*By Mark Schaefer. *
Here’s the current state of my advertising consumption.
I estimate that the number of ads I see on a daily basis is down by 90 percent compared to five years ago. If you reflect on your own content-viewing habits, you may come to a similar conclusion.
The fact is, we are inexorably moving toward an ad-free world. Let’s look at five positive impacts of content marketing in this environment.
In general, people consider ads as a necessary evil. That’s one of the reasons so many companies are relying on content marketing and its many iterations as a primary way to connect to consumers today.
Our job as marketers is to provide customers, and potential customers, with “provocations” that allow opportunities to engage with the brand. Those provocations create awareness, interaction, and potentially loyalty and trust over time.
Traditionally, those provocations might be ads, coupons or product samples. Today, however, many of those channels are drying up. Consumers will, however, respond to stories and information that helps, inspires, and entertains. That is the core idea behind content marketing today — use content to nurture customer relationships that eventually leads to action.
To achieve greatness in this ad-free environment, we need a new mindset. We need to change from “sell, sell, sell” to “entertain,” “captivate, or “help, help, help.” That’s very difficult to do because we have been programmed for decades to sell. Our internal quarterly and annual goals are based on higher and higher sales objectives. So, we have a lot of obstacles to move to this new mindset.
Many content marketing best practices are still just advertising in disguise and that needs to change. “Lead nurturing” is a kind way to say we’re going to keep bugging you until you tell us to go away. Pop-up ads are so annoying that Google is taking action to penalize sites that use them.
Ultimately, we have to treat people with respect online like we do offline. In the real world, we would not be selling all the time. We wouldn’t demand that a person give us an email address before they came into our store. If somebody needed our help, we wouldn’t demand that they subscribe to a newsletter first.
In the real world we discuss, help, and listen. That’s how you build relationship offline and how you do it online, too.
In an ad-free world, the most human companies will win.
Content alone provides no value to a company unless it’s seen and shared. That’s why my book The Content Code emphasizes that “social sharing” should be a primary focus of our efforts. Some have characterized social sharing as a vanity metric. They could not be more wrong. A focus on understanding how and why your content moves is not just a strategic priority, it’s an economic priority, as well:
The key idea here is that the economic value of content marketing does not come from content. It comes from the transmission of content. The Content Code outlines the six possible strategies to achieve that goal. Are you up to speed on this priority?
I regard influence marketing as a sub-set of content marketing for the simple reason that on the web, in general the “influencers” we want to work with achieved that position through their content — videos, snaps, photos, and blogs.
In an ad-free world, influence marketing is an indispensable tactic and one of the hottest trends around.
In 2012 I wrote the first book on influence marketing (Return On Influence) and predicted that it would become a mainstream tactic. The reason is simple: Social media has flipped the center of power. Everyone with an opinion and a wifi connection can publish and establish their own niche of power on the web.
The “influencer frenzy” where brands are paying enormous amounts of money to be aligned with a YouTube star or Snapchat queen is really just beginning, and it’s all fueled by content.
I would love to be the one to tell you that a commitment to content marketing will result in happily-ever-after. But it doesn’t. In most cases, it doesn’t work as well as advertising, at least in the short-term. But since we are moving to an ad-free world, that’s not so much of an option any more, is there?
So we are in a new era where we need to consider the content marketing option. It takes time, consistency, patience, and a commitment to quality content to work. Even in a noisy marketing world crippled by Content Shock, there are still plenty of unsaturated niches to find and dominate.
And in an increasingly ad-free world, every business needs to at least consider a role for content marketing in its strategy.
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