Content marketing will lose its effectiveness sooner or later. As a way out of the storm of mass media irrelevance, the topic of value marketing is being discussed: how can content create real value for the consumer? How can marketers achieve value in their communication? These are the questions we want to pursue in the following.
Everyone who is professionally involved in communication should frame Benjamin Franklin's words and hang them in the office. And ask themselves every day anew: what value does what I write have? What value does what I do have? And not for me, but for the people I want to reach. This is especially true for so-called content marketing, which is all about convincing with benefits instead of persuading with phrases.
„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.“ – Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute
You may be writing a professional article or a white paper that you want to use to do something good for potential customers. You make a lot of effort and give your knowledge away for free. And ask yourself: isn't that per se already this Valuable Content that Pulizzi's definition talks about?
An altruist would say yes. Even if you usually find in content marketing the principle of reciprocal exchange, content for attention or contact data, rather than real selflessness. And this deal is also familiar to the consumer, who is inundated with selfless favors every day. Then the well-meant is rather the opposite: Whoever has the impression of having read a professional article umpteen times in a similar form, sooner or later, the suspicion creeps up that one wants to lure him with small vanities.
„The reason we struggle with content marketing is because we haven’t started with 'Why?' Customers don’t care about your vanity metrics. Ask them, 'How can I help?'“ – Kristina Halvorson, CEO and Founder, Brain Traffic
The times when a company could bribe with rich free content are long gone. Perhaps these times never existed because of the multimedia stimulus satiation. Nevertheless, content plays a crucial role in modern marketing. And this will not change when automats, bots and artificial intelligence take over the control centers of communication.
In this respect, Seth Godin is right when he says that content marketing is the only marketing that has survived. However, this survival will depend to a large extent on whether those responsible in companies succeed in giving their content the value that the content-conscious consumer expects of them. Companies have a hard time with this.
Consumers' expectations are not only due to the fact that they can now choose from a variety of comparable offers in the Internet content universe and decide for themselves which content they consume when and where. Instead, the consumer is taking a risk: namely to invest time in content that offers no value to him. The time that he spends, for example, in research. But also the selection of content, which he will deal with in more detail, costs time.
When searching for and selecting content, the consumer incurs time costs that reduce the perceived value of content. And this is only the beginning of a gradual depreciation, which we can imagine as a waterfall. In the process, something of the possible value of content gradually flows away until, in the end, the amount that is actually perceived by the consumer remains.
The next level of impairment is reached with so-called gated content. This is content that is intended to generate contact data of interested parties in exchange for content. No matter how interesting and valuable the content may seem, in practice, consumers are reluctant to reveal contact information to get at the content. The risk of getting caught in a sales machine and losing control over their own data is high.
From a marketing point of view, the legitimate question, therefore, arises as to whether you are doing yourself a favor by demanding address data in return for your content. Rand Fishkin discusses the pros and cons of gated content in great detail in his Whiteboard Friday.
If a prospective customer has decided to disclose his contact details for content, the value of the content is put to another test. Namely, in terms of consumption. Here, too, profitability plays a decisive role: the less time the consumer has to invest in order to enjoy the benefits of the content, the higher he estimates the value of the content. This raises the question for the marketer as to what content must be made up so that it can be consumed quickly: Text, images or video? Long or short?
Content marketing focuses on content that supports, educates or entertains instead of advertising phrases. However, marketers can rarely resist the temptation to incorporate advertising into their content. With good content, this happens unsuspiciously on the sidelines, for example by underpinning content and messages with reference projects and their own experience. With "bad" content, the story that is supposed to be useful is sooner or later interrupted or even destroyed by superficial advertising during reading.
Superficial advertising destroys the value of content. And more: the feeling of disappointment can be so high in individual cases that we get angry with the provider because he steals our time and abuses our trust. For example, when we discover during a webinar that instead of the promised practical tips, there is only a product presentation. The relationship that the content should establish between supplier and consumer is then already at an end before it has even begun.
