Say the Magic Words: The Value of Content Strategy

If you think about your own buying behavior for a moment you will quickly recognize that advertising has less influence on you than it used to. For most people, advertising still creates awareness and gives you general impressions about brands, but you don’t probably rely on it for the information you need to make buying decisions. Instead, you know that within seconds, you can identify the major brands within a category, visit their websites, read reviews and ratings, see social posts, watch informative videos and generally be immersed in knowledge on virtually any subject. Consumers, like you, have an expectation that with search and the internet at their fingertips they can make the best, smartest, most fully informed decisions every time.  The reality, however, is different. There is almost too much information; it’s disorganized. A lot of it is misleading or deceptive, and most of us don’t want to put that much effort into the whole process. This is an opportunity for brands.

Decades ago when Bill Gates said “Content is king,” he may have been underestimating things. Today content is the fuel that powers the modern marketing engine. However, while consumers theoretically want all the data and information, they actually want it neatly packaged up and wrapped with an engaging little bow. In other words, consumers want someone else to do all the work for them. They want someone to bring them the information they need to know, to make sure it is useful and accurate, to tell them what’s important to consider and what’s not, and to make the whole process and experience, fast, easy and engaging at the same time. Regardless of what business you are in, you can be sure that your buyers prefer you to do their work for them. And if consumers come to believe that you will reliably deliver credible, valuable content in the form they want, when they want it, you will get on their short list for your category. Not too many brands make that short list, which is not unlike the positioning ladder that Reis & Trout popularized in a previous age.

Content can be an article on a blog, an interactive tool on your website, an eBook, a whitepaper, a video, a podcast, or a touch screen at an airport. Content is everywhere in a thousand different forms, and it seems like every company that’s ever read an article on content marketing is producing it. Most of it, however, is not very good, which is why quality is the first order of the day. As a Pardot survey revealed, 71% of respondents reported being disappointed with a brand’s content, and 64% indicated that they would not be very likely to ever engage with a brand again that had made a poor first impression.

The objective of content is to get the formula right. What makes content good is not just good creative, but saying exactly the right thing, to a particular consumer, for that moment in time, in a way that’s appropriate for that context. That might seem like threading a very small needle, but it’s what you, or any other tough, demanding consumer, expects. It’s a standard set by the very sophisticated brand experiences that consumers have become accustomed to.

Informed by your Messaging Framework and Consumer Journey Maps, you can plan the most effective content approaches for each persona, at each of the key engagement points you have identified. This becomes your Content Strategy, and it will direct everything your teams do from this point on.


This article is part of a larger series, Decoding Modern Marketing, that aims to help executives understand the value of marketing in 2016 and create a plan for achieving measurable results.

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