I've recently written on why I think Content Marketing is in the “Valley of Disillusionment” (to borrow from Gartner’s hype cycle). But I also believe that it is now that the real work begins with content, and the experiences it facilitates. Businesses that have facile management of content are poised to make true progress.
As I dig in further, I’ve been working on a maturity model for an optimal content marketing approach. While I plan to share those ideas in a future post, one theme I keep coming back to is that, independent of the approach, a successful content marketing strategy requires placing a priority on remarkable content over everything else.
Evolve or fail - there is no 'try'
Just like the concept of content marketing itself, the idea of using “information” as an increasingly important way to create better customer experiences is not new. As far back as 1959, Peter Drucker talked about the importance of “knowledge workers.” As an example of this, consider that the cost to produce an automobile is 40 percent materials and 25 percent labor. On the other hand, the cost to produce a silicon chip is about 1 percent materials, 10 percent labor and about 70 percent information.
Our access to information has evolved -- it’s more readily accessible now than in any previous moment in history. (We’re even wearing access to information as an eyeglass accessory.) And, it’s not just content marketing causing the glut of information -- indeed we are all publishing more content and information to the web than ever before. According to EMC’s 2012 Digital Universe study, it’s predicted that we will publish and replicate 40 zettabytes of data by the year 2020, including white papers, infographics, Facebook posts, pictures of food and on and on. How much is that? It’s 57 times the amount of all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth.
And that’s the key to what we need to know about using content to create better customer experiences: whether you believe the discipline is real, hype or simply a meta tag for something marketers have been doing all along, there is (at this point) no dispute that ALL companies are evolving and creating content to drive business results.
The novelty is wearing off, and as I said in my disillusionment piece:
It is the practice of marketing, on the whole, that is in the process of evolving, and content marketing is but one approach that factors into the entirety of this fundamental change."
So if (and it’s a big IF) we are differentiating our business by using a combination of owned, earned and paid content to create better experiences, our competitors are too. And as our process of marketing changes, so too must our content creation processes.
Content creators and the commodity of facts
Yes, it might be important today to create content that answers all the questions that may be brought up when using your products or services. But when all of your competitors have answered those same questions, and all of the “how-to” sites have leached on to your topic to answer them as well, your giant, informative FAQ becomes nothing more than a bushel of corn, lined up against all the other bushels of corn, battling for relevance in a flat market.
But what can’t be taken away is your distinct point of view; your differentiating story; i.e., the unique way you synthesize myriad facts into meaningful insight. Great customer experiences that are powered by content will only come from a distinct and remarkable point of view. In short, if you can take the experiential content in your approach and put your competitor’s logo on the top, you need to rethink your plan.
The rarity of 'remarkable'
Today, CMOs are faced with a huge, disruptive challenge: the promised power of using accumulated information (a.k.a. “big data”) has the potential to become an extraordinarily important aspect to create competitive differentiating experiences for businesses (Drucker lives!). But the value proposition of data has evolved. For the CMO, it isn't the data that provide the experiences, nor is it the technology used to accumulate data. Only the combination of advancing questions, meaningful insight and applied creativity will derive value from data -- big or small.
Success in creating compelling customer experiences -- and marketing on the whole -- will come from the ability to render remarkable meaning. I wrote another post that talked about a new role that I envision being critical for business, called the “Manager of Meaning.” What this means, from a content marketing perspective, is that thoughtful planning and a strong focus on creating differentiating, remarkable content that communicates from a strong point of view will be what separates the rare from the commodity.
What does this mean for marketing in the short term? It means that as the business case is built for customer-centric, content-driven experiences, we must first ask three basic questions, starting with “why?“:
- Why is this content important to our customers?
- What value will they derive from it?
- How will it differentiate us (not just from our competition but from anyone else who could possibly provide this experience)?
That’s how content marketing agencies will add value for clients. That’s how CEM related technology vendors will help provide ongoing leveraged optimization and insight to marketers. That’s how CMO’s will distinguish brand value. And, that’s how we, as an industry, will ultimately continue to use content as a powerful means to drive business results.
Let’s get busy.
Title image courtesy of everything possible (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read more from Robert in Content Optimization - A Best Practice That Few Practice