Four Steps for Taking Back the Conversation
Content marketing, when done well, is one of the most powerful tools in the marketer’s arsenal. It can drive awareness and affinity, and generate interest and leads. So what happens when one of your competitors launches a killer content marketing program? You know, one of those programs that creates buzz in the industry and catches the attention of your boss—and your boss’ boss?
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B and B2C Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends reports, 86 percent of B2B brands and 77 percent of B2C brands are using content marketing as the Institute defines it. That means there’s a better than three in four chance your competitors are doing content marketing.
Whether they are doing it well is another story. Only eight percent of brands surveyed for the B2B and B2C benchmark reports said they were “very effective” at content marketing, so there’s a good chance you won’t get blindsided by a killer program from a competitor. But there‘s also a chance that you compete against a brand like Caterpillar, Dove or our client Emerson Network Power. In that case, you better be prepared.
- Know what you stand for and what you have to offer the market. This is the foundation of every effective marketing program and if you’ve taken the time to define your brand position and value proposition, you’re prepared to develop a plan of attack (or defense, as the case may be).
- Make an accurate assessment of the threat the competitor’s program represents. It’s tempting, on the one hand, to put our head in the sand and be dismissive of competitors’ programs, and, on the other hand, to become Chicken Little and overreact to everything a competitor does. The right approach is somewhere in the middle. Acknowledge what the competitor did well, but also recognize you are probably more focused on your competitor than the market is. A magnifying glass can make average or even flawed programs appear more effective than they really are. Ask, does this program have legs or is the impact short term? What market segments are most impacted? What does it tell you about how they want to position themselves in the market and how does that relate to your positioning?
- Develop your short-term strategy. Based on your assessment, you may decide to do nothing. But if this is a program that is genuinely creating buzz you should at least share your analysis with senior management and prepare a brief for market-facing associates that provides direction on how to respond if customers or prospects comment on the competitor’s content. In most cases, avoid attacking the competitor’s program, unless it blatantly misrepresents issues or includes factual errors. Instead, find ways to bridge from their program to your messages.
- Develop a long-term content strategy that doesn’t skimp on the creative. Brands like Caterpillar and publishers like the New York Times are raising the bar on branded content. Good enough is no longer going to be good enough. Even if you have a documented content strategy that maps content to personas and stages of the buying cycle, it can still be useful to step back and evaluate your approach to content. Here the question is, are we giving ourselves the opportunity to create killer content or are we limiting how we think about content marketing?
We’ve built a stage into our planning framework we call ‘What If?’ What If? infuses creativity and big picture thinking into content strategy, creating the opportunity to think beyond short-term objectives and conceptualize the kind of content that achieves high-level objectives. Asking What If? as part of your strategic process just may give you a chance to put your competitors in the position of having to respond to your killer content program.