6 Steps to Winning the Content Game
I recently spoke with a friend who has been a senior marketing executive for several Fortune 500 companies. At one point, he made a startling observation: “Marketers at most Fortune 500 companies are playing not to lose today, instead of playing to win.” And not just mid-level marketers, but senior marketers as well. Even CMOs of some large firms, he asserted, feel as though they can’t take risks and end up playing too safe. Initially, this came as quite a shock given the stakes involved, but perhaps it shouldn’t have. I have seen companies playing not to lose with content, and it shows.
What do I mean by “playing not to lose?” It can be as simple as continuing to do the same things that you are currently doing and staying in your comfort zone. Books like The Challenger Customer and The Age of the Customer, among many others, explain how buying has and continues to change in permanent and fundamental ways. Yet most marketers continue to employ many of the same tactics as they used to, accepting mediocre-to-average results. It’s also likely that most marketing tactics employed today will not be nearly as effective in 1-2 years due to decreasing attention.
So how can a brand differentiate itself today and keep its messaging fresh tomorrow? With a great customer experience driven by great content. With tons of content published every day by both brands and media companies targeting SMBs, the only way to do that is to play to win. Here’s how:
- Be known for something
Content marketing, especially targeting SMBs, must be highly differentiated and create an audience. For example, QuickBooks is already the standard for SMB accounting software. Instead of resting on their laurels, their Resource Center goes above and beyond with articles, how-to guides, tools, and videos to create a destination for ideas and answers for business owners. This keeps customers engaged with their brand and provides significant added value to their offering.
- Use the best sources for your content
There’s an ocean of content today, and most of it is not compelling to busy SMB owners. How can you make your content stand out? Use top experts and get their best tips. Leverage subject matter experts (SMEs) both inside and outside your organization who work with or in SMBs every day. These are the people with real insights on how SMBs could perform better and keep your content from being described as “tell me something I don’t know.” Having expert content is not optional. Read more here about how and why to obtain the best sources for your content.
- Try something different
Brands that win try new things. They aren’t afraid to take risks and communicate with a bit of an edge. As I mentioned recently, one of my top insights from this year’s Content Marketing World is to challenge your team to think differently and to experiment, which also means accepting that some things won’t work as planned. I can’t think of an area in marketing where that is more needed.
- Collaborate with legal
Stand your ground. Your legal department plays a key role for the company, protecting it from liability, but don’t let it be the “department of no.” Too often I have seen legal departments reject compelling marketing language based on perceived risks that were minute. But without compelling content, your company is at risk, too. Develop a collaborative relationship with your legal team, and don’t be afraid to push back when their perception of risk does not reflect reality and gets in the way of serving your audience.
- Put your reader first
This should go without saying. Know your customers’ pain points, and create content that gives them ideas and solutions to the critical issues that keep them up at night. Don’t just talk about your product or service. As mentioned in What SMBs Care About, creative, engaging content can make more of an impact on the buying process than the product itself.
- Think long-term
Playing to win also means playing for the long term. Sure, you are measured quarterly by leadership and the stock market. But content marketing is a long-term play. While great content is needed to drive short-term campaigns, you should emphasize building your content program strategically with a long-term view. Your content should focus on building a loyal audience that will follow your brand throughout the buying cycle and have it top of mind when the time comes to buy.
Several years ago, you could play not to lose with content and get by. With all the content that exists today and more flooding in all the time, you must now play to win.