When Everyone Does Content Marketing, How Do You Stand Out?

09/8/11 | By: Jake Finkelstein

There’s no arguing that content marketing is a hot topic these days. In fact, according to the Top Rank Blog every 60 seconds: 1,500 blog post, 20,000 Tumbler posts, 600+ YouTube videos and 79,000+ Flickr images are posted to the web… and that’s not even counting the hundreds of thousands of tweets and Facebook status updates made every minute. Businesses (both B2B and B2C) have largely embraced content marketing as a powerful tool for generating website traffic, sales leads and brand differentiation. In fact, according to a Junta42 and MarketingProfs B2B content marketing study [PDF] 90% of marketers utilize original content, and the budgetary investments in the strategy continue to grow.

Why Is Content Marketing So Popular With Businesses?

Companies have turned to content to supercharge their marketing for a number of reasons – good content draws people to their websites, positions the brand as a trusted resource in their industry and helps to differentiate from competitors both in tone of voice and quality of information.

In fact, that Junta42/MarketingProfits report [PDF] found that the marketers surveyed invested in content marketing because 78% believe it helps build brand awareness, 69% believe it helps improve customer retention/loyalty and 63% find it improves lead generation. Hard to argue with measured, positive results.

Even so, with 9 out of 10 marketers producing original content this has quickly become a crowded space. But with 53% of all time on the Internet dedicated to content consumption its one strategy that most businesses can’t ignore.

Stand Out From The Content Marketing Crowd

Both the beauty and the curse of the web is that it’s so darn easy to publish content. If you have something to say and the resources to write, video or otherwise record it there are nearly zero barriers to entry to getting it out there. Even in the offline world, over time its become less expensive to print and distribute branded content. Which has made it ever more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

So given the competition and noise, what’s a marketer to do?

#1 – Act Strategically.

Don’t produce content for content’s sake. While there are numerous dimensions to the value of branded content, at the core you’re telling your company’s story; and to do that effectively you need to have an understanding of flow and destination.

You can add a strategic framework to your content marketing efforts by doing three things. First, at the onset define your business objectives in measurable terms. This can be anything from a certain number of sales leads, a specific Cost Per Lead or even measurable level of brand awareness. Next, build an ideal customer profile (if you don’t have one already) and detail the buyer’s decision making process. Third and finally, develop an editorial calendar that maps your content to your goals and customers’ decision making process.

#2 – Be Brilliantly Uniquely

OK, so this is a lot easier said than done, but its important. Your content should project a unique point of view and tonality. It should feel like your brand. You also need to inform, educate and/or entertain your audience with every piece. Companies like Woot.com are amazing that this. Given the competition simply pushing out quality content isn’t enough. You need to differentiate your content in terms of voice and usefulness.

How do you accomplish this? There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Great content, like most things worth doing, is hard work. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create good content in-house, but if you don’t feel like you have the skill set there’s nothing wrong in talking to outside consultancies, agencies or freelancers. There are a lot of talented copywriters and artists out there who would love to help.

#3 – Embrace Search Engine Optimization & Social Media

Making your content easily discoverable and sharable online will vastly increase the likelihood that the content piece will achieve your business objectives. Specifically, make sure that any content you post to your website is optimized for search engines. In general terms, this means organizing the content on the webpage in such a way that it is easy for the search engine “spiders” to index while maintaining a high level of human readability. With that said, SEO is a deep topic and if you have an internal or external resource to help you optimize your content you’ll get much better results.

Furthermore, your content should always strive to be social media friendly. Meaning, does the resource page have easy social share links and include information so compelling that people will want send it to friends? And don’t forget to make it easy for readers to share via email as well – there’s data that shows as much as 17% of social sharers still use email to share links with peers.

#4 – Leverage Less Competitive Formats

Just about everyone these days can or has written a blog post, but not nearly as many have created videos, presentations, mobile apps or podcasts. However these, and other formats, are quite popular and are an opportunity for you to connect with your target audience in a different and unique way.

Furthermore, you can repurpose content from one format to another in order to get more mileage out of it. Have a series of blog posts on a particular topic? Turn it into an eBook. Did you resident subject matter expert just do a speaking engagement for a trade association? Record the session and edit it into an entertaining and informative video. If you put on a creative hat the opportunities are really endless – and you’ll get much more mileage out of your content marketing efforts because of it.