In the great grocery store that is the internet, your content could be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It could be a well-written, topical, informative, and even slightly entertaining blog post, eBook, or infographic that is sure to turn a reader into a lead. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever bought bread at a grocery store, you know that you face a two-part challenge: Getting to the bread aisle/remembering to buy bread and choosing the right bread. The same goes for your content. Some people will think it’s generic white bread content that you’ve written, and it’s your job to convince them it’s not.
In part one of this two-part blog, we explored the many distractions that exist for your customers before they even come across your ‘sliced bread’ content.
Today, we explore the competition that your content has with other pieces of similar content, and how you can set your self apart as the respected leader in ‘sliced bread’ content.
The Battle within the “Bread” Aisle
If you’ve been to a grocery store, you know that the competition even within the bread aisle is intense. In the bread aisle of content, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands of solutions to the same problem.
Here is the point of differentiation—is your content generic white bread or are is it as nutrient-dense as you think it to be? How will your prospect be able to tell the difference? This is where you have to take a step back and realize that one single piece of great content is no longer enough. Success takes a commitment to being great with every piece of content.
The Growing Challenge: More Content, Less Trust
Much like the first baker to sell sliced bread (Frank Bench, who originally distrusted the concept machine designed by Otto Rohwedder, but was forced into adapting the innovation to prevent bankruptcy), the early content creators had it easy.
“In the early days, if you just did content marketing it was a surprising thing,” said Doug Kessler on Nick Westergaard’s On Brand Podcast. “[A prospect would think] Here’s a vendor giving me advice on how to do my job for free. I like them a lot more, I think more of them, what a neat thing. It was an advantage just to do it.”
These were great times—write content, get leads, make sales, and dive into your content-funded Scrooge McDuck money pool.
Now, there are more brands than ever who are doing content marketing: 89 Percent of all B2B Businesses use Content Marketing, according to the 2017 North American B2B Content Marketing Report. Notably, this study also found that only 22 percent rated their content marketing as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ successful.
Just as more bakers bought into the idea of sliced bread, more marketers have jumped on the content bandwagon, which is unfortunate, because that means you’re competing with more creators, who are creating more content.
Additionally, we are at a point in which trust is declining, and prospects have their guards up.
In the highly regarded eBook, Crap: Why the Single Biggest Threat to Content Marketing is Content Marketing, Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners explains that more and more companies are making content—often without the skills to do so—and this is leading to prospects raising barriers to content marketers—just as they did to banner ads (Fun fact: The first banner ad had a CTR of 44%).
Sturgeon’s Law of Content Marketing (90% of Everything is Crud)
In 1951, science fiction author and critic Theodore Sturgeon coined what is now known as Sturgeon’s Law: “Ninety percent of [science fiction] is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud.” Sturgeon added to the revelation in a March 1958 issue of Venture, a science fiction magazine that had intermittent runs in the 50s and 60s:
I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud.
Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.
Positioning Yourself in the 10%
A huge majority of B2B marketers are participating in content marketing, and of those who are participating many intend to create more content than in years past. This means that there is a lot of dreck in the content world, and there will continue to be more.
Prospects have less time than ever to handle more content than ever, and their “Marketing Defense Systems” are fine tuned to recognize and refuse low-value, low quality content.
The cure to this, according to Kessler, is to position yourself as a trusted source for high quality content—by developing a “content brand.”
By developing a content brand, Kessler explains that you are telling prospects that you are a “must-read source for credible, informative, and sometimes entertaining information.” Using our grocery store analogy, it means that you’re essentially making yourself known as “the go-to source for bread.”
Example of Companies in the 10%
No matter the industry, there are always examples of dreck, but there are also companies in the 10% that can rise above and beyond—positioning themselves as content creators with a trusted brand.
- In the Inbound Marketing Space, I trust content from HubSpot. While they post very frequently—so much so that I’m not reading everything that they post, I know that if I have a question and they are one of the first page Google results, I’ll likely click something from them over something from another creator. In fact, HubSpot featured Doug Kessler’s Content Deluge article on their site, which added to my trust in his theory.
- For in-depth, technical analysis on Search Engine Marketing, I look toward The SEM Post for articles. Not posting very often, the posts they do put out are well-researched and very informative.
- For branding, I trust Nick Westergaard’s On Brand Podcast. It’s where I had initially heard about the theory of “Content Brand,” and where I continue to get weekly insights into the advertising, branding, and marketing worlds. In fact, On Brand is one of the few “must listen” podcasts I have.
Do you have any preferred sources of good, consistent content? Share them in the comments below.
A Note on “Pricing” Your Content
Much like the time spent in the bread aisle, many customers will not buy something out of their price range, especially if the content brand is lacking. Consider this point for all of your gated content (whitepapers, eBooks, etc.) in which you are setting a price in terms of personal information. We explore the idea of pricing gated content in our article, Beyond the Blog, What B2B Buyers Really Want from Your Website.
In the great grocery store that is the internet, your customers face many challenges on the way to the bread aisle (which we discussed in part 1), and then face many more issues once they make it there.
If you’ve created a piece of nutrient-dense, sliced bread content, keep up the good work. Now take the momentum and create another. Keep creating great content. Soon enough, you’ll become trusted for your “bread” content. This is the essence of a content brand, and what you should strive for when writing and promoting your content.
If you need help making content that builds your name as a trusted publisher, we welcome you to download our content marketing whitepaper, read our case studies, and get in contact with us to learn more.