We’ve spoken so much about how content is king, how content marketing is the only marketing that’s left and how, to ever build a real relationship with an audience, businesses need to focus on content marketing, that we’re now faced with a brand new challenge.

In an effort to do just that, we’ve oversaturated the market, producing more content than we or our audiences could ever hope to consume. This doesn’t make content marketing any less effective or worthwhile but it does mean we need to adjust some things.

Don’t treat content marketing as a shortcut

Content marketing isn’t something you start today and pays off tomorrow. It’s a complex process that takes time, skill, money, and a sound strategy to pay off.  It’s not a quick fix to any of your brand problems and if you don’t have the patience for any of the former, you’ll never get to enjoy any of the benefits of the latter.

It’s a bit like expecting customers to break down your shop’s door just because you’ve put one teeny, tiny sock in your massive window. I don’t care how pretty or unique it is. People rushing to work, preoccupied with, you know, life, walking by dozens of shops every single day, aren’t even likely to turn their head and notice it, let alone walk in an buy it.

Publishing a piece of content, quickly drafting a post for Facebook or Twitter and waiting for your visitor count or, even more unrealistically, your sales to go up, isn’t going to work.

If content marketing is to yield results, your strategy needs to be a long-term one, internalised across the business, focused not only on major milestones but also on carefully tracing the steps, and plan B action items, that will help you achieve them.

Think like a series producer

We spoke about how publishing one piece of content isn’t enough. Well, thing is, neither is publishing 50 pieces of content if they are superficial and bring little to no value to your audience.

This tends to happen either because businesses think done is better than perfect or more is better. Neither of those principles can save a rickety content marketing strategy. While I do agree that fiddling with a piece of content for too long can end up making it worse, doing the bare minimum and relying on high volumes of mediocre content is exactly how we ended up contributing to a market filled to the brim with content people are more interested in skipping than consuming.

What will, however, help a brand break through the noise is thinking like a director producing a series. You’d start working on a script for a show, with a couple of episodes drafted, get it approved internally, find the best people to portray your characters, film, edit, cut and, here’s the most important part, wait for the audience’s reaction to refine the direction your story is taking.

Focus on people not the business

How would you feel if someone came up to you, in the middle of the street, introduced themselves and started talking about how awesome they were? I’m guessing you’d be weirded out, right? Now how about if, while you walk home from work, you’d get accosted by 15 people doing the same thing? That, guys, is exactly what businesses do every single day online.

Copy pasting their TV and outdoor advertising strategies into the digital world, with very few adjustments, businesses focus on talking about themselves and their products. Digital doesn’t work that way.

Think about how you use Instagram or Facebook. Your feeds are a mix of posts from your friends, news outlets, perfect strangers, and brands you follow or who advertise to people like you. As you happily scroll on, the things that will stop you are things you recognise and are interested in, things that have some type of meaning to you, things that you can relate to or things that can help you in some way, not the things a brand likes to say about itself.

Content marketing starts with people. The people who need the product or service you’ve come up with. Your content, therefore, has to speak to them, address their challenges, interests, as well as goals.

Be strategic about popular topics

Popular topics are a very easy hook for brands to resort to. They’re right there and people are already into them so why not build a campaign about, say, Amsterdam as a holiday spot? Well, because it might not make sense for your brand.

It’s one thing to talk about Amsterdam if you run a travel agency, offer guided tours, sell traditional Dutch products or are a chef. It’s quite another to pick up the subject when you’re an accountant or makeup artist. I’m not saying there isn’t a clever angle that would make the story work but, more often than not, it’ll seem completely out of place.

Be very cautious about incorporating popular topics into your content marketing strategy. If it doesn’t make sense for your brand, your products and the rest of your content …. just don’t. If it does, however, broadly touching on these topics won’t help either. You’ll need to find an angle that all the other, already popular content, hasn’t touched on and infuse it with the context that will make it relevant for your brand’s audience.

The Bottom Line

I don’t care if you sell shoes, soaps or software solutions, content marketing is the kind of marketing that works for any business. However, it only does so if businesses accept, from the jump, that people come first, thinking strategically and long-term isn’t optional and, skimming on budget translates into skimming on results.

Those who focus on driving value for their audience, take the time to build an engaging content experience  and create unique content that incorporates the brand’s identity and values, are the only ones who can break through the deafening digital noise.

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