How Context Influences Good Content

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Tony Zambito

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Rodney Mullen, 1988
Rodney Mullen, 1988 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Major themes running through marketing and sales since 2012 has been companies are increasing spending in content marketing. Several surveys in 2014, including those from the Content Marketing Institute and eMarketer, show up to 70% or more of marketers plan to increase spending in content marketing. This is despite recent surveys and reports, such as from Forrester, indicating 85% or more find their content marketing somewhat effective, somewhat ineffective, or not effective at all.

So what gives? Is marketing throwing money down a toilet with content marketing?

One thing we know through these surveys, for example from Forrester, is nearly 90% of marketers believe producing content, which engages and resonates with buyers, is a major challenge.

Jumping On And Off The Bandwagon

Many marketing leaders can get an uneasy feeling about how much to invest in content marketing. It is a concern I have heard voiced repeatedly in the last year during my time helping organizations with buyer insights research and buyer persona development. Here is an example from recent interviewing:

“I’ve gone to the well and was able to get more money in our operating budget for content marketing. But I have to be honest with you; I am worried about what we will get out of it. Even if you get good stats showing good results, you still don’t know for sure.” – Vice President, Marketing

Marketing leaders are facing a real conundrum today. The pressure to build awareness and open the gateway for sales to execute in the digital age is no easy feat. Causing many to look to content marketing as their primary means to connect with buyers. However, some who have jumped on the bandwagon may be jumping off or at least taking a different view. Here is another example from recent interviewing:

“We went gung ho on the premise of content marketing last year as well as this year. One thing I have learned is we have to be smarter about this. It is not a game of quantity, we have to do better at producing quality that really matters.” – Vice President, Solutions Marketing

Marketing Leaders Need To Embrace Right Concept Of Context

We have seen much ado about context. My take on this much ado is we can all be prone to thinking about context as a means to embellish content provided to customers. And, as anything new in marketing these days, we have the call of context marketing means going beyond content marketing. I am not so sure this is a context versus content proposition. What is important for marketing leaders to grasp is this:

Context is what helps influence and shape good content. Good content being content which connects with buyers and buyers see as being meaningful to them.

There are several guiding principles about context; marketing leaders can think about to address the conundrum they face:

  • Think about first seeking to understand the contextual world of your buyer (also one of the major principles of human-centered buyer persona development)
  • Think good content can provide context to customers – only if you understand context from your buyer’s point of view
  • Think environment, relationships, external influence, and situations shape context
  • Think “what do buyers need to know?” – within the context of the world they experience

These guiding principles regarding context help marketing leaders to be smarter about content and zero-in on the world in which their buyers live in and experience. And, move away from the madness of thinking context has something to do with producing an overwhelming quantity of unmeaning content tied to a generic view of a “buyer’s journey”.

What Does Skateboarding Have To Do With Context?

Rodney Mullen is probably a name you do not recognize. That is, unless you have been an avid fan of skateboarding. Mullen is considered the most influential freestyle skateboarder in history. Devising many of the tricks and moves used in competitions today, winning 35 out of 36 freestyle competitions. After studying engineering at the University of Florida, he co-founded World Industries, which became the world’s largest skate company. He eventually sold this company for $20 million.

I had not heard of Rodney Mullen until I came across this TEDx video I wish to share with you. Mullen manages to pull off one the best yet simple talks on context I have seen in a while entitled How Context Shapes Content. Simply stated, Mullen was forced to use the context of the outside world in order to come up with the freestyle techniques and styles we see as commonplace today. I leave you with this entertaining TEDx video, where Mullen explains how context shaped his freestyle innovations, to enjoy:

3 thoughts on “How Context Influences Good Content”

  1. I think you touched a point that is often overlooked. Context greatly affects how people relate to your content.
    A tool to check out in this context is Roojoom – it provides you a way to repurpose existing content and give it new context. Check out this example:

  2. Michael Selissen

    Lots of companies treat content development as a siloed function or produce content off-the-cuff, without a plan. So they can hardly expect to realize different results by simply putting more money into the pot.

    The issue with most context marketing definitions I’ve seen is that they are written exclusively from the prospective customer’s point of view. But context is really a two-way street. Companies need to put themselves into that context, too by explaining their philosophy – how they see and interpret the world and how their solutions fit into that world.

    Oftentimes prospects don’t have a fully formed context of their own other than, “Hey, we’re losing money.” or “Our processes are inefficient.” So they rely on vendors and analysts to help them sort it out.

    1. Long delay but many thanks Michael for your well articulate comment. Context is a two-way street indeed and it one of the points crucial to successful content. Thanks! Tony

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