The explosion of content in the digital world is an unprecedented phenomenon just a few could have predicted twenty-five years ago. Content is ubiquitous in all phases of life and in business. In fact, it is getting harder and harder to find a slice of time where content is not invading precious personal or business space.
The voluminous nature of marketing and sales content is making it harder for organizations to get through to customers and potential customers today. In several hundred qualitative buyer persona research interviews conducted last year, I heard firsthand about new behaviors related to filtering, managing, and outright deleting of content on the part of business decision-makers. To the point whereby content marketers now have to deal with something sales have dealt with for decades. That is the role of “gatekeepers” specifically for content.
The fact that senior decision-makers may choose to employ the use of “content gatekeepers” to administratively handle the volume of content is telling in of itself. While the content medium has changed to digital and the stream of information has exploded, the function of gatekeeping is resurrected in a different capacity.
New Dilemmas For Marketers
Such a reaction to the explosion of content, like the employ of content gatekeepers, creates new dilemmas for marketers. In cases where such is present, not only must content get through to a potential buyer, it must meet the test of making it through arbitrary gatekeeping.
The bar has now been raised for marketers to make it through the eye of the needle of customer attention. The novelty of content has worn off its shiny coat for many customers and potential buyers. With gatekeeping in effect, whether it be manually or digitally, gaining the attention of buyers today will become more difficult. Requiring marketers to thus become more precise.
The ubiquitous nature of content today is also causing some segments of customers and potential buyers to view content in one specific way. And, in a way akin to the past. In what way you ask? That is, content is being viewed in the same way that cold calls were viewed in the past. Something to be avoided.
Out Of Alignment With Business And Customer Goals
One of the most interesting studies to come out on content marketing is the recent Forbes Insight and PWC survey of 369 executives, which indicated many companies are lacking a content strategy. While this is not new news, what is different is it highlights that content is not aligned with business priorities and goals. Of which, the most important are that of brand development and customer engagement.
What is exactly different? The overriding concern from many content marketers is on lead and sales conversion. Whereby measurement is focused on conversions. In other words, content is out of alignment with key business goals as seen by executives.
Compounding this issue, is the overriding benefit of content as seen by customers and potential buyers. Which is according to a Forbes Knowledge Group study, and you guess it, learning about what the brand stands for.
What we really have here, then, is many organizations are creating content much in the same ways sales and messaging had been created even before the arrival of the Internet. As a sales pitch. Or, even worse, as a cold call. There is no disillusionment then on why content marketing effectiveness cannot break out of the only one-third bracket, in the last five years, of being considered effective to very effective in recent surveys.
Customer-Focused Content Means Aligning With Customer Goals
How do organizations then make it through the eye of the needle with content? One way, it seems, is in building brand trust. Which, according to the recent Forbes Insight/PWC survey mentioned, also appears to be a business goal as well. Contrary to what is commonly believed, investing in brand trust ultimately will lead to more sales conversions.
Problematic to content marketing is many efforts are skipping over the needed investment in brand trust and engagement. Rushing, if you will, into positioning content strictly in terms of lead and sales conversions. Failing to realize that this misguided rush makes their content overbearing and big – too big to get through the eye of the needle.
Along with this form of investment comes the corollary investment of understanding the underlying goals of customers. Establishing brand trust is predicated on having deep customer understanding. Understanding related to the goals customers are attempting to accomplish.
If we take brand trust and development into consideration, we have to consider what is meant by brand trust and development. I believe there are two important components. One is, brand trust is a belief that the brand will do and deliver on its promise. The second is that the brand understands what it is attempting to help people and/or businesses to accomplish. These two components are interlinked and cannot be separated.
Leading with customer-focused content today means creating a strong linkage between the brand promise and the deep understanding of what customers are attempting to accomplish. In today’s new digital marketplace, the prospect of content – perceived to be in the form of a sales cold call – getting through the eye of the needle will be severely diminished.
(I found this short talk by Graham Clark, from the Cranfield University School of Management, to be succinct and to the point on what is important to being customer-focused. Worth the listen.)