In late 2012, the Content Marketing Institute reported the findings of its latest survey of marketers. In it, they report that B2B marketers indicated that, in 2013, producing enough content would be their biggest challenge, as opposed to producing content that sufficiently engages prospects (the top challenge from the prior year).
Could it be that quantity was trumping quality as a driving factor? Yes, this was three years ago. But now I wonder if there is a content bubble about to burst: with growing quantity, how does one pick out the good stuff?
Indeed, more marketers have been exploring content marketing for the first time—and many of them still may not have a clear picture of what content marketing is truly all about. Being relatively new to this age-old practice, they become overwhelmed at their perceived need to suddenly have to come up with new material on a regular basis.
In other words, newbies to content marketing may be confusing the desired ends (prospect engagement) with the means (the content). Whether or not that is applicable to CMI’s findings, it remains something we should be mindful of so that we do not make the same mistake ourselves.
Which begs the question: what is the objective of content marketing? As indicated earlier and as what most will say, it’s about engagement. I agree completely, and yet I think that expression sadly falls short of what the best content marketers strive for.
To engage is little more than to capture and hold the attention of our prospects. Ultimately, I would put forth that content marketing is not as much about engagement, as it is about service.
In other words, do you wish to simply engage your prospect, or serve them?
We say: serve your prospect. Does your content do that?
You may have heard that content marketers are challenged to “think like publishers.” Most of the time, I hear this in reference to the editorial calendar, which when used and followed appropriately, will ensure that you are reaching out and touching prospects and customers on a regular basis (an undisputed requirement for any successful marketing).
For effective content marketing, it goes beyond thinking like a publisher…it’s about thinking like an editor. Any good editor wishes to serve her audience—and in our case that’s the prospect.
Serve your prospect. Does your content do that?
When I was pitching the rights to my second book, Don’t Wait Until You Graduate! I knew that writing the first completed draft of the manuscript was just the start of an uphill battle. Indeed, in those days you did not even need to have a completed manuscript to sell a book to a publisher—all you needed was an idea (and enough content or data to pitch it).
After some research and learning, I quickly discovered that if I wanted to really sell my book to a publisher (which I knew I could and would do with 110 percent certainty), I had to learn to think like an editor and ask myself the same questions that he or she would. And those questions had nothing to do with the inspiration that drove me to write the book in the first place.
When it comes to deciding whether or not a specific piece of content makes the cut (be it a full-length book, a 500-word article, or a 30-second video), the editor only cares about how you answer each of these questions:
- What issue (typically represented by a problem or burning question) in the marketplace are you attempting to address?
- How would you describe this marketplace?
- How does the information in your content address that issue for the audience?
- What makes YOU qualified to address this issue?
- Who else out there is also addressing this issue, and how?
- How will the audience specifically benefit from your content? Why will they want to consume it?
- Is the pain of the cost* of acquiring your solution (content) less than the pain caused by the issue if left unaddressed?
* Note: In this context, the “cost” need not necessarily be a charge, but may only involve clicking on a link or completing a simple form and surrendering contact data. It also equates to the time and energy a prospect gives to consuming your content—time and energy that could be invested (or spent) elsewhere.
These questions, and how they are answered, are what make up the most successful book proposals. Indeed, it’s not unlike a typical business proposal. As a content marketer, we may include one more question: How may our service to the prospect in this capacity increase their trust in us as a resource to whom they will turn for additional service?
Now granted, given the nature and maturity of your business, you likely already know the answers to most of these questions. The point I am stressing here is, if you must become focused on quantity, don’t lose site of quality. The media universe is already filled with too much worthless noise; the last thing we want to do as content marketers is add to it.
And yet, as the demand for content continues to expand, I fear that is exactly what many of us may be doing. It makes me wonder if we are desensitizing our audiences with quantity that they will miss it the stuff with real quality. This is what I mean by the bursting of the content bubble.
That said, if you are feeling compelled to produce more content you are not alone. But don’t add to the noise. Be careful not to lose sight of why you are leveraging content in the first place: in most cases it will be to advance your brand, and turn wary prospects into loyal customers. Every marketing effort and every piece of content leveraged should be part of an overall strategy that leads to that positive, measurable outcome.
Don’t try to sell; endeavor to serve.