Stop Blindly Spending On Digital (And Start Doing This)

Digital. Native. Mobile. Social. We love to talk about, and focus on the channels. But too often we forget that as consumers we don’t care about the channels. We care about the content. We care about whether the content is funny, or helpful.

We care about content that doesn’t try too hard to sell us and tries to actually help us.

So stop the blind rush to digital. And start helping your customers with content that educates them or entertains them.

I recently participated in a Q&A with some students who were trying to understand content marketing, native advertising, and the shift to digital occurring at many brands. Here are 12 questions and answers on content marketing

12 Questions and Answers on Content Marketing

1. What particular challenges are your clients facing in the digital space? 

The biggest challenge we see our clients facing in the shift towards digital spend is the blind transition of dollars. They know traditional media is becoming less effective. They know consumers tune out promotional messages. But most are shifting traditional messages to digital media and hoping the old models still apply. The main challenge is how to shift the spend while  presenting the brand in a way that resonates and engages with their digital consumer? That is the core challenge.

2. Do you see more interest in native ads and content marketing?

As a leading content marketing platform, we are certainly bullish! 😉 We are seeing a tremendous increase in interest in content marketing. Brands are shifting their ad dollars from the things that work, such as brand publishing platforms and engaging social content to the things that don’t, like advertising and product promotion.

3. What is the difference between native advertising and content marketing?

Content marketing is an approach by brands to deliver the content their customers are looking for. It starts with a brand-owned destination and then seeks to distribute the content to the channels their customers use. Content marketing seeks to earn an audience’s attention vs. buying it. So each additional reader comes at no additional cost.

Native advertising is content on a publisher or on a non-branded site. Like advertising, it is a paid marketing tactic.

4. What are the problems with content marketing?

As an owned asset, content marketing is suffering under the weight of under-investment and lack of vision. Brands spend too much on paid promotion. Promotional tactics that are increasingly tuned out by customers. And in some cases are causing customers to turn negatively to a brand. But content that helps buyers and consumers, drives business value. Look at the majority of people, time and investment at most marketing departments, and you will see an over investment in traditional paid promotion and an under investment in customer-centric content marketing.

The problem with native advertising is that it sits somewhere between paid ads and helpful content. A few brands have pulled it off because they have followed the principles of content marketing. Netflix’s overview of women in prison as a native ad for “Orange Is the New Black” was brilliant. But it is a rare and effective example of a native ad.

5. What content is working? 

The content that works is the content that answers your customers’ questions. The content that doesn’t work is the content that serves your brand’s selfish promotional efforts. Businesses need to start where their customer’s start with the most basic questions. For us, it might be “what is content marketing?” Followed by “how to be great at content marketing?” Followed by something like “How much does NewsCred cost?”

We need to answer questions at each stage of the buyer journey, but there are about 100-1000X more people asking the “What is” and “How to do it” questions than are asking about your brand. Every business should quantify this for their product and direct their internal resources appropriately.

6. Content marketing isn’t necessarily anything new. How do you explain its resurgence?

Content marketing is as old as mankind. From the moment we emerged from caves, the storytellers were the ones who were able to reach, engage and convert prospects into buyers. But content marketing has become so important due to the over-reaching effort of advertising and promotion.

Marketing is the communication and conversation between a brand and its audience. Marketing seeks to build relationships at scale – a scale that sales cannot achieve. Talking about yourself is the worst way to build relationships. The digital, social and mobile connections that have enabled us to all become publishers means that we simply tune out the promotional ads we don’t want. But we tune in to the content that helps us or entertains us. Leading brands have proven that consumers can and will engage with their content if it focuses on their needs, and not the brand.

7. What metrics convince you that you’re getting ROI?

“Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” That’s a quote from probably the leading marketing author alive today, Seth Godin. I found my way into content marketing because it is the only marketing that works to reach, engage and convert new buyers and consumers.

The metrics that convince us we are seeing ROI follow the traditional funnel: lower cost of acquisition for new product inquiries, higher conversion to lead, lower costs per sales opportunity and magnitudes more direct sales from content marketing than from traditional methods.

9. Does content marketing enhance the customer experience? How?

By definition, content marketing seeks to deliver the content that customers are looking for, in the experiences that they expect. So in many ways, it is the best thing customers experience with a brand.

10.  With the rise of programmatic ad buying, does the quality of content marketing become more or less important?

Programmatic ad buying is directly speeding up the decline of banner ad effectiveness and supporting the argument for the need for businesses to focus on consumer content needs and customer experience. I think all of us in content marketing welcome the shift in advertising spend decisions from people to robots, machines, or algorithms.

11.  Some major brands have taken creative services in house and produce their own content. Do you think brands of the future will have to become media companies?

Brands are already media companies. Most are simply bad at it. We are all publishers. Employees. Brands. Communities. We are all part of this global, digital, social content conversation. The businesses that will gain a competitive advantage will build superior expertise in brand publishing. They will serve their customers just a little bit (or a lot) better than their competitors. And they will win based on the value they provide, not based on the color of their logo. Or the cleverness of their TV ads.

12. Are you familiar with the concept of a “creative newsroom?” If so, can it solve the problems your clients are facing?

I work very closely with about a dozen brands who have implemented brand newsrooms. These are (mostly) small, but very effective teams of writers, editors, community managers, designers, even lawyers are sometimes involved. The goal is simple. How do these people work together in a lean manner and pump out high-quality content that serves their customers, reflects the latest trends and takes advantage of all the benefits of today’s visual content consumption.

Photo Credit: User “audi_insperation” on Flickr

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

2 thoughts on “Stop Blindly Spending On Digital (And Start Doing This)

  1. Hello Michael, thanks for sharing such amazing insights with us. Those questions were very helpful to learn what business owners think about content marketing.

    It’s the first time I visit your blog and it’s great. Congrats man!


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