As a consultant, I’m honored to work relatively frequently with businesses both large and small. These days, because of the rapid growth of content marketing, the businesses I work with are, in many cases, actually reinventing an existing content marketing strategy. And sometimes in these instances, the business case for reinvention starts from a point of disadvantage because there is usually some level of skepticism that has been built up.
The result is a bit of a catch-22: It’s hard to throw out the existing approach, because, well… we worked so hard on it. And what’s to say that a reinvented one will actually work better? So, the business just tries to incrementally chase improvement to make the most out of what they have to work with.
Seth Godin wrote a wonderful post on reinvention a couple of years ago, which I happened to have re-read over the holiday weekend. In that post, Seth says:
“If you define success as getting closer and closer to a mythical perfection, an agreed upon standard, it’s extremely difficult to become remarkable, particularly if the field is competitive. Can’t get rounder than round.”
This really struck me, because it’s where I see so many digital marketing strategies falling short these days: They are stuck working off an old content map, trying to make more out of the “less” that they have.
As we drive ourselves to raise content marketing to the next level, we’ve got to start creating new content maps to improve the efforts we’ve made in the past.
New experiences require new strategies
I was at a mobile conference recently, and a self-proclaimed digital marketing “guru” (that’s always your first clue) began extolling his process of creating “new content marketing experiences” for a client. He and his agency had “created” a mobile and social content marketing strategy that solely entailed publishing the most popular content and comments on the client’s current blog to a new mobile-optimized channel. He called it the new “SOMO content marketing hub.” (I’m not even making that up.) He then blamed the client when the mobile/social program fell flat on its face. He basically re-drew an existing map into a new interface.
Why is it that we so want to believe that new, remarkable customer experiences can be created by automatically transferring old ones into a shiny new wrapper? Is it that we feel like it’s safer to guide our strategy by the conventional wisdom and existing processes that the organization has institutionalized than to try original, untested ideas? One marketer at a Fortune 500 technology company recently admitted to me that they weren’t allowed to use paid search marketing for anything other than direct calls-to-action to “buy now,” because their CEO believed it was the only way to measure ROI on PPC advertising. That’s not marketing, that’s insanity.
We do all these things based on what we think we know today. But, what if that knowledge is wrong? Or, to put it another way, how much better could our efforts be if we took the time to completely change our perspective?
Only new content maps can create new experiences
Sometimes the idea of creating new, remarkable content marketing strategies can seem esoteric — and it can often seem like even raising the discussion will just go the way of the “whooey wah wah” brand value conversations that have done little to move the needle, but can cause frustration with the past. In one very large B2B company, the marketing team is tasked solely with sending the emails an agency creates, creating internal sell sheets and making sure that the logo is in the right Pantone colors. They have, quite literally, become the brand police cliché.
But guess what? Not everybody gets to have the “what story are we going to tell?” conversation. Sometimes we do work for “gi-hugic” global mega-conglomerates, and aren’t given the opportunity to influence their brand stories. Rather, our mission is to just work with the ones we’ve been given.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t turn our content maps upside down and start to adopt completely new perspectives on what it takes to differentiate our businesses and create remarkable content and marketing strategies. This means looking at our existing marketing tactics and seeing how we might infuse them with content marketing techniques. It means looking at our measurement practices and searching for ways to abandon the myopic drive for only “more transactions” in favor of efforts that give us insight into how to engage more valuable customers, more retained customers, and more passionate brand subscribers. It means asking “why” — a lot!
With web content, social, mobile, call centers, and globalization, we are adding more and more interfaces to our business every day. Sales, marketing, product design, customer service, the ad agency, and our partners all engage directly with consumers. As we exercise the new “business muscles” of content marketing, social engagement, and enabling more customer touch points, we need to understand that all of these goals are dependent upon our ability to create new customer experiences.
Independent of where you sit in the organization, YOU have the power to develop these new maps. It’s your choice — start building them now, or start learning to deal with the frustration of inevitable failure.