Given how focused we tend to get on moving ahead — in life, business, career — it’s sometimes revealing to be forced to take a look back.
A client called recently to announce they’d be discontinuing an e-newsletter they launched five years ago with the content marketing firm where I work.
The client said it was time to go in a new direction. They requested a meeting to discuss content in the context of their new priorities and strategy.
Killing time in the airport enroute to that meeting, I pulled out my project file from five years ago. It felt like opening a time capsule.
Inside was a Nov 10, 2003, issue of BtoB magazine. Editor Ellis Booker’s column asked whether marketing and ad agencies might be in for a mass exodus of staff, what with the U.S. economy steaming along at 7.4 percent annualized growth, a 10-year high.
Another article spoke to the upbeat mood among attendees at the Direct Marketing Association annual convention in Orlando.
Also inside the folder were handwritten notes I’d used to pitch initial e-content ideas to the client. I say e-content because a colleague and I began that presentation by declaring that we, the agency, operating in the client’s best interest, were going to do our level best not to sell them an e-newsletter.
Oh No, Not That. Anything But That.
That’s right. Even though the client had expressly asked for concepts and costs to produce an e-newsletter for one of its key B-to-B audiences, we began our presentation by saying, essentially, that’s not a great idea.
Because the world, and that audience, did not need another e-newsletter.
Instead, we presented four other ideas for reaching and attracting the audience with relevant, differentiated content delivered online. Fun ideas. Serious ideas. Ideas we believed would spur engagement, and put the client well out front of competitors on that measure.
After much discussion among lots of stakeholders about the ideas we’d proposed, the client asked us to take parts of two ideas and moosh them into one.
Truth be told, that blended idea turned out to look and sound a lot like another e-newsletter, the very thing from which we’d tried so earnestly to steer them away.
Now, five years later, the e-newsletter is going away and I wonder very much if its disappearance will register with the recipients.
And, as I sit here on the plane, heading off to this meeting, hope springs eternal that this time we’ll be able to make a truly breakthrough content solution happen for this client, and for this audience.
Make a Difference
As for lessons gleaned from reviewing my time capsule of a project folder, I’m reminded of just how important it is that your content marketing strategy strive for differentiation.
Often marketers who fundamentally get the value of relevant content fail to grasp how important it is to be sure the content also is different.
In fact, between the two, relevant is probably the easier attribute to achieve.
After all, you can ask a target audience what sort of content would be valuable to their life or business. Harder is to deliver content that is relevant and differentiated. But, lacking that combination, you’re much less likely to make an impact and be valued.
For example, many B-to-B marketers think in terms of delivering industry news and trend articles to their target, or strategies and tips on how to grow their businesses.
That’s all well and good. But before you go down that road, pick up one or two of the best trade publications serving the audience you want to reach.
Now ask yourself whether you really want to go head on at that audience, and against those entrenched media companies, who have been in a publisher-reader relationship for years, perhaps even decades.
Yet that’s where many marketers start and end their brainstorming about delivering value-adding content to a target audience.
Probably not a great place to settle.
And if your content marketing partner tells you so, you might want to listen. And then ask them this question:
So, what can we do that’s different?