In recent weeks following Content Marketing World, we have found that our “STOP Egocentric Content Marketing” message has been resonating with content marketers far and wide. The essence of the campaign is that while many of us have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon these days, providing content of value to our buyers, most of us are still communicating to our audience in our voice only. We are striving to be the sole source of insight and knowledge without much regard for what’s happening outside of our own domain, not to mention the fact that our audience wants to hear from other sources and perspectives.

In order to progress beyond egocentric content marketing, I have outlined below the 4 Steps to Content Marketing Enlightenment. This model mimics Steve Blanks’ now famous 4 Steps to Epiphany. Using this framework, you can gauge where you currently stand from a content strategy perspective, and identify the steps you need to better engage with your audience and increase marketing’s overall impact on your organization.

Step 1 – Egocentric: Product Out

Marketers at the Egocentric: Product Out stage have certainly bought into content marketing. Unlike some of their peers who are still solely fiddling with interrupt driven, outbound marketing, these marketers do understand the value and merits of producing and publishing their own content to attract buyers to their brands. However, marketers at this step just don’t quite understand how to get their content marketing to work. Their understanding of content marketing is superficial, and in many ways, naive. They hope that “if you publish it, they will come.”

Egocentric, product-out marketers will publish any content that they have readily available. They may turn a product capabilities datasheet, that they had already created for the sales team, into a blog post. Or they may place a lead capture form in front of a sales presentation in hopes of generating a few more leads. Rather than creating new content, they often inappropriately repurpose product-centric content that had been designed for the lower funnel, for the top of the funnel.

Step 2 – Egocentric: Content Out

On the next step are Egocentric: Content-Out marketers. These marketers realize the value of content marketing similar to those on step 1; but in addition, they realize that the content they produce must be focused on buyers’ interests versus their own vendor offerings.

Marketers on this step will create original content with their buyers in mind, rather than starting with their product or solution. They may employ some of the following content marketing best practices:

  • Using personas to map out created content for specific buyer profiles and market segments. (i.e., based upon market analysis, voice of the customer interviews, etc.)
  • Querying their sales team for questions asked by buyers as starting points for content creation.

Using techniques like these, marketers can tune in on buyers’ greatest interests(e.g., related to their own company, market and/or professional career) to create more compelling content, rather than solely talking about their own product or solution.

Step 3: Market In

In addition to all the realizations that the predecessors on lower rungs have, Market In marketers also realize they need to incorporate other voices into their content marketing campaigns to sustain their engagement and increase their perception as a trusted source.

These marketing professionals may use some of the following tactics to bring the market voices into their content:

  • Regularly curate third party content from a wide variety of sources. Buyers seek out content from peers (other buyers), experts (analysts & trade pubs), and vendors during the buying process.(refer to above figure) Market In marketers will actively seek out content from other vendors, peers, and experts to provide a one-stop knowledge shop for buyers.
  • Listen & Follow. Rather than relying solely on internal sources such as their sales team for content ideas, these marketers will go outside of their organization for content ideas and spend a considerable amount of time listening to what the outside world is saying. This increases their ability to provide higher quality and more relevant content to their audience.
  • Value added interactions. Because these marketers are tuned in to the market, they are able to identify relevant conversation on other sites, as well as add value through comments in those discussions. These actions not only make these marketers smarter, but it increases the value that they provide other parties, which ultimately results in reciprocation of interest and traffic.

Step 4: Enlightenment

Enlightened marketers are at the pinnacle of the content market path of realizations. The final realization they make is that they must add their own value added perspective to their existing content marketing strategy through careful curation and annotation.

Enlightened marketers are able to attain both high buyer engagement and trust and become the go-to destination for their audiences. Though it may not be the enlightened marketer’s intent, they may eventually serve as a vendor voice, a forum for peer/user discussions, and as an industry expert themselves. Over time, buyers may even solely rely on the enlightened marketer’s content as the starting and ending points for their journey.

The following resources provide more tactical insight to help you progress to the step of Enlightened Content Marketer from a content strategy perspective:

  1. 5 Simple Steps to Becoming a Content Curation Rockstar
  2. Content Curation Look Book: Collection of enlightened companies tapping into the power of curation (e.g., Intel, Adobe, IBM, Oregon Wine Board)
  3. 2014 Content Marketing Strategies: Not published yet, but participate in our current survey to get priority access to this study when available