Not Just Any Content Can Be King

Content is king. This is a phrase you have heard time and time again as it pertains to marketing strategy. The origins of the often-unhelpful and overused expression – “content is king” – can be traced back to the magazine publishing industry in a book titled Magazine Editing and Production, that was published in 1974. They write, “Content is king…Form and technical considerations, though important, cannot substitute for content.” No one thought much of this at the time—in fact, the idea probably seemed perfectly obvious.

Then, much later in 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay with a now-familiar title in which he pointed out the primacy of content. Soon, Gates said, there would be a lot more “information and entertainment” flying around cyberspace and whoever produced the best work would reap the benefits, just as competitors did in the early days of radio and television. He was describing a world in which public access to digital platforms and a hyperactive sense of competition elicited a flood of digital content. Decades before the idea of content marketing came to light, Gates had the foresight to predict where the internet would take marketers:

If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.” – Bill Gates, 1996

During a time when companies used advertising to talk a lot about themselves and what their products could do, Bill Gates was telling us that marketing was actually about building relationships and authentic experiences with our customers.

“One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create,” Gates said. Mass accessibility certainly caused a huge influx in quantity of content. But, not all of those content creators could be crowned king: only those with the highest quality. Content marketing is about quality over quantity, or in other words, the value and impact of your content to your customers.

So, a rewrite of Gates’ vision might be called for here. Maybe we should try “Quality is King” instead. In my book, Marketing, Interrupted, I challenge you to transform the way you approach marketing: engaging with your customers rather than talking at them. Traditional marketing is too transactional, too tactical and too interruptive. Throwing yourself in the way of someone minding their own business in order to pitch a product is a good way to either get ignored or punched in the nose. Getting hold of the right kind of attention from increasingly busy and distracted modern consumers requires an intimate picture of your audience and a vested interest in elevating or helping them in some way. This is about giving your customers a reason to listen, a reason to care, a reason to buy, and a reason to stay.  To do that, your Story needs to be simple, clear consistent and shareable.

You may define a shareable story as credible, interesting, clear, relevant, true, etc. But, all of that can be boiled down to one simple word – useful. If it’s not credible, relevant or interesting, then it’s not useful to your audience. And if it’s not useful, your potential customers won’t share it with others, at exactly the right place and the right time, when they need it most. Transformational Marketing is about educating and reaching potential buyers where they live and hang out (online and offline). Be authentic and give them content of value, and you will build an engaged, loyal customer base. A recent study showed that nearly 50% of those who consider making a purchase consumed up to 5 pieces of content before they ever got to the final stage of the Customer BuyWay.

Be strategic in how you approach content creating. Again, it’s about quality over quantity. So, take the time to go through critical steps, such as: keyword analysis, building buyer personas, creating copywriting style guides, and mapping customer pain points. From there, think about the outlets to reach your audience. Is it through a blog, website, audio, video, podcast, word of mouth or some other way? However you do it, your method of communicating content needs to be guided by your customers’ interests and needs….as well as, a deep respect for their time. No one likes to be interrupted or ambushed,  so don’t do it with your ads either. Make the customer the hero, and design your approach to be personalized and aligned with their interests.

We have a phrase that we use here at TopRight called “ruthless consistency”, particularly as it pertains to the delivery of your Story. Be ruthlessly consistent in your approach to content marketing, as well. When backed by a clear and aligned Strategy and a simple, compelling Story, that’s when content is truly worthy of being “king.”

If you’re ready for more insights into how to transform how your customers find and interact with your content, and you want tactical tips to accelerate growth, take a look at our Transformational Marketing ebook for a deeper dive into the Story, Strategy, Systems Methodology.