The Content Marketing Institute, Marketing Profs, and Outbrain have conducted a survey for the last two years that asks marketers how they market with content. This year, Outbrain concluded that 100% of respondents reported using content marketing.
“Wait. That means…. Everyone?,” Vince Giorgi of Hanley Wood Marketing, asks with some well-deserved skepticism. Giorgi wonders if we’re all working from the same definition (“of providing relevant, value-adding information, interactions and experiences”) or, more likely, if content is starting to become the go-to idea behind marketing in general. (“I produce an email newsletter; therefore I am using content to market my business, product, or service.”)
Giorgi points out the implications of this shift:
If 100 percent of marketers today not only understand that distinction [of content’s role in marketing], but have truly begun to embrace it and act upon it, then we’ve entered a new era in the evolution of content marketing.
Or, as he concludes, competing with content.
Content competition is not new. There are fundamentals to obey regardless of granular tactic or tool if you’re serious about competing using content to market, especially online.
Three Fundamentals for Competitive Content
Usefulness — The content itself is useful in some capacity, e.g., it solves a problem, explains or educates audience about a topic, or provides an experience (ideally by providing a genuine emotional connection).
Authenticity — Content should have clearly attributed sources and journalistic transparency (see: our Newsblogging process).
Originality — Content must contain a purposeful voice, definitive style, human story, presented with careful attention to visual design.
In summation, to compete using content you must put your audience and their needs center stage.
Practically speaking, this requires that you, as content producer, to:
- Create content that meets a growing expectation of polish and professionalism
- Match content type to audience consumption preference
- Map content to a calendar
- Treat SEO with respect (but not blind allegiance at the mercy of quality and usefulness)
In practice, this means that each piece of content is strategically used to build thought leadership and developed so that the content is more likely to be shared (i.e., marketed). Content shapes identity and influences customer acquisition.
Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, is a strong believer that “there’s virtually no such thing as an industry or niche where thought leadership, interesting/share-worthy content and great inbound marketing can’t work.”
Of course, there is some reluctance. That’s a lot to ask of a company or internal team to do in addition to their primary expertise and workload.
That’s why, increasingly, those people and businesses who are serious about using content to edge the competition enlist the talent and resources of a larger team. Doing so is the best kind of investment and offensive move when literally everyone — 100%! — claims they are using content marketing as their competitive business strategy.
Katie McCaskey is SixEstate's content director. She tests real-world application of content marketing techniques using the cafe she co-owns as a laboratory. She was Tech Editor of Chief Content Officer, 2010-2011, and contributes to the Content Marketing Institute. Connect with her on Google+ or @KatieMcCaskey.