Gatorade. Keurig. Under Armour. Salesforce. Redbox. All are category creators, companies that grow faster and receive higher valuations than others who might innovate within an existing category.
In the marketing world, recent attempts at category creation have included marketing automation, inbound marketing, and my favorite, content marketing. If forced to attribute the creation of the content marketing category to one entity, I’d select our friends at the Content Marketing Institute.
One of the downsides to successfully creating and growing a new category, especially in a services-oriented area, is watching the flood of pretenders enter the category and muddy the waters with their whatever-it-takes-to-make-a-buck, less-than-thoughtful approaches.
While we are believers in content marketing overall and were early adopters, we use the term “content-driven marketing” to represent what we actually do for our clients. In no way are we attempting to create a different category with that phrase, but instead trying to present a better way of doing things, a way that the founding fathers of content marketing would embrace with fervor.
Here’s how — and why — we feel content-driven marketing best describes the approach that offers the best results for companies and differs from some of the content marketing approaches we see … everywhere else.
It’s an approach to marketing, not a marketing tactic.
Content-driven marketing is not a tactic — it’s a strategy. It’s a commitment to using content to reach and engage with the audiences that are important to your business, including customers, prospects, employees, investors, and more. It’s a commitment to give first, before you get. It’s a commitment to educate before you sell. It represents an understanding that consumers are intelligent, discerning people who are going to choose your product or service only if it’s the best option, and not because you had the most money to spend on a fancy advertising package.
Regular ol’ content marketing is just another line item in the marketing budget, sitting right next to social media, advertising, and website. Its effectiveness is measured against those other items, instead of being measured as a contribution to ALL items.
It includes both content strategists and marketing strategists.
Content-driven marketing recognizes the equal weight of the content and the marketing in building a successful approach. It doesn’t try to turn a marketing strategist into a content strategist, or a writer into a marketer. It invites both the marketing strategist and the content strategist into the same discussions, recognizing that both perspectives are integral for the achievement of goals and objectives.
The less-than-stellar content marketing efforts choose one direction or the other. They try to turn a marketing organization into a content organization, or vice versa. With these types of programs, the content may be remarkable, or the marketing of the content may be remarkable, but rarely do you get both. Inevitably these programs die somewhere on the vine, because while they may do one thing well, in this game only programs that thrive in both areas — embracing the full power of a content-driven marketing approach — truly succeed.
It is based on a fully-integrated, multi-vehicle approach.
When a content-driven marketer creates a campaign designed to get a certain message out, he or she does not focus on just producing cool content. That’s an if-you-build-it,-they-will-come approach. Instead, the content-driven marketer asks questions like:
- How do I incorporate this into the website?
- How can I use public relations to showcase this content?
- Will a PPC program broaden the impact of this campaign?
- How do I optimize this content for search engine optimization purposes?
- Is this worthy of including in a dedicated email blast? Drip campaign?
Perhaps most importantly, how do all of these vehicles work together to create a truly integrated, comprehensive, surround-the-castle program, designed to reach the target audience in every nook and cranny where they may be hiding out.
It measures not just content marketing metrics, but marketing metrics.
You’ve heard it from me before: business objectives should feed marketing objectives, and marketing objectives should feed each individual marketing tactic’s objectives. So if your content-driven marketing objectives are not ultimately designed to impact business objectives, you’re doing it wrong.
It’s not that hard to make the leap, then, to say that you shouldn’t just be measuring content metrics, but also marketing metrics. It’s wonderful that your content is getting views, maybe even getting shared. Is any of it contributing to the creation of a real opportunity, or the nurturing of that opportunity? Does any of it originate new business development conversations?
Remember: If your content-driven marketing efforts are not in some way impacting revenue generation, someone is likely going to shut your operation down at some point. That impact does not have to be direct – it depends on your goals and your flavor of content marketing.
It always (and forever) starts with a comprehensive planning process.
This one is for the dabblers, half-assers, fiddlers, and muck-arounders. Stop the crap. How many times do you have fail because you had no plan for you realize that a plan might be a good idea? I don’t know why people keep giving you jobs if you don’t have enough sense to plan before you execute. Just being honest.
Content-driven marketing starts, and will always start, with a plan. That plan addresses content creation, optimization, distribution, reporting and analysis, and a whole lot more. That plan serves as your blueprint for the future. That plan doesn’t just a list of 3,241 ideas, but prioritizes the ideas based on potential impact. That plan is simply necessary for success.
Do you want to be a content-driven marketer or a content marketer? Your choice will likely represent the difference between success and failure, so choose wisely.
Read more: 5 “Rs” to Reinvigorate Content Marketing