I had a great conversation with my friend Jay Baer recently and he commented that he didn’t know what the “spine” of his content marketing strategy should be any more. “It used to be the blog,” he said, “but I’m not sure there IS a spine any more. There is an expectation that your content will be published and discovered everywhere.”
He was referring to a recent post I wrote describing how Facebook is baking “dwell time,” or time on content into their algorithm, suggesting that we need to publish directly on Facebook. LinkedIn wants you to do the same thing. Does this now become the spine?
It’s time to build on rented land
Conventional wisdom is drive people to your websit and never “build your business on rented land” but we may need to re-think this idea as our favorite channels make a play to own the attention of OUR customers.
For the first time in history, our marketing strategy is dictated by the channels and platforms, instead of the other way around.
Just a few years ago our marketing options were known, reliable, and predictable. Channels like TV, newspapers, and magazines had knowable reach and demographics. We did our research, crafted a message and went to work. The marketers were in charge.
But today it is profoundly more complex. Not only are the platforms changing, the rules of engagement are changing constantly, forcing us to adjust our strategy week by week to take advantage of new opportunities. We must prepare to add a dimension of liquidity and flow to our marketing plan.
Social media on borrowed time
Frankly, we have probably been living on borrowed time when it comes to the freedom and free lunch we have enjoyed on the social platforms. While we’ll probably have a lot of griping and moaning about the new content marketing strategy realities, the fact is, these new rules are already familiar in many industries.
I have been doing a lot of work in the pharmaceutical industry for the last five years. Let’s look at their reality.
This is a business that spends mightily to build brand recognition for their products. The advertise on TV, magazines and the web. The promote through social and PR. They offer trials, coupons, and in-store displays.
And then, the big retailers control how the product is sold, where the product is sold, and the final price. They collect all the consumer data and then rarely share it with their supplier partners. And to make matters worse, as soon as they can, the retailers try to make a store-branded version to compete with the pharma companies and own their customers.
To succeed the brand has to surround that customer by publishing all over the place. Is all that promotion going to lead them back to the company’s website? Probably not. “Inbound” marketing doesn’t really exist in that environment.
Is this starting to sound familiar?
A new model for our age
The Porter Five Forces model isn’t viable any more. You can’t pick a strategy that is going to last five or 10 years. A more useful model for your content strategy might be represented by an American football game.
In that sport, a primary method of advancing down the field is to hand the ball to a strong and swift player called a running back. The idea is to create a “hole” in the defense so the running back can take advantage of the opportunity to sprint through a pack of opponents and pick up as much ground as possible before the competition eventually swarms and stops the advance.
Before the game, the team has an over-arching vision of what needs to be accomplished to win, but adjustments are made continually throughout the game. In fact, after each play, the team re-groups to consider where another hole might be created. Their strategy flows.
This is how you need to think about content marketing strategy today. As long as you’re in the game, you need to be looking for holes, or points of strategic leverage. You need to shift with the changes and charge through those holes as fast as you can to gain ground until the competition figures it out and closes in on you … whether that’s a few months or a few years.
Meanwhile … even as this is happening … you need to be looking for the next hole, the next point of leverage. Plotting a strategy becomes a continuous, liquid flow as new research, new platforms, new content ignition opportunities, and new content forms create opportunistic points of leverage. Like the running back charging through a hole, your successful strategy is multi-dimensional, a function of:
- Space: What is the point of strategic leverage?
- Time: How long will the space (or niche) exist?
- Speed: How fast can you run though the gap and maintain the pace ahead of your competitors?
- Strength: What special talents do you need on our team to take advantage of the gaps you find?
In an ideal world, a strategic committee would be scanning the environment and reviewing these dimensions constantly.
It’s a difficult time to be in business, a challenging time. The spoils will go to the swift, the nimble, the liquid.
Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Victor M