One of the biggest problems businesses face today is connecting-the-dots between their formal business strategy and their content strategy. In order to gain a strong competitive advantage, these two fundamentals absolutely must be intertwined.
But what does competitive advantage have to do with content strategy and content marketing?
Short answer? Everything.
But first, let’s remember what competitive advantage actually is:
The firm (aka “your business”) creates a competitive advantage in large part by offering something/things that are Valuable, Rare, Inimitable, and Organised – V.R.I.O.
How do these elements of competitive advantage relate to content? The esteemed Colin Parker, Marketing Manager of Portent, was kind enough to touch on this in his blog post, which I’ve summarised below.
1. Valuable Content
Does your company employ experts in their field? Ideally, this is where you say ‘yes,’ otherwise consider be concerned! These are the perfect people for writing valuable, expert content. They don’t have to have a major in communications – their content can always be edited by someone with stronger writing skills.
2. Rare Content
Do you know more about this topic or have a unique perspective that your target market hasn’t heard before? I hope so, otherwise you’re going to be spending a whole lot of money to try and differentiate yourself from the pack by sheer repetition and volume.
3. Inimitable Content
This is where things can get interesting – if your content is inimitable, it has the potential to go viral and significantly increase your brand following. Inimitable content should be “so good or unusual as to be impossible to copy; unique.”
First, ask yourself: Do you and your team have a perspective that’s informed through (A) your unique set of experiences and (B) any innovations that go into making your business awesome, which would be tough for competitors to copy? If you really think hard about this one, I’d be willing to bet your answer is ‘yes’.
Secondly, ask: Are you willing to make the investment in getting that knowledge out of your team’s head and sharing it with both current and prospective customers in a way that screams:
- “We understand you!”
- “We care enough to translate this subject matter into something you can understand!”
- “We care enough to present these ideas to you with enough production value and quality that you can tell we actually spent time on this!”
The lion’s share of the web is full of the same generic blog posts, heavily concentrated around topics or products that businesses are trying to sell.
You will not be successful in creating value and ultimately in being discovered and loved by more customers if you are producing the same pulp that already exists in overabundant supply.
There are over 4.5 billion web pages in existence at last count. Hacking out the 1,500th blog post on “How to change a flat tire” to sell tire irons is not going to work. This is not inimitable.
By contrast: Creating an amazing interactive visual with a unique take on the best ways to change a tire in specific conditions, might get closer. Better still, anticipate additional customer questions by virtue of your experience in the field of tire change-ry and weave in those thoughtful answers at the exact right moment. Your uniquely amazing approach to the work, or product, or service, becomes the “Inimitable” part of your content.
This holds just as true for cloud computing services, technical consulting, or any other enterprise that’s profitable enough to draw in new or incumbent competitors.
4. Organised Content
“Content Strategy” is perhaps one of the most sought after yet least understood practices I’ve seen marketers chase in the last few years. Everyone wants to be “strategic.” Fair enough.
Most marketers also know content is important. Frankly, if you don’t have content in your marketing, what do you have? Content is everything you do and say. It’s not just your blog.
Where people tend to get lost is in consolidating their content – brainstorming what they could write about with their “Content Strategy.”
Content Strategy does include elements of brainstorming, topic research, user journey mapping, etc. You have to know what your audience cares about and when to nurture them with the next piece of valuable information.
But Content Strategy also includes two heaping scoops of planning: editorial process and governance. By definition, Content Strategy is “a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website development project.”
Without planning how to sustain the work that must be done, that big idea gets lost. Organisation creates the inertia and structure for you to be successful both immediately and longer-term.
Where to from here?
For now, I hope I’ve convinced you to think very hard before you reach out to a “content mill” or any other stranger promising “Quality content for low prices.”
Content marketing is an extension of your firm’s competitive advantage, and it simply cannot be as good or effective if it’s not heavily infused with what makes your company and your people great in the first place.
Source: Written by Brooke Stirling, inspired by Colin Parker’s Portent blog post.