What the ‘Bleep’ is Wrong With Content Marketing? Part I; How Your Content Defines You
Think about this. You want to go on vacation and you need to get some information. You want to know how desirable a certain destination is, how user-friendly maybe, affordable? You want to know how to get around, where to go, what to do… so you hop on-line. Let’s say the first thing you see is a communication from a major hotel chain in that area. But instead of finding answers to your questions — you come to something quite different.
What if you are greeted by a full and colorful description of why this hotel is perfect for you — even though the hotel chain doesn’t know you yet? They don’t know if you have a young kid who needs breakfast at 6 am, they don’t know if you’ll be renting a car, or relying on Uber — they don’t even know how much you can spend — or what you want to do or see! How can they honestly say their property is perfect for you? The fact is they can’t, so who are they foolin’?
Who Are You? — Who? Who? Who? Who?
And then you stop for a minute to consider if you really know — ‘who is it that’s actually talking to me?’ Hhhhhhmmmm. The article doesn’t sound like a local concierge wrote it — with the intention of giving good advice about area attractions not to be missed. And it doesn’t sound like a hotel’s maître d, telling you about a rich mix of culinary choices available in town, which includes his own restaurant — as well as other alternative ideas and venues.
What if you found out instead, that the piece you were reading was actually produced by the hotel chain’s marketing department, individuals who had never actually spent time at — or even been to the property? Or worse yet, what if the writer didn’t actually work for the firm at all? What if she was a ‘ghost writer’– sitting halfway across the country — putting her storytelling talents to work by explaining a place she had never actually been to, for an organization she didn’t really work for, to inform you about something she can’t honestly endorse! And all this for the sole purpose of getting you to buy a service, regardless of whether it’s really right for you or not. How do you feel about the hotel now? How about the ‘brand’ overall? Exactly.
Now let’s look at the above scenario again. What if the piece you found on the internet had actually been written with the input of the hotel’s concierge? What if he was supported to write an article entitled, “48 Hours; What I would do with 2 days in City X”, and what if it gave great examples of outings for folks and families of all ages — and types.
What if the concierge was so committed to the reader enjoying herself when she visited that city, that he actually offered free concierge service for simply visiting their property? And oh, by the way, once you’re here, how about a 10% discount on drinks, or dinner? Even if you have the whole family this time, and the property was not quite right — maybe consider us for that anniversary getaway you’re thinking about — we have special packages for that too!
And with that — modern, organic and authentic brand loyalty begins. It’s possible that this new approach toward corporate communication may prove to be more real, more trusted and more productive in building customer relationships than anything we’ve ever witnessed before. Marketing’s new Moon ’s arising!
The Gig is UP
So, folks — the gig is up. Welcome to the Metamorphosis of Content Marketing; A new era in which Millennials and the Gen-Zers behind them, will require unrelenting levels of transparency and authenticity in corporate messaging. Customers now want to be, Empathized with, Educated — Empowered! They want to be supported to make the best decisions they can, given their particular circumstances at any given time. Today’s audience expects firms to supply the insights they need, from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) they trust, in an honest, open, peer–to-peer kind of way. They are real people and they want to hear from real people. How do we make sure our marketing hits the mark?
Raising the Bar; Content Marketing Reaches New Heights
So let’s take this in steps. Now we’re clear on the future of ‘ever-more’ customer expectations from content. The definition from the Content Marketing Institute claims that Content Marketing must increasingly ‘provide valuable, relevant, and consistent content’. But the only way to deliver that type of dynamic, quality content, given the rate of today’s changing world, will be to work directly with SMEs who are deeply involved in the business at hand each day. Those molding the markets. Those in the trenches. Nothing else, I’m afraid, will do.
The rate of change in today’s world will demand that content marketers tell the stories of the dedicated individuals, working with clients on the front lines, where technology and business meet to form the future. Industries will morph, solutions will be discovered and then destroyed, and market players will change, daily. Marketers must have their fingers on the pulse of that beat, more so every day, or their content will most certainly risk flat lining.
So if the stories are there, how come working directly with firms’ internal SMEs, is a new paradigm for many content creation programs? Will old world ‘campaign’ practices, in which year long messaging programs are passed down by corporate, give way to a new age of grassroots thought leadership? — an approach that could keep up with the daily changes that are re-shaping industries real-time — and report back on them! What a beautiful world that would be.
But getting content marketers and business leads in a huddle has its hurdles, and without authentically addressing those hot-spots, your organization will not be able to grow and change at the rate it’ll need to compete. I’ll never forget a chat I had with a super bright colleague at a great content firm. We were imagining the future of content marketing over a late afternoon latte.
‘Tell me how you start a content strategy engagement’, I asked. “Well, usually the client asks what they should be writing about, so we canvas the market and we report back to them what people are talking about and then we usually produce content on that subject.” “But, why would the Marketing Department ask you what to write about, when they have a whole organization doing transformational work every day? Isn’t that Thought ‘Followship’ vs. Thought Leadership?” I asked. “I don’t know,’ he answered, ‘that’s just always just been the loop.”
And it’s not just Marketing firms. I joined a large consulting organization with a very large content marketing group. We were all flown in to participate in a ‘design thinking’ workshop. To my utter surprise, over 40 marketers went to work on deciding what was important to write about in the coming year. Although many marketing professionals are extremely knowledgeable about the businesses they represent, I still was surprised by a seemingly complete disconnect from the business lines.
I raised my hand. “Excuse me. Has anyone in this room been inside a C-Suite Meeting, pitched a client or delivered a client project in the last year?” No one raised their hand. I then asked, “Does it not seem strange to anyone that we did not invite one person from the business to this meeting? That we are not asking our own people about their market views, or giving them a chance to share their expertise with the market? Could we not create truly unique and timely content by reporting on the markets, real-time, with our SMEs?” Again. Silence. I could tell that my suggestion was not well met. Change almost never is.
The Ring of Truth
Well, I wasn’t asked back to the next marketing meeting. But working directly with business leads and their teams during those next 6 months, we launched a Thought Leadership website, wrote and produced over 100 incredible pieces on behalf of 300 + SMEs and reached over 6.5 million targeted potential clients. We won writing awards, innovation awards and were consistently shared by top influencers throughout our industry.
My hunch, it seemed, rang true. Our market ate up the content we were producing because it was real, it was coming from real experts, and it helped people solve their own, real business challenges. Readers grew, sales heated up and our peoples’ own professional eminence soared as they published more and more valuable and relevant content. People know real when they see it. So why not just give it to them? How are content marketers gonna break the mold and give readers what they are waiting for? How do we get there from here?
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Please Read Part II of “What the ‘Bleep’ is Wrong with Content Marketing? Eradicating the Elephant in the Room’. Here we address what can inhibit modern content strategies and how to fix it. Also learn how to put your sales teams on steroids and solve “The Conversion Conundrum”. Enjoy!