Content marketing – focusing on ‘why?’
We’re all in the media business now. Ford Motor? Media. Proctor & Gamble? Media. Mrs Mopp’s Flower Arrangements (and Associated Floral Services)? Media. If you’re reading this, congratulations – you’re in media. Feel free to grow ironic hair and start using the word ‘conceptualise’.
You probably started off with a website, which was basically a brochure on a screen, and now, just a few short years later, you have a fully interactive digital experience, including web, mobile, dozens of blogs and a whole plethora of social platforms. (I believe ‘plethora’ is the correct group noun. I considered ‘blunderbuss’ but it seemed reductive).
And somehow, you have to fill all these media channels with content. You have to have something to say. And that isn’t easy. What you’ve done is ask a large number of people whether they want tea or coffee, and now you’re running around the kitchen trying to remember what everyone asked for, realising you’ve run out of camomile, never had any soy milk and don’t know how to work the Nespresso (you’re in media, remember? Of course you have one). And just as you finish, they’ll all be thirsty again.
Most businesses solve this problem by being rubbish. They serve everyone lukewarm tea and hope they’ll get used to it. In fact (and I’m now stretching this metaphor to quantum thinness) they obsess far more about how many sips everyone took and the cost of the cups than whether the drink actually tastes nice.
This is because they have nothing to say.
Or rather, this is because they don’t know what it is they ought to be saying. They go on about what they do because they’ve forgotten why they do it.
They probably spend a lot of time doing meetings and adding up columns of numbers, which provides a wonderful sense of importance, but it’s hard to make that entertaining for anyone else.
But mate, I hear you say (you’re in media, so terrible with names), I work for the Acme Flange and Angled Bits of Metal Corporation, and we want to tell people about our new premium gasket. It’s never going to be Breaking Bad, is it?
Well no, hopefully not. But it doesn’t matter, because the truth is that unless you’ve found a way to make people objectively more attractive or manufacture socks that won’t develop holes (maybe that’s just me), no product is all that interesting anyway.
To make us care about it, you have to tell us why you care about it.
Not beating last quarter’s revenue or gaining 0.1% share in the nose clipper market, but actually why this product is important. If you’re in nose clippers because you want people to feel more confident about their appearance, then focus on that. Tell people about that. If you’re in the flange business because you want your customers have peace of mind that their beams won’t buckle, then focus on that: peace of mind. Not the density, the material or the taste (ok, I don’t know much about flanges), but why you care. If you can’t tell people why you care, they won’t care either. In fact, if you can’t tell people why you care, maybe you shouldn’t be in this business at all.
But if you can do it – articulate in clear terms why you believe what you’re doing is important, and permeate all your communications with that belief, miracles will happen. You’ll find other people who care about the same things and want to discuss them with you. And those people will be loyal customers who will stay with you because they believe what you believe, and they will attract more loyal customers too.
And suddenly you’ll have lots of marvellous things to talk about, and being in media will be an essential core competency of your business.
And you won’t even have to grow ironic hair.
By Alex Reeve
Lecturer in Marketing at Ashridge Business School and Hult International Business School
Alex’s is currently writing a book for Bloomsbury Press: The Art of Content Marketing: Building an agile and sustainable brand story