Since Google made content a key component of SEO, everyone and their grandmother have been writing articles in an effort to distinguish their brand and gain favor with the search giant. It doesn’t hurt that marketers know customers read—a lot—before they buy. According to Forrester, the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content prior to purchase. In the business-to-business (B2B) world, the numbers are even more striking—more than half (51%) of B2B buyers rely on content to research their buying decisions, and they want content that offers data and analysis.
But with dozens of articles for every imaginable topic, how does the writer/marketer stand out? Is there such a thing as too much content? Where do we go from here?
The Case for Content Marketing
Brands know that content has real value when it comes to establishing relationships with buyers. Research by eMarketer, in fact, shows that 87% of U.S. B2B companies plan to use content marketing strategies this year.
Savvy consumers are tired of ads and pitches. They want emails from brands that are informative, not promotional. That’s why content marketing has taken center stage. The Content Marketing Institute reports that 79% of business-to-consumer marketers see an increase in audience engagement and 65% see an increase in leads from their content marketing efforts. Before anyone wants to buy from you, explains Bill Carmody at Forbes, they first need to discover you and get to know you.
But the creation of content is only half the story. According to most experts, content marketing is more about promoting content than writing it. In other words, the real challenge lies in delivering the right piece of content to the right person at the right time.
It’s a problem constantly facing Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, and every other content platform out there. To keep everyone’s eyeballs on their screens, these companies are refining how they recommend content. For example, YouTube recently began recommending individual videos to users instead of a selection of videos. Many channels are taking this fewer-but-better approach to recommend content.
The Growing Challenge of Standing Out
The content deluge makes it harder for newer companies to stand out, particularly as social media algorithms change. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Quantity never negates quality or authenticity. Consumers and B2B buyers still respond to several key factors when it comes to content marketing:
- Quality writing: Make your content marketing a pleasure to read. Use personal anecdotes and stories about your experience with the subject. Inject more jokes and seek out experienced writers.
- Unique perspectives: Help your readers see the world or their industry in a new way by offering original voices and unique takes on the topics of the day.
- Content that knows its audience: If your content can help readers solve a problem, it will stand out. What are the fears of your audience? What are their challenges and pain points? Speak to these and your content will be shared. People want to be helpful, and if your content delivers genuine solutions, it won’t get lost in the crowd.
- Data-driven writing: Bring the numbers. Help readers identify a problem and see a solution in a concrete way by providing original data or a new level of analysis.
Ensure each piece of content created by your brand is part of a larger long-term strategy. Devote time to cultivating a measurable, documented content strategy based on your company’s core values and passion.
Think about how each piece builds on or links back to the others. Define the sales journey for your ideal buyer or consumer and produce quality content that focuses on that audience across all stages. Finally, marketers shouldn’t think of content as standalone marketing pieces. Instead, they should be used by all customer-facing teams.
The Growth of Curation
Curation communities have become a significant tool to handle the content tide. Digg used to be great for this. Today, niche projects like Zest for marketing, Pinterest for images, Slack communities, and curated newsletters are helping to slice the content pie into digestible bites.
Your brand can provide curation for your industry—but be warned, building a curation community or even creating a newsletter isn’t something that can be done quickly. Content curation takes time, expertise, and effort to do well. The need for more curation is clear, however, so providing this service is a real way to cut through the noise. If you do it well, your content will find its audience.
The Future of Content
While there will always be room for new ideas and perspectives when it comes to content, it’s pretty clear that writers, brands, and marketers will have to constantly find creative ways to break industry standards to promote their writing.
It might be helpful to remember that content is only one part of your brand’s larger goal: keeping your current customers happy. They’re the ones who are most likely to share your stories—and to tell stories of their own.
Will readers tune out, or find their niches? The key to the future of content marketing might be found by looking at the past. Television commercials are a broken model these days thanks to streaming and DVR technology, but the stories the medium told aren’t gone. This same evolution will occur in online content, and brands must be ready to adapt.
So yes, Virginia, there is too much content. But giving up on this powerful marketing tool isn’t a viable option. Instead, creators must focus on quality over quantity and speak to their audience in new or inventive ways. Consumers will continue to find specific channels, trusted curators, and other methods to filter out the garbage. We’ll see new companies and concepts developed within the curation space.
What say you, reader? How do you see content marketing evolving? Share your ideas with us and let’s continue the conversation.
Prasenjit Dutta Chowdhury, Known as a @digitalprasen is a digital marketing expert, passionate about SEO & content marketing.
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