One of the benefits of a marketing career that is closing in on 30 years long is the opportunity to observe trends unfold before my very eyes. Technology has accelerated changes in marketing, so the last 15 years have been quite a fun ride. Three significant shifts in marketing have occurred during that time:
- The dawn of the commercial Internet
- The rise of social media
- The explosion of content marketing
These three trends have similarity not only in the magnitude of impact they had on marketing practice, but I have observed another similarity among them: Many marketers had no clue how to harness the potential of these game changers as they emerged onto the scene. And, one flaw in managing these facets of a marketing program leaves some marketers still clueless about how to get optimal impact from them.
The Accordion in the Closet
Although challenges exist today in executing all three of these channels, the focus of this discussion is on content marketing given its status as the “newest” tool in the marketer’s toolkit (it can be debated just how new content marketing is, but I will leave that for other people to hash out in other forums). I see what is going on with content marketing (and before it with social media and Internet marketing) being much like the accordion that sits in my oldest son’s closet. He is 25 now, but about 12 years ago he had an interest in getting an accordion (his favorite music artist at the time was Weird Al Yankovic, thus the interest in the accordion). We found a used accordion at a music store, brought it home, and it has been a resident of his closet pretty much ever since. The problem? My son did not know how to get benefit from the accordion. He knew what it was capable of doing, but he never developed a plan for tapping the potential of the instrument.
Content Marketing Is Product, Too
How can you avoid content marketing becoming the accordion in your closet? Perhaps the most effective solution is to think of content not as content, but as a product. You would not bring a product to market without carefully considering the needs of the target market, benefits provided by the product, engineering and design, and packaging. Similarly, you should not create any form of content (video, blog, white paper, etc.) without applying a product management mindset. The same considerations apply:
- Who am I trying to serve/benefit through content?
- What features are needed to deliver benefits sought (statistics, demonstration, entertainment, etc.)?
- What support is needed for users to get maximum benefit from the content?
Content marketing, like your products, represents a touch point that people have with your brand. A bad experience with content- irrelevant, boring, or out of touch with the audience’s needs- can unintentionally have an effect that is opposite of what was desired. You obsess over product and service quality to ensure a positive customer experience. The same vigilance is needed when publishing content.