My brain is about to have a content marketing explosion! Regardless of the intensity of studying this topic since 2015, the flood of differing opinions about content marketing rages endlessly on.
If you’re a digital creator, like I am, content marketing is always top-of-mind, mixing, sizzling, and shaking around in there—a tumultuous fizz—about ready to blow!
I’m pretty sure some of the disagreements on what content marketing means originate from the variable nature of the strategies, components, and tactics businesses put into action in content marketing. Plus, traditional advertising, marketing, and even public relations all mingle into the content marketing mix.
Further, content marketing strategy is often entrenched in digital communications adding to the everchanging, elusive capture of best practices or finely tuned frameworks. It’s all so malleable.
What is Content Marketing?
Still, Content Marketing Institute, caretaker and keeper of all concepts “content marketing,” contends, “Content is the present – and future – of marketing.”
Their formal definition is this:
“ Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” ~Content Marketing Institute
One thing most everyone agrees on is this framework, actually more a process or workflow, for marketing channel campaigns:
I feel like “research” also belongs somewhere mixed between strategizing and planning for confident content marketing.
But I don’t want to neglect my favorite part of business, what I believe is a key factor to marketing that resonates with people, plus delivers the unique and original—and that’s creativity.
With so much attention today on data and analytics in marketing, the WOW component easily gets lost. Feeling and emotion get sucked entirely out of the picture, and it changes the face of how we craft winning strategies and campaigns.
Content Marketing With Strategic Creativity
But, as content marketing continues to explode and digital tools now available to content creators grow, there’s never been a better time to create.
Go ahead and create with reckless abandon! Analytics and data matter. But there’s room for more as companies lean into the concept of community in their content marketing efforts. Community entails people, making connections, and engaging. Helping.
The highly successful implementation of user-generated content (USG) for businesses of all kinds is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Today’s word-of-mouth marketing is amplified by social influencers and invites access to a worldwide community via the web.
Audio and video content add to a rich media mix for developing as part of your business’s content marketing plans, allowing audiences to consume content via their favorite choices, not just a single channel dictated by a company, like in the past.
Social media and other digital platforms give customers one-to-one access to a business, and they are more and more demanding of an immediate response.
On the other hand, social media allows people to air grievances loudly and publicly, proving even more control over companies by customers.
Your company, brand, marketing, and reputation are all somewhat in the hands of your customers and communities. So, cultivate community in your content marketing efforts as a priority. Serving customers through content is the premise of everything.
In a recent interview of veteran ad man Allen Kay by Agorapulse, he talks about the importance of emotional indicators, saying, “instinct and intuition still matter.” I love that he cites expertise and knowledge, insight, intuition, and experience as ways to step out of the cookie-cutter “advertising by numbers” popular today.
The Allen Kay Way
As part of his LinkedIn work detail, Allen Kay mentions a recent campaign pitch delivering “smart strategic thinking, unconventional executions with a sense of human,” and indicating it’s a winner! This jives with his preference for offering “personal answers vs. computer answers,” as he mentions in the Agorapulse interview. Instead, he talks about taking a counter-process initiative by replacing it with a thought process.
This says that the value of our experience, the instinct we feel in our gut, and the creative flair we’re often asked to overlook are more meaningful than they seem, particularly in the age of digital geekiness. (Don’t get me wrong, I like to geek out a lot, too!)
But, standing out and being bold, finding creativity, and connecting with humans on an emotional level still make a big difference. For clients, prospects, and audiences alike, Allen says, “Don’t give em what they want; give em what they need!”
I enjoy taking the initiative to give my clients something new or something unexpected from my box of marketing and advertising tools mixed with brainstorming. I like to approach things in a way that differentiates your business from the crowd to help you stand out. Zig once in a while, even if everyone else zags! Yes, even if it’s unthinkable.
Another thing that Allen Kay talks about is how tight deadlines and budget constraints are simply part of doing business. And that’s precisely why I say creativity is an everyday part of doing business.
Leap Into Creativity Ready or Not
In last Friday’s LIVE with PhotoMentortv, Lee Love tells the story of the production of the famous movie Jaws and how haphazardly the creative process unfolded, much of it out of necessity and lack.
It also shows how the creative process was a day-by-day situation. And how the entire crew struggled under the gun on everything. But in the end, well, you know how much the movie grossed! It’s unbelievable when you hear the background.
