Earlier this week, I read a blog post by Jay Bauer titled “The Three Ways to Succeed at Content Marketing When Everyone in the World is Doing Content Marketing.” Jay is an insightful thinker and I’ve enjoyed reading his thoughts over on Google Plus for the past few months. But this blog post really struck a chord with me. If every company jumps on the content marketing bandwagon, how long before people start to tune out the noise? And when they stop paying attention, how will businesses connect with their audience then?
That’s why I think we need to call a timeout.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is great. At its core, it is about sharing what you know with the people that want to hear about it. I’ve worked with a number of B2B companies that are leaders in their field. When I show them how we can use content marketing to help them share what they know, it is like a light switch goes off. They see the possibilities and are eager to get started with sharing that knowledge. But it’s not just B2B companies. I work with several consumer-oriented businesses as well and content marketing really connects with them, too.
But what happens when a business’s competitors begin doing the same thing? What happens when they no longer have the search engine results to themselves? What happens when they reach something Marcus Sheridan calls the “Content Saturation Index” or CSI? In my experience, I’ve seen three responses to the challenge:
- Step on the gas and create even more content. To paraphrase an old adage, some companies choose to “fight fire with fire.” The approach becomes “if a competitor puts out two blog posts a week, then let’s put out three. If a competitor starts using video, let’s create even more video.” The hope of this strategy is that you will either outspend, outlast or outmaneuver your competition. And while it may work for some, it is difficult to sustain (and costly).
- Turn to gimmicks. Once other competitors enter the game, the low hanging fruit on the content marketing idea tree gets a little more scarce. Some companies turn to gimmicks as a way to get the attention of the audience or to game the algorithms in the search engines or social media platforms. Don’t believe me? Consider the proliferation of memes as a way to get attention. Or, just look at any of the latest “viral video” fads and see how many copycats are spawned. For example, this awesome video was released just before Christmas. I’m certain that there are several companies out there planning to do something similar for the next holiday (Valentine’s Day video anyone?). But building a content marketing strategy on gimmicks is a little thin.
- Evaluate your relationship with your customers. Businesses should take a long, hard look at how they connect with their customers. Once the market becomes noisy and saturated with content, it is easy for customers to feel overwhelmed. Adding more fuel to the fire isn’t going to help them. And giving them fluff isn’t going to meet their needs. A better strategy: step back and ask two very challenging questions:
- How can we earn trust?
- How can we build relationships that last with our customers?
If you want a content marketing strategy that works over the long haul, I believe you must get the answers to these two critical questions.
Getting to the Heart of Your Content Marketing Strategy
When I’m working with a new client, one of the questions I like to ask is “why did you start this business?” (or, why are you in business?). I’ve heard a lot of great answers through the years. Some people are in it to make money and that’s understandable. But many started their business because they saw an opportunity to provide a solution to a real problem. And, they really like the feeling they get when they help someone solve that problem. Their eyes light up when they talk about the interaction with the customer. Or the satisfaction they got once the job was done. I’ve heard it from the guy that owns the carpet cleaning business and I’ve heard it from the leader that oversees the European operations for a large-scale B2B manufacturer. It’s amazing.
It also strikes right at the heart of your content marketing strategy.
Trust and Relationships Build Content Marketing Strategies that Last
Something very interesting happens when a business puts the care and concern of their customers ahead of their own needs. I’m not talking about doing a quick survey to find out what everyone thinks about a topic. I’m talking about actually getting to know your customers. Go to them. Meet with them. Learn about them. Hear about the obstacles that keep them from getting where they want to go. But most of all, listen. Listen to what they are telling you. Because if you listen closely enough, your customers will tell you what you need to know: how to help them overcome the problems they are facing.
As you walk through this process, you will build a relationship. You will earn their trust. And, you will find out what types of content you should be creating that helps others just like them.
It’s just that simple.
Except this process is anything but simple. But I can tell you this: if you commit to building a real relationship with your customers, you will have something that is worth more than all the fire, tricks and gimmicks that others may use to get attention. You’ll have the respect of your customers and the credibility to talk with others who need your help.
Don’t worry about a coming content marketing apocalypse. You can’t control what your competitors will or will not do when it comes to generating content. But you can control how well you know your customer and how good a job you do of applying what you learn.
About Jon Parks
Jon Parks is the Founder and Lead Dijital Strategist of Dijital Farm, based in Raleigh, NC. In his role at Dijital Farm, Jon helps clients create digital marketing strategies focused on their business goals. His specialties include digital marketing strategy, social media strategy, Google AdWords campaigns and search engine optimization. Jon is also an instructor for ASPE-ROI where he teaches the Social Media Bootcamp, Google Online marketing Bootcamp, Mastering Google AdWords and the Social Media for Sales Teams classes. Connect with Jon on Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, by email or by phone at (919) 901-0485.