thing, nobody quite new how to design their site for mobile, and content marketing was just starting to gain traction as a viable business tactic.
We take it for granted now, but content marketing’s assent and adoption was a bit of a long shot. The ethos of content marketing went against the grain of what marketing was and what marketers believed it should be at the time.
Budgets were spent on banner ads and email blasts. Conversions were held as the one source of truth for marketing performance. Introducing the concept of spending time, money, and effort to create content that was designed simply to help customers and provide value was an oddity to be sure.
But content marketing was adopted all the same and I’m not sure anyone would argue that businesses were not better for it. Unfortunately, in true marketing style, anything worth doing is worth overdoing at a lower quality and higher volume, and content was no exception
The Need to Evolve
As content marketing caught on and businesses started to see real results, there was an unprecedented rush to create more and more content. Company blogs were flooded with posts, millions of pages were written to fill countless ebooks, and infographics…. oh boy the infographics.
But while the best content marketers still produced content that provided value to their audience, these noble few were soon overwhelmed by a horde of imitators and self proclaimed “thought leaders” focused on producing one thing:
Many companies put the core concepts of content marketing aside (being useful, insightful, valuable) in favor of whatever got the most clicks. It’s this environment that gave rise to the ever popular list post (50 things you need to…) the unoriginal posts (10 quotes from experts about…) and the aways disappointing “Buzzfeed” posts (You’ll never believe…).
At first, this was only a problem insofar as it created more competition for audience attention. With more noise, it was obviously harder for your audience to find your content.
The grumbled self-reassurance of content purists was always something along the lines of “Audiences care about quality. As long as it’s good people will find it.” I heard it over and over again and to a certain degree it was true. I saw plenty of great content teams build loyal followings with high quality content.
But what I started to see more and more was audiences slipping away regardless of content quality. Infographics were no longer the huge traffic draw they once were. Long, well researched posts were no longer enthusiastically shared and saved for later reference.
Audiences were experiencing serious content fatigue.
The volume of low quality content started to have an inverse effect on the desired outcomes of all content, regardless of quality. That relationship looks something like this:
Clicks, reads, downloads, any desired customer action take a hit as the market is flooded with low value content. These low value pieces degrade trust with the audience and have instilled a sense of wariness about content. After all, they’ve been disappointed so many times before. And the truly problematic part of the above relationship is that the volume of low value content is not likely to come down.
It’s eerily similar to the laws of nature. When there is more competition for finite resources, the cumulative rewards of nearly all competitors in the area decline. While a select few will grow to dominate the area if they have superior manpower and volume, most will see a decline and have.
So how can content marketers continue to provide value to their organizations with such a bleak outlook? The answer again can be found in nature: we adapt ourselves to find value in new areas.
The Next Evolution of Content Marketing
While there are many exciting changes taking place in content marketing, the one that I believe is most important is the discipline’s expanding role within the organization we serve.
While it made sense at the time, confining content marketing to the top of the funnel was doing a tremendous disservice to the entire organization. To think that blogs and emails are the only areas that require content in an organization is a remarkably narrow view of the customer experience.
The typical customer experience is filled with pieces of content, from the sales deck customers see in their first demo to the training and onboarding documents they use to train themselves and their team. And this content matters. A bad, or nonexistent, piece of content can derail a customer’s experience with your company while a great one can make all the difference. To customers, the quality of your content across the customer lifecycle is a reflection of the product or service they’re purchasing. Content matters, no matter where in their journey customers encounter it.
Content marketing departments have the perfect skill sets to ensure that these content assets are valuable and effective.
In too many organizations, a majority of these content assets are created without the help of a content team. They’re created by busy teams with little time and even fewer resources to create high value content, and the results are often predictable. Or they’re created by high-priced agencies that charge a king’s ransom for something a good content team could produce in an afternoon. Or the real worst case scenario, they’re not produced at all.
The modern content marketing team needs to expand their sphere of influence to include all areas of the customer journey.
More Value to Customers
Working in collaboration with other departments like sales, service, or product, content marketing departments can find the less competitive areas they need to let their content truly shine. The noise and volume at the top of the funnel quickly falls away as you move further along the customer experience, providing content teams a real opportunity to shine and supply much needed value to a customer’s experience.
More Polish and Professionalism
It also means a higher content standard for the entire company. A content team should help it’s organization look polished and professional at every touchpoint, dial in messaging from the website to the contract, and ensure consistency across the customer lifecycle.
More Innovation and Creativity
Expanded influence also allows content team’s to help deliver more creativity and innovation throughout the company. Like an agency, a content team must focus on divergent thinking, creative problem solving, and outside-the-box solutions. It’s just part of the territory we occupy. These skill sets are often a rarity inside most organizations and make content teams unique partners for bold new ideas across an organization.
It’s time to realize the full value of content marketing across the organization, and I see many of the content operations I know and respect making this shift. I see content involved in a whole host of different projects, from event planning to customer marketing. Content teams are consulting, problem solving, and as always, creating valuable content in new and exciting ways I’d never thought of.
And within those organizations, I’ve noticed a shift in the way content marketing is perceived. In organizations with far reaching content operations, there’s no doubt or questions about content’s validity or value, the reaction is often more like this:
Despite all the shifts that have happened in the last five years, the new obstacles and challenges, content marketing is finally starting to realize it’s full potential. Content 2.0 promises to be a significant improvement for content marketing teams and the companies they serve. And like the first wave of content marketing before it, it’s likely to improve both the way businesses operate and the experiences customers have.