In the video above, Lee also highlights filmmaker Robert Rodriquez in an interview talking about creativity and producing creatively under significant limitations. Some of Robert’s advice includes these tidbits:
- Just do one thing
- Aim high
- Be ambitious and take action
- Don’t fear failure
- Listen to your inner voice
It seems like a lot of Robert’s message revolves around the idea of never taking no for an answer. If you’re able to overcome, perhaps overlook, the no’s and naysayers, you can do great things. It’s kind of a message of “stay the course” or “don’t look back, just keep plowing ahead” until you bring your creative projects to life.
Allen says the same, suggesting you “envision ideas into reality.” But a key to that process, he says, is listening. But once you take it all in, learning the insides and out about a business, their products, and clients, give them what they need!
My take on this reflects on how you position yourself and serve clients. Trusting what you know and understand (expertise and knowledge), not being afraid to change the pattern, and having the confidence to create something unforgettable demands you work with people who accept your integrity and expertise. When clients can defer to resources as partners, their trust blooms and contradictions subside.
Value is a Two-Way Street
It’s that bridge I always talk about where you meet your clients at the center of value; you value your customers, AND they value you. Because without this equally respectful footing and the ability to sometimes defer to the expert you hire or contract with, well, you know. Extraordinary doesn’t rain from the ordinary.
Just as creativity, instinct by experience, and intuition all play an imperative role, so does data, industry trends, economic climate, audience analysis, competitor study, etc.
My point? Why not mix left and right brain thinking? How about a step out of the box for an original approach unique to your business? Why not let the role of content marketing make a mark on your company community?
When you think about which way you’re going with your marketing, digital and content marketing, in particular, don’t think about you. The time to get malleable in your approach is here.
You’re at the mercy of the people you serve! And your audience, and not you or your business’s agenda, get to run things.
But, don’t panic because I have news for you, and this is NOT something new. The most successful businesses, across the board, make people happy.
When you make the people who deal with you happy, they want to buy from you. They refer other folks to you, even without an ask. If the fuzzy-wuzzy slippers you sell make people smile and they feel warm, and cuddly-comfy while wearing them, people tell their friends to get a pair, too, or gift them some:)
Nice to have help selling your product, right?
When end-users are happy with your product or service, with how you do business, or deliver that product or service, and then back it, you’ll always have customers.
Taking Content Marketing Inbound
If your business makes people want to work with you because they value your products and service, customers are more likely to buy again, recommend you to others, and transform into an account-based client.
Repeat business, of course, means ongoing sales with happy clients, a crucial part of your business community. Satisfied clients tell other people about you, for you.
In their role in your business community, happy clients help grow your business.
This is why I keep saying it’s essential and integral to your marketing to remember the concept of exactly how you operate as a business. Because how you conduct yourself day-to-day reflects directly back on your business and brand.
Simply, your actions in combination with the valuable product/service you provide speak for you. As a default, marketing and content marketing start with you. It showcases how you do business, even if you do nothing else. Word-of-mouth, the oldest form of marketing, hinges on this same idea. If you’re good, word gets around, and why some local businesses do quite well without using social or digital media.
However, know this. You can’t successfully create a marketing campaign to sell an inferior product or service.
Besides, content marketing isn’t a short game. But, content marketing is undoubtedly an easier game with an outstanding product/service that sells itself. A supportive community of customers also buying/selling, and a robust blog with helpful resources and content assets available 24/7 via your business website, doesn’t hurt either.
With these components in place and moving for you, your magnetic inbound marketing machine gains traction. Content marketing is foundational to inbound, but it’s hitting high-level goals when it results in organic inbound over time. It’s evidence you are moving from attraction/awareness to the holy grail, attention, at this point.
Inbound Leads to Outcomes!
Ideally, attention is the turnkey goal to interest, desire, and action!
Framing content marketing within a marketing strategy and connecting it to your broader business goals takes center stage. Business intent tied to audience intent drives a solid content mix.
Throwing creativity into the mix adds to the ability to make a meaningful and memorable connection with an emotional appeal. Emotional drivers in humans are a powerful key to both gaining attention and initiating action.
Every content piece carries responsibilities and reflects on your business while seeking engagement leading to new business.
Your website and blog are usually home to your precious content assets and gems. And your website is a vibrant version of the modern business card. Depth and quality found there is the core to a powerful magnetic field, pulling an audience straight to you!
Earning attention through the valuable content you produce takes time, persistence, and integrity. But, when you feel a difference in how you attract business and realize attention coming to you more than you are chasing it, you know content marketing is working.
Think of your content strategy like a welcome mat that allows your reputation to precede you.