Content marketing has become the new black of the marketing industry. You literally can’t spend a day on Twitter, at conferences, even the local Starbucks without hearing some mention of it. And, as the level of desperation to grab more attention rises, businesses are becoming hard pressed to produce content that leads to something, anything.
I became especially aware of this recently, after attending a well known and much touted marketing event. I wondered what common themes, intellectual motifs if you will, were creating the wagon wheel trenches that led to the new Rome of our glorious age of content marketing.
And here are a few of them, lightly dissected with the blunt tools of my capabilities.
Content Marketing Must Be Compelling?
Yes, this is something that we all can agree upon, and rally around. Or can we, should we? Can literally every instance of text, images, video always be compelling? Why no, you say, just look around. We are literally swimming in “content” that is far from compelling. So what if everything we read, viewed, watched was compelling? Confusion would reign, catatonia would set in, the consumer would become numb to our best, or not so best, intentions.
Organizations, and agencies in particular, should understand that universally compelling content is not the end goal. The concepts of pacing, timing, “negative” attentive activities, and the like are as important in the marketing industry as they are in composing wonderful classical music.
Let me give you an example of what some might consider a somewhat compelling short story, which I penned last night.
When it finally happened, the world wanted it to look like one of the thousands of alien characters popularized by the movies.
But they didn’t look anything like us, nor did they look like any alien in any movie ever made. They didn’t bother to communicate with us at all.
And their weapons were, well, completely alien to us.
This particular weapon was quite unlike anything ever even dreamed of by DARPA, or anyone, for that matter.
It was designed, and purpose built to destroy a single species. Us.
As an intact device, about the size of an egg, it was an incredibly powerful pulse wave “bomb.” The waves were tuned to disrupt the human nervous system, though that was just the best theory we had to explain them. They were also highly radioactive, but the isotope profile was completely unknown. And the radiation, incredibly, only attacked humans. Curiously, if damaged, the radiation levels dropped to zero. Fragments of the device were horribly toxic. At one level, it acted as a neurotoxin. Broken down even more, say by heat, it reorganized itself at the nano level to act as a virus. Even attempts to neutralize the “virus” created an incredibly detailed, shuffled reassembly of smaller bits which acted much as prions, but with fast acting ferocity.
Finally, even the singular atoms were somehow extraordinary weapons. Seems like they had a mysterious quantum level activity that rendered human flesh, literally. Once exposed, the chemical bonds between the molecules that make us would become slippery, and people would simply melt.
“How do we fight it, Dr. Floyd?” said the President. “We don’t, we can’t fight it, all we can do is avoid it. But it may as well be like water.”
Now this little story about evil aliens might be entertaining enough to prod you on to reading the whole thing, and this by definition some might say makes it compelling, but compelled to do what? Buy bottled water? Stop eating eggs? My point is this; compelling content can serve many purposes, but for the marketers out there who continue to talk about it, starting thinking about relevance.
Then Compelling Content Must Be Relevant, Right?
Well, not always. Relevance can be important when you are attempting to use content within a system that relies upon personalizing your messages. Pick any targeted marketing automation application driven by big old data sets, and you get the idea. God forbid we serve up some content to Joe, a 53 year old IT professional, that we meant to deliver to Mandy, a 22 year old fan of Lady Gaga.
However, sometimes we marketers just can’t explain why something like a performance by Paul Potts or Susan Boyle seems to cross all the boundaries we create, and rely upon. Why opera music spiked, not just for these artists, but many others. And that led to curious crossover sales that then became more relevant to our silo mentality. We backtrack afterwards, frantically trying to make sense of it, whacking away at the round peg, to the dismay of the square hole.
So what I am getting at is that relevance is, well, relevant in part, to your intentions. Are you attempting to drive sales of your product in Q3? Do you want to see your company name in bright lights by creating some buzz, which may not be tied to Q3 sales? And by the way, this is perfectly OK to do, contrary to the current ROI pundits.
Shouldn’t your notions of relevance be more closely tied to the hard work you have done in establishing key corporate objectives, your marketing strategy, and your corporate DNA?
Then Relevancy Is Also About Making Our Voice Heard?
Of course. You can’t do anything if the world doesn’t know who you are, what you do, what you provide. Yes it is better to be number one or two in a Google search result, provided you can deliver on your promise. And increasingly, we are seeing almost every SEO company move into the content and content optimization arena. But here are a few caveats for those who may be lulled into thinking that content relevancy is all about SEO.
I recently had a chat with a Bay area friend, who works in the hi technology sector as a marketing executive. His group has spent a considerable amount of time on revising much of their content to align it with their SEO objectives. The results have been curious, to say the least. Like almost every company within their sector, they rely on organic search, targeted marketing, landing pages, email blasts, web events, you get the picture. They have spent considerable treasure on infusing an SEO doctrine into their content. The SEO “committee” had been acting as an arbiter of SEO good taste, though most of the content actually used to compel a prospect to continue the dialog to a sale is far removed from the initial up front hit. Since they are also using social channels, web self service, and have an interactive forum, they have found that context is important to content relevance. And just how do they determine what is relevant? In some cases they simply ask the customer, and the prospects. Surprisingly, if you provide them with the opportunity to tell you how well it resounded, and make it easy to do so, you can get some great feedback. On the service and support front, they provide opportunities to determine how well the information answered questions, and solved problems.
They are using a variety of web analytics and social indicators to help determine relevancy on the “front end” of their marketing activities, and also taking the pulse of the “mid stream” activities. In short, they are using the appropriate tools to help them determine content impact and relevancy based on where the content is being consumed.
So There Is No Content Magic Bullet?
Call me an evil alien, but the answer is no. There is no magic content bullet, and there is no single tool that will help you get the job done. When in doubt, always rely upon the wisdom in the voice of your organization, heard as key objectives, a sound marketing strategy, well played. Content in the digital age is like water, everywhere. Make yours purpose built.