There’s an interesting bit of content marketing research out of The Altimeter Group that’s worth a read – but that also, I think, could follow its own findings a little farther to reach an even more transformative conclusion about content as a – and perhaps the – key to marketing going forward.
HOW TO MAKE CONTENT MARKETING WORK: WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
The Altimeter study “Content: The New Marketing Equation,” makes a good case for why, in their terms, marketers need to rebalance both their thinking and their resources to leverage the opportunities in and demand for content, arguing that marketers and their agencies must become storytellers rather than mere product sellers (easier said than done). And it offers up an infographic-style “state of the business” report delineating Altimeter’s view of the five stages of “Content Marketing Maturity, (above).
Allow me to paraphrase what the report refers to as the four fundamental steps toward “Content Marketing Maturity”
1. Accept the fact that content marketing isn’t free… or even inexpensive I have to agree with them here… too many clients still think that content is a magical marketing freebie (the same clients who think that social media is free and easy). Part of the problem is driven by the outdated content-as-quantity approach, particularly within blogging and article writing, that has given rise to an enormous, ridiculously cheap and almost useless offshore industry of keyword stuffers, er “content writers” It takes considerable time, thought and talent to create, execute and actively manage a decent content marketing program – just as it does for any professional-grade marketing effort.
2. Content marketing requires a shift in your corporate thinking Moving from a mindset of push to pull, from that of product sellers to content providers, demands a shift, from the C-Suite down, in both attitude and allocations of resources. That is, it ain’t just about the marketing department anymore.
3. Content marketing shouldn’t replace advertising, it should leverage it Marketing directors can be forgiven for thinking that content marketing Is the next stand-alone silver bullet for all of their marketing problems. After all, those other content marketers, formerly known as the media, love to go on and on about how each successive innovation or trend, whether social media, mobile, content or whatever, is going to be the death of advertising. The truth is that all of the above, and especially content, should not only integrate with advertising but, in fact, transform it (more on that below).
4. Focus on quality content, avoid technological and tactical gimmicks Developing content strategies pegged to the highest value interests and needs of your audiences, and then investing the time and money to satisfy those needs with quality, creative content, is much more important than jumping on every content platform and technology. In other words, as Altimeter puts it, try to avoid the distraction of “bright, shiny objects.”
HOW TO MAKE CONTENT TRANSFORM ALL OF YOUR MARKETING
There’s much more to discuss in the Altimeter report, but I’d like to return to point three above – the idea that content should integrate with advertising. Partly this is an obvious statement – with the modern mega-multiplicity of possible touchpoints, mostly determined by consumer choice, marketers have no realistic option but to pursue integrated efforts via multiple channels and modalities. But to say that content should integrate undershoots the mark. A creative approach to content should infiltrate, infuse, inform and incite every corner of our marketing efforts. Here’s how to start in three not-so-easy steps:
1. Change your concept of content. Content isn’t just words – as in blogs, white papers, or the talking heads of a million cheap YouTube video interviews. Content is substance. In whatever form it takes, content needs to deliver real value. Let me repeat: Content is substanc
2. Change your concept of advertising. If content marketing is substance, then it must automatically be at odds with advertising and its worship of style, no? No. Advertising in any of its paid media form cans be harnessed to the delivery of content – and can even be conceived so that it offers valuable “substance” along with its vaunted style.
3. Change your resources. One of the oldest tropes in content marketing is “learn to think like a publisher.” I’d extend that to “learn to think like a reporter… and novelist, playwright, artist, songwriter, historian, social scientist, talk show host.” In short, get creative with content, and look to unconventional resources to provide unexpected creativity. Don’t just be marketers – be the new Medicis.