crap content

First, the good news: 2015 is the year content marketing will claim its rightful place in the marketing mainstream. So if you’ve been reading this blog and following my advice, you’re on the leading edge of a huge wave. Don’t you look smart?!

Now, the bad news: By the end of the year (more likely much sooner) just about every business on the planet — from megacorporations down to your local dry cleaner — will have added content marketing to its strategy.

Now the good news: Most of them will suck at it.

Why is that good news?

Countering the Deluge

To answer that question, let’s go back to the early days of what we now know as “content marketing.” (Yes, it’s true that the practice has been around forever, but let’s focus on this recent incarnation.) Brands started to realize that consumers were becoming immune to their traditional marketing wiles. So instead of waiting until after the sale to be helpful to their customers, they moved that usefulness up to the top of the funnel, in the form of value-driven content.

Yes, in those early days, “good enough” was indeed good enough. We all latched on to the quick-and-easy top 10 lists and other memes just to cross content off our to-do list and get back to our “serious” marketing.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re the only one — or one of a select few — doing it. But when everybody’s on the bandwagon, the game changes. It has to.

So how do you stand out in a world where every microbusiness has its own blog, email content program, and social media presence?

One word: Quality.

Why Quality?

Believe it or not, it was two years ago that Velocity Partners came out with their viral SlideShare titled “Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge.” where they predicted this exact scenario.

As Doug Kessler and his team so eloquently put it,

The winners will be those who build Great Content Brands. […] A Great Content Brand is a brand that’s famous for producing intelligent, useful and entertaining content that’s always worth consuming.

In other words, the winners in today’s overcrowded content market will be those whose hallmark is uncompromising quality.

Why quality? Because after interacting with your content, your audience has to feel served.

Served by something that was created just for them — with their specific values, concerns, and hopes for the future firmly in mind.

Served by something that was researched, designed, and developed with all the diligence of a master craftsman, not just “cranked out” to meet a deadline.

And served by something that they can’t get on any street corner (or the online equivalent).

That’s an experience that “just-get-something-out-there” content simply can’t deliver. You have to dig deep and go for quality.

Sounds Great … But How Do We Get There?

Building a great brand isn’t something that happens overnight with products and services, and it sure-as-shootin’ doesn’t happen overnight with content. But everybody has to begin somewhere, and here are a few good starting points:

1. Stay on the Leading Edge

In preparing to write this post, just for kicks, I did a Google search for “how to get more followers on Facebook.” Not those keywords, that exact phrase. Here’s what turned up:

google search
That’s an actual screenshot: My search for that exact phrase turned up, more than 201,000 individual pieces of content.

How did it get to that point? Savvy little marketing gurus, SEO companies, social media consultants, and, yes, content marketing shops did their research and discovered that everybody and their dog wanted to get more Facebook followers. So they created content to meet that need.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that … unless you’d rather not be one out of 201,000. If that’s the case, you need to rise above what everyone’s talking about right now and focus on what they’ll be talking about tomorrow.

Take Action: Stay on the leading edge of your industry. Read. Attend conferences. Listen to podcasts. Subscribe to content creators who are focused on “what’s next.” Then commit yourself and your team to interpreting that leading-edge information for your target audience.

2. Research

It was way back in 1982 that John Naisbitt penned his now famous quote “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”

He was right then, and today he’s righter than he probably ever thought he’d be.

As content marketers, we can be that resource that gathers the latest and greatest information and distills it into true sources of knowledge.

Did a groundbreaking report just come out that deeply affects your target audience? Don’t just link to it on social media; analyze it, interpret it, and create an outstanding piece of content that helps your audience understand the issue, rather than just passing on information.

Take Action: Treat your next piece of content like a mini–term paper: Do your research, distill the facts, and draw an actionable conclusion that delivers true value to your target audience.

3. Ask the Right Questions. Then Listen. Then Respond.

As content marketers, we all know we need to keep a finger on the pulse of our target audience. And if we’re going to up our game, we need to take that practice to the next level.

We need to go beyond our audience’s basic values, challenges, and aspirations and really get down to what they need from us. That’s something that can’t be fully understood through a poll or a general request for feedback. It requires a conversation.

Take Action: Figure out how you can get a conversation going around how you and your team can better serve your target audience. That might look like a Google Hangout with 10 of your best customers … or it may come down to individual phone calls. Whatever method you choose, make sure to dig deep and find out what your audience needs from you. Then give it to them in a way that no one else can.

OK, your turn: How are you and your team “upping your game” in terms of content quality? Tell us about it in the Comments — we’d love to hear from you!

Calling All B2B Content Marketers!

Join us for our next free VIP webinar, B2B Content Marketing: From the Blog to the Bottom Line, to learn

  • Why B2B and B2C content marketing aren’t as different as some “gurus” make them out to be
  • Key differences to remember in creating your B2B ideal client profiles
  • How to map out out the content assets to drive engagement at each stage of the B2B sales process