A Rarity: Courageous Content Marketing
BY John Miller
January 17, 2017

Tell me if this scenario sounds like your company: You heard about content marketing, you could see the logic behind the concept and so you launched a content marketing initiative. You hired a freelancer or two or three, and they got cracking churning out content. You’ve invested in it for a year now. You’ve got lots of content. You’ve worked to distribute it, maybe even had a couple paid campaigns.

And whaddya got? Nuthin’.

No uptick in leads. Website traffic jumped initially, but quickly leveled off. Social engagement is also flagging lately.

WTF?

There are plenty of possible reasons for a lack of success with content marketing – the content just isn’t that good, your distribution channels weren’t primed for success, you skipped foundational SEO work, or you changed the focus of your content multiple times.

But here’s probably the biggest failing for most content marketing initiatives:

You played it safe.

You did what everyone else in your industry does. You used the same jargon, you used the same channels, you might’ve even used the same freelancers. You were obsessed with best practices, which meant that you automatically followed the playbook written by someone (everyone) else.

You weren’t courageous.

The cardinal sin is to be boring. If all you’re doing is a slightly different flavor of what everyone else is doing, why would the audience ever care? They can get boring anywhere. They can get it everywhere. I mean, just look at the internet – it’s filled with lame, redundant content.

In his new book Simply Brilliant, William Taylor highlights companies that zoom ahead of their competition by not adhering to the accepted way of conducting business.

Companies that manage to rise above the pack and stand alone, that win big in fiercely competitive times, are those that create a one-of-a-kind presence and deliver a one-of-a-kind performance that is not just a little better than what other companies do. They do things that other organizations can’t or won’t do.

The same applies to your content. Are you following the same template your competition is following? If so, stop. Do something different – it might be as simple (but, yeah, expensive) as doing everything the competition is doing, but outspending them on paid promotion. Or you could stake out on a social network no one else in your industry is utilizing. Or create a completely different type of content.

When everyone is zigging, you have to zag.

Tech companies and start-ups, which pride themselves on being disruptive, tend to be among the worst offenders when it comes to falling into lockstep with industry marketing norms. They might be building really cool, innovative platforms or solutions, but too often they’re incapable or unwilling to not speak in the dense me-too jargon that every competitor is using.

Don’t do this. It’s a trap. You’ll never be able to move past the competition if you’re merely mimicking them.

More from Taylor’s Simply Brilliant:

“We live in a world where customers can choose from more options and alternatives than they’ve ever had, where rivals are more numerous and capable than they’ve ever been. In this world, success is no longer just about price, performance, features—delivering tangible and rational economic value that responds to what customers need. It is about passion, emotion, identity…”

It’s marketing’s job to do this.

You can’t strive to be a slightly better version of what’s already out there. Incremental change will not win the battle. If you don’t strike out on a new path, odds are no one will notice, no one will care, and you’ll be wasting your time and money. Companies that don’t have the courage to stake out new ground can certainly have some success with content, but not breakout success.

Consider this take on what the UK agency eatbigfish has called lighthouse brands. You need to create “lighthouse content” – the hallmark of a lighthouse identity. This requires that you be unique, that you’re highly visible, and that you have a rock solid understanding of what you stand for, and remain true to the essence of your brand.

If you do it right, you’ll set your company apart. And then, your marketing will really begin to pay dividends.

If not, you’re likely dooming yourself to life on a treadmill – and that’s the best-case scenario.

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