Everyone knows that person. He’s the one you try to avoid at parties; the one who causes you to invent fake phone just calls to get out of being cornered by him at events. You know the type—disinterested in talking about anything but themselves … pretending to listen, but really just waiting for their turn to talk … never truly engaged or interested until they can pivot the conversation back to their own self-centered agenda.
But if that type of person is so universally loathed, then why do so many brands take on that same air of self-centeredness? In this era of content-driven marketing, why do so many brands really only light up when they inevitably turn the conversation back to talking about themselves and their exploits?
Think this doesn’t apply to your brand? Think you’ve mastered authenticity in generating original content that is genuinely user-centric? I hope you’re right, but a quick perusal of many b-to-b websites, blogs, brochures, TV commercials and press releases would indicate otherwise.
We like talking about ourselves. And we talk about other things (market trends, challenges, pain points) only insomuch as it enables us to pivot the conversation back to our brand, our products, our wins. If fact, I would suggest that the number one barrier to success for most brand’s content strategy is their unwillingness or inability to stop talking about themselves.
Want to avoid this trap and truly engage users with your content? Ask yourself these six questions:
- Who are you writing for? Knowing your audience intimately—their interests, their plans, their fears, their hopes—is a pre-requisite for creating content that engages. If the people who are crafting your content don’t understand the audience on a deep, personal level, your content-driven strategy is already a longshot.
- Are you focused on what they want—or what you want? Most marketers just can’t turn off their incessant need to, well, market. But very few visitors come to your site or blog to be marketed to. And even fewer journalists or bloggers wake up in the morning hoping they can repurpose your press release to help advance your plans for world domination.
- Are you trying to educate or entertain—or are you trying to market? Good content should be doing one or the other (or preferably, both), but if your underlying purpose is to promote your own agenda rather than serve one of these two purposes, then you’re starting off on the wrong foot.
- Can you extend that desire to entertain, engage and educate across all your content? Typically, brands come closer to getting it right on their blogs. But this same underlying sentiment that what users want matters more than what the brand wants should be extended to all content—yes, including your website, product literature, advertising and press releases. Think like a media company, not a marketer.
- How do you define and measure content success? Great content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint (then again, so is much of b-to-b marketing, right?). So how do you measure the efficacy of your content efforts? If your KPI (key performance indicators) are about instant results and near-term ROI, then you’re likely reinforcing the wrong message to your content generators.
- Do you have the organizational will required to win with content? If your company’s CEO, VP-sales or other stakeholders don’t buy into what you’re doing with content, then you’ll find your course getting hijacked with near-term demands. Your content efforts require air cover from marketing leadership. This includes setting the course and providing protection for the long-term journey that is content-driven marketing.
Besides, the alternative is to just keep boring your users by talking about yourself—about your products, your features, your wins—and no one wants to be that person, right? I’d love to hear from you: Which b-to-b brands consistently produce high-quality content that is sincerely geared toward users rather than about them?