How to build meaningful competitive advantage with your content marketing agency to differentiate your offering and stand out from the crowd.
Remember 2010? Cast your mind back to those hazy days, when Greece was bailed out, the Arab Spring erupted, and Wikileaks released over 300,000 classified documents onto the internet.
In the world of content marketing, as in current affairs, big changes were afoot. 2010 saw the inception of the Content Marketing Institute, and a growing realisation that content was the way forward.
In the years that followed, early adopters like Kraft and Intel reaped the benefits of the novel approach as other brands, big and small, scrambled to catch up.
But let’s face it — it’s not 2010 anymore.
These days pretty much everyone has got the message, and 88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing in their strategies.
How to stand out in 2018 and beyond
The growth of the internet, smartphones and tablets, along with brands (both B2B and B2C) joining the bandwagon, means that the world is awash with content marketing.
It’s no longer enough to simply do content marketing. To have any impact now, in 2018, and beyond, you must build meaningful competitive advantage with meaningful content — and that means not doing just better content marketing, but different content marketing.
Work with a content marketing agency to build competitive advantage and differentiate in your industry
The universal nature of content means that you need to do it not just better than your competitors — but different to them. In this, it can be helpful to partner with a specialist content marketing agency to develop an approach that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack.
To make sure you get the most out of your partnership, take a look at these 8 ways in which working alongside an agency will empower you to devise an engaging and lucrative content strategy that builds meaningful competitive advantage and helps you stand out from the crowd.
1. They know your audience
The first step to creating compelling content is knowing exactly who it’s for and what they want. You need to understand your ideal customer for each piece of content. Most marketers are familiar with the concept of personas by now. How well do you know your target personas?
Conduct in-depth research to build a picture of who your key customer is, filling in as many details as possible including their industry, business frustrations, age, gender, professional level, even their hobbies, likes, dislikes and habits.
The more you know about your target persona, the more you can tailor and optimise your content to attract and engage them.
2. Share as much with your agency as possible and they’ll share with you
When working in collaboration with a specialist content marketing agency, communication is key. You know more about your business than anyone else. The key is to steal a march on your competitors by combining your industry-specific expertise with the agency’s content marketing know-how.
Great content can come from the most unexpected or everyday sources, so share anything that provides insights into how your business works. Sales presentations, FAQs, customer case studies and past marketing material can all provide inspiration. Often most illuminating of all can be discussions and discovery sessions with your agency where they can ask in-depth questions to really get to know your business and customers.
3. They help you differentiate and be original
How many times have you seen that blog post rehashed again and again? By now, every industry has its content marketing clichés. If you simply try to recreate what already exists, your audience will tune out, you won’t make any impact and you’ll be spending resources on a fruitless enterprise.
On the other hand, if you can take the time to plan and create new and original content, the rewards will be plentiful. And we’re not just talking about written content here. Video is one of the most exciting formats online right now, with even big boys like Apple and Facebook scrabbling to create original content in this field.
4. They’ll help you think less salesman, more journalist
Content marketing professionals have great respect for journalism. While we may be in a new media landscape, mastering old journalistic principles is central to producing reliable, interesting and trustworthy content, starting right from the all-important headline.
Far from being dead, the traditional art of headline writing has taken on a new lease of life in the competitive, attention-poor world of online content. Social media channels like Twitter led the way in imposing character limits, while Facebook and Google cut off link previews after a few words, forcing content writers to make every word count. Not only that, but the sheer volume of content competing for user attention means all but the most compelling headlines will be scrolled past, doomed to oblivion.
Once your audience is hooked by the killer header, the content has to tell them a story — once again content marketers have to tap into their inner journalist. Rambling copy and lacklustre videos won’t cut it. You have to get to the heart of the issue at hand, identify and answer those key questions, highlight the surprising or salient points, entertain your prospect and, crucially, project trustworthiness and authority.
5. Remember: don’t be a slave to Google
We all know that search engine optimisation (SEO) is important. More than that, it’s essential. But keywords and backlinks are not the be-all and end-all.
“One of the main principles that B2B marketers are embracing in 2017 and beyond is that content should only be created for real people, and not for search engines. Instead of aiming for quick SEO success, you should invest in in-depth content because longer copy ranks and converts well.”
Google is smarter than ever. Its algorithms and search engine rankings are increasingly adept at rewarding content that is quality, informative and original. And that’s exactly the kind of content that your customers want too.
6. They’ll choose the right channels
Just as old Marshall McLuhan said back in the day, ‘the medium is the message’. In other words, where you choose to distribute and share your content is just as important as the content itself.
While B2C brands targeting 15-22 year olds will be hot on Snapchat and Instagram, B2B brands targeting senior management will turn to high-level business publications, direct mail, email, and LinkedIn. Crucially, the format, structure and message of the content itself will inevitably be shaped by the channels chosen, which are in turn dependent on the audience.
7. They’ll measure everything
It’s absolutely essential to monitor, evaluate and optimise content performance — over and over again. The data insights you get from published content will feed into your future strategy, showing you which topics, formats, channels and messages work best for your audience.
8. Content marketing en MaaS
Marketing as a service (MaaS) is an agile and efficient way to make your marketing work harder. Instead of tying up resources early on with high profile hires, companies are increasingly turning to different places for access to the deep expertise required in the different areas of marketing.
The CMO role is an ever-expanding one, as new technology and changing customer landscape complicate the picture. No one individual can hope to excel at product management, corporate marketing, product marketing, content marketing and IT. But if you break down each part and assign ownership to specialists, you will free up time and resource to focus on your core strengths and drive the business forward strategically.
Principles of Marketing As A Service (MaaS)
- Focus on what’s ‘core’ and outsource the rest.
- Justify every full-time hire.
- Focus your website and content strategy on sales and customer acquisition.
- Automate and measure everything from the start.
- Hire managers, not individual contributors.
- In today’s competitive online environment, only meaningful content can create meaningful competitive advantage.
- The key to working with a content marketing agency is to combine your business expertise with their skills in content creation and distribution.
- It’s vital to fully understand the audience that you’re creating content for (including their frustrations, interests and preferred channels).
- Originality of content and compelling headlines are essential to capture attention and rank well on Google. Keywords and backlinks are only one part of the SEO story.
- Aim to establish a collaborative relationship with your agency and share as much information as you can about the business and its customers to inspire great content.
Let's do content marketing differently. Check out Dare to be different: The state of B2B content marketing differentiation in 2017 and get the latest tips and tricks from your B2B marketing peers.