Content Marketing is all the rage these days. It’s viewed, billed and sold as the modern solution to marketing and the wave of the future. Candidly, I do that too – I’m a content marketing advocate and I strongly believe that it works. That said, I also believe that using ‘content’ to market your business is not actually a new or novel concept.
That’s why I was concerned when I read Marcus Sheridan’s article Why the Digital “Land Rush” of 2007-2017 Will Impact the Future of Business as We Know It. I don’t think Marcus’s intent was to discourage people from content marketing, but the article can make it seem like starting now is starting too late to be successful.
I know this isn’t the case, so I looked to history to find inspiration:
A History of ‘Content’
First things first: I will admit that I look at content marketing as more than just creating words and pictures for people to take in. To me, content marketing is providing value to prospects so they develop a relationship with your brand before they purchase from you. This practice has existed for hundreds of years:
- Parisian coffee houses of the 1700’s used international news and discussion to bring in coffee drinkers (and buyers).
- Irish pubs in the 19th century offered a free supper to entice people to come in and drink their beer.
- In the early 20th century, soap manufacturers created radio plays that captivated their audience (and also mentioned the multitude of uses of household cleaners) and thus the soap opera was born.
In fact, looking back at history we can see that it’s the relatively recent trend of ‘Yell and Sell’ marketing that’s the anomaly. Today, we’re just seeing marketing trends cycle back to what has worked for centuries.
Standing Out From the Crowd
So, back to Marcus’s article, I do agree with one theme: Content Marketing on the web, and specifically the idea of establishing yourself as an industry expert, is definitely a crowded arena (for many industries). There can only be so many brands who answer all your questions about pools, social media, travel destinations, etc… But that doesn’t mean it’s time to close the book on content and look elsewhere – it means that it’s time to find a different niche to fill and to get creative with how you do it:
- Conversations, Not Clicks – Instead of trying to find ways to get people to come to your site, find ways to get them to engage with you in conversations. Use your social media management tools to listen to your audience and then engage with those who you can help.
- Don’t Be Afraid to be Second – Just because you can’t be the first to claim your particular niche doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after it. The information is the same no matter who it’s coming from, but your brand personality and the way you interact with people is what will really set you apart.
- Think locally – If your business is one that operates regionally, highlight that in your content. Google’s shaped searches already favor nearby businesses, so support those efforts by tailoring your content for your local area.
- Own a new channel – Blogging and the ‘Big 3’ social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) are the oldest players in the digital content marketing game, but new channels have risen (Instagram, Vine, etc…) and now’s the time to find one that works for you. Don’t abandon your blog, but find a way to bring your message to these new channels and you can stand out from the crowd.
Content marketing is a concept that was born before the Internet and will probably outlive it, but the Internet and social media are the channels of now. Don’t let the crowd scare you away from a fundamental marketing concept, instead find a way to skirt the crowd and find your own space.