Content marketing can be a beautiful thing, but too often, it isn’t. Authentic content marketing, when done well, adds utility, guides, empowers, delights your audience, and ultimately leads to sales.
It builds and engages a valuable tribe by delivering relentlessly relevant content that doesn’t interrupt.
Your tribe look forward to engaging with your content, or the community you created, which they now drive.
Your content powers an integrated marketing ecosystem, enabling you to fuse inbound and outbound marketing tactics, but in such a way that customers have ‘chosen’ you.
Content marketing is the hero of your personalisation strategy, having been designed for humans, not data points.
Your content delivers tangible business outcomes, which are measured and understood across your organisation.
Now let’s be honest, does your content marketing tick each of these boxes, consistently and repeatedly?
The antithesis of this is corporate vomit
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants and their needs.” – Joe Pulizzi
I’ve used this quote in just about every content presentation or keynote I’ve ever delivered.
Unfortunately, too many brands’ content still focuses on themselves, their products, and their services. Whether this is a conscious choice, unintended, or driven by internal pressures is debatable.
However, what’s not disputable is the fact that the best content marketing brands have a clearly defined business purpose, which is articulated and extended through their content.
They have embedded a sophisticated and authentic strategy, and as you’ll see from the examples below, what they’re able to produce is genuinely audience-centric.
Merging authentic content marketing with your product is a perfect match
Don’t get me wrong; you need to monetise your content, otherwise, it’s not sustainable.
And you should talk about your products and services. But first, you must build trust and relevance.
To do this, you need to understand your tribe’s needs and pain points, and then tailor your content against the customer journey, whereby they ultimately want to know how your product solves their problems.
I’ve seen this work time and time again. And it’s pretty simple.
Content and emotion prime the audience, and they’re subsequently more susceptible to buying. You can tailor the offer, and make your paid media more efficient, based on the data you’ve collected.
Content shock in an attention economy
“There are only so many hours in a day and even if we consume content while we eat, work and drive, there is a theoretical and inviolable limit to consumption, which we are now approaching,” Mark said.
We’re now well and truly past that limit, and the bulk of content brands create is not seen. Which must beg the question, why bother doing it in the first place?
To avoid this, you must make sure you’re producing high-quality content that is truly customer-centric. A sophisticated distribution strategy is the best way to achieve a well-rounded marketing ecosystem.
My partner in crime, Shaun Polidano, recently wrote an article about how audiences tribes (not marketing personas) make you money.
In short, he implores marketers to diagnose multiple data sources to better understand, and become more relevant to, your tribe.
If you want to avoid content oblivion, you must produce authentic content that meets your customer’s pain points and queries, connecting with them through a nuanced and data-driven approach.
Content should power your marketing ecosystem
Merely producing content and hoping someone will firstly find it, secondly engage with it, and ultimately purchase your product is not content marketing. It’s a tactic (and to be honest, not a very good one).
Sophisticated organisations view content marketing as the glue — the lynchpin of a broader engagement and acquisition strategy – that enables them to build and nurture a profitable audience.
It complements paid and earned media, but ultimately is designed to migrate users to owned media channels. The data that this provides (i.e. via eDM sign-ups or cookies) should make your paid activity more targeted and cost-effective.
A B2B/C content masterclass
This could be a standalone article, so I’m only going to highlight a couple of my content crushes (in no particular order).
1. Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line is bloody brilliant on every level. From a quality perspective, they put some media outlets to shame. Similarly, their YouTube channel is without peers – you can easily spend hours on it. And their social media and broader distribution channels are equally impressive.
2. I love this quote from GE’s Chief Storyteller, Tomas Kellner: “Content marketing works because it’s about telling stories that are relevant that people want to read… it’s a simple concept.” If you don’t believe him, hit up GE Reports. Their hub connects products like wind turbines, gas turbines and storage batteries to issues like climate change and energy. While you’re there, do yourself a favour and sign-up for their eDM GE Brief for a lesson in best practice email nurturing. GE’s primary Instagram page – they have one for most businesses – boasts 400,000+ followers and is worth a look too.
3. A little closer to home, I’ve always been a fan of HBF’s Direct Advice for Dads. They are crystal clear about their audience and what resonates with them. Engaging with their content feels like you’re talking to a mate about your problems at the pub. It’s unflinchingly honest, as typified by this piece from an alcoholic father. Most brands would not produce the type of content they do – and that’s why most brands fail.
4. Think accounting is boring? Try telling that to Xero, a content behemoth. What I like most about the Xero Blog is that it proudly puts the interests of their tribe first. Oh, and they have mastered the art of content-led personalisation and sales enablement. Check out Xero TV. It’s a cracker.
Smaller businesses leading the content charge
1. It’s important to note you don’t need to be a big blue-chip to excel. TrinityP3, a consulting firm, has less than 50 staff throughout the Asia Pacific region and London. However, their blog houses more than 1000 articles that typify utility-driven thought leadership. They also embrace video and podcasting, among other channels. Oh, and their blog attracts a huge amount of B2B leads, opening doors – physical, reputational and conversational – their competitors can only aspire to. What TrinityP3 lack in size, they more than makeup for in quality. And to be honest, a lot of the big end of town could learn a thing or two from them.
Tread your own authentic path
Can we all be GE or Patagonia? No. But we can all commit to replicating their quality storytelling and audience-first content.
Every piece of content these brands have produced (and continue to produce) adds value to their business’ bottom line. Their approach to content marketing does not dissipate in the content shock vacuum.
In addition to quality, the other key success factor is to consider the objective of the asset you’re creating within your broader marketing ecosystem. What will it do, when and how?
Once you’ve got that nailed, you can start the journey to content sophistication. Get ready to tread your own authentic path toward utopia.