„Marketers need to 'earn' the right to advertise to everyone in this hyper-connected, always on world, where content is currency and customer attention is easily lost at the swipe of a finger or click of a mouse.“ – Dale Lovell, Content & Publishing Director at Ad You Like
As we have seen, there is a kind of "natural" devaluation of content, which we have shown above in the model of the content value waterfall. But how can you counteract the decline in value and ensure that the value you as a provider intend to deliver reaches the consumer? We want to discuss some aspects here that contribute significantly to maintaining value.
"Customer focus" is, unfortunately, degenerating more and more into an empty phrase, but it is crucial if marketing wants to retain its value. This is easier said than done because companies usually find it very difficult to change perspective and define value from the consumer's point of view. This is reason enough to take a closer look at the unknown nature of the desired customer and bring together essential characteristics and expectations in a buyer persona.
Pay particular attention to value triggers in the buyer persona: these are clues as to where you can start to create value in the professional or private sphere of the target person. In terms of content, these can be Pain Points, which consumers are currently dealing with. But you can also formally score points if you adapt your content to the information behavior of the persona. Someone who has little time needs compact information that can be grasped quickly. Someone who does not like to read prefers graphic content such as infographics or videos.
In his "Complete Guide to Understanding Consumer Psychology," Neil Patel has collected a multitude of tips and suggestions for designing content in such a way that it is easy to consume.
The theory is essential in many areas to create a basic technical understanding among consumers. In an early phase of the buying process, this is exactly what content marketing is all about. Later, when a prospective customer starts looking for concrete solutions, content should become more practical; for example, by providing specific instructions on how to solve a problem. This encourages the consumer to become active and use the content practically.
Practical work with content makes its value tangible for the user. The consumer experiences the amount through his actions. Practical instructions can, for example, provide how-to lists, video tutorials or application examples that are easy to follow.
In a time of information overload, it makes sense to repeat content and messages frequently so that they reach the consumer. Nevertheless, every content, even if it is recycled, should offer a novelty. This is simply because most consumers value content with news value more than content that is already known.
You create news value by picking up current topics and trends in the market and preparing them in a bite-sized format. But even issues that are not brand new can be refreshed by incorporating current studies, sources and market data. The links at the end of this article, for example, all point to articles that are no more than six months old.
We have already examined above the question of how the form, especially the length and scope of content, influences consumers' perception of value. More is not always better. After all, great content that has been created with a great deal of effort and expense may be superficially considered valuable by a consumer in a hurry. Unfortunately, however, the full value of the content is not revealed because he is not able to deal with it in more detail due to lack of time.
Star bloggers like Seth Godin prefer to create their messages and content for users with little time. Others, like Neil Patel, for example, rely on comprehensive contributions of a felt scroll meter length. In principle, the optimal value is achieved when the scope and format of the content are optimally suited to the expectations and possibilities of the consumer.
Since you often don't know where the optimum lies, developing content according to the lean principle is a good idea: think big, start lean, as blogger Sacha Chua shows with the example of a Minimum Viable Post. The starting point here is content that is "good enough" to get into a conversation with consumers and receive feedback. She then uses this feedback to develop her content step by step.
The principle of developing and optimizing content step by step is also reflected in the ideas of agile marketing. You can find a nice description in the "Agilen Marketing Manifesto".
Consumers attach importance to the fact that the content and messages of companies are professionally sound and neutral. That's why marketers should enrich their content with evidence and impartial background information. This should free their messages from suspicion of tendentiousness. Besides, to study results and market research, quotes from recognized experts provide the necessary "beef" in the content.
Studies and data must be interpreted in such a way that they support one's theses and messages in an understandable way. Figures alone are not very meaningful, but unfold their value only in the context of a clear interpretation. In addition, data should be prepared bite-sized. For example, in the form of charts or infographics so that they can be grasped at a glance.
Content as the fuel of modern marketing threatens to collapse at the same causes as traditional advertising: too much of everything, and too little of value to the consumer. If you want to survive in today's mass consumption, you have to increase your value content. And not by adding more content, but rather by adding more subtlety and openness to what moves the consumer.
Cover: pixabay.com CC0 Public Domain by skeeze