A while back, I had the pleasure – well, okay, terrifying prospect – of following Seth Godin on stage at a marketing conference. So I got to watch him in action from backstage. At one point, he asked people to raise their hands. Everybody did. “Now,” he said, “raise them higher.” Of course everyone did, and they giggled when they got it.
His point, and it’s a good one, was: “Why didn’t you raise your hands as high as you could when I first asked?”
Okay, second story.
My session at Content Marketing World this year was about return on investment and its place in both campaign marketing and content marketing. My point was that we often look in the wrong place for a return on investment in the content we create. The value (the investment), which increases over time, comes from the collection of the content – not from any one piece. A white paper or blog post isn’t nearly as valuable alone as it is in context with the other five or 10 or 100 that make up the whole experience of an industry-differentiating thought-leadership resource.
One brick in a pile is just a brick. One brick in the wall of a house is a key piece of a valuable building.
In other words, when we think of content marketing – regardless of whether we are directly supporting the short-term goals of campaign-focused marketing – we should be squarely focused on what kind of experience we are building for the customer. If we’re building a ‘resource centre’, then what resource are we centralising? If someone comes in and experiences (consumes) every piece of content in our resource centre, how will they be a better human being?
Think about all the great examples of content marketing that you hear about: Red Bull, Marriott, ANZ Bank, Lenovo. They are building content media products that are collections of content.
And it isn’t just me who’s saying this. This week, Sheryl Pattek, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, wrote an article for Ad Age. “Today’s B2B CMOs must go beyond just customer acquisition to unite all customer interactions into a common consistent experience,” she wrote.
A few white papers strewn alongside a blog post or two that sit adjacent to a few webinars isn’t an experience. It’s just a pile of bricks.
We need to reach higher.
Companies are recognising the need for content-driven ‘customer experience’ design as an in-house competency – but there is still cultural pushback. I worked with one large business just last month, and when this topic came up, one of the senior executives folded up his notebook, took his glasses off and pushed himself away from the table. He was annoyed.
“Look,” he said. “Our company has been in business for a hundred years. We still make money the same way. We are not going to up-end our business strategy and build a movie studio or a newspaper.” For him, there were only two options: all in, or not at all. There was no middle.
I see both scenarios a lot these days. As the business evolves, our approach to a successful content strategy will inherently force changes in our go-to-market strategy, and perhaps our entire business. It just will. And it will seem, in many of those cases, as if we’re forgetting – or are distracted from – the business we’re really in.
This isn’t true.
Expanding the remit of marketing into a group that creates valuable, content-driven experiences (rather than simply describing the product) using product-development methodologies (rather than campaign-minded tactics) is the evolution of marketing. This new approach doesn’t have to distract companies from their core businesses. And it’s certainly not an all-or-nothing gambit.
But we do have to move. Deliberately. Iteratively. And, most of all, decisively.
And, independent of how quickly we move, we’d better not be afraid to give each step our all to make this evolution happen. The companies that will lose faith the fastest are those that make half-hearted attempts to tweak traditional marketing campaigns into ‘content campaigns’. The campaign mentality no longer applies. Good enough is no longer good enough.
So, this time, let’s build a wall instead of a pile of bricks. Let’s raise our hands together. All the way up.
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