As you and your marketing team look ahead to 2014, it’s likely content will play a leading role in your plans. In fact, it might be the very lifeblood of your marketing strategy’s execution.
Of course, leveraging the power of well-planned, high-quality content to achieve business objectives is something we espouse at Suite Seven. When content strategy and creation are done right, it can strengthen your brand, bring in new customers and establish your company as a thought leader in its field.
But it’s also worth remembering — and telling your stakeholders — what content can’t do. If your senior executives just hear “content is king” and take that to mean marketing’s got everything covered, you may be setting them up for disappointment. And you’ll have a lot of explaining to do later.
Here are a few things content cannot do.
1. Fix flawed business processes
One of the biggest challenges in launching an effective content strategy is getting top-level executive buy-in and collaboration across the entire enterprise. This can mean a fundamental change in the way people approach their jobs, which creates discomfort.
But if different business units create their own marketing strategies and messages, and execute their own siloed campaigns and content initiatives, you’re not going to have a unified content strategy driving an overarching company agenda.
2. Establish world peace
Content strategy involves asking hard questions and speaking candidly when the emperor has no clothes. This can fly in the face of deep-rooted corporate politics and turf battles, where groups and individuals may feel threatened by a perceived loss of control.
If your business units and departments put territoriality and ownership above universally shared marketing goals, it will be hard, if not impossible, to develop a coordinated content strategy that stays relevant over the long haul.
3. Transform inferior products and services
A key trait of good quality content is the credibility of its source. Before you embark on the long journey of building a sustainable content strategy, take a hard look at where you’re getting beaten in the marketplace and where the real opportunities lie.
You can’t mask shortcomings in your product line by creating “engaging” social media content that’s heavy on fun but light on real business benefits. All the marketing in the world won’t help if your company’s offerings fall short.
4. Replace sales or support functions
Plainly stated, it’s just unrealistic to think a website or other content can do the heavy lifting for your sales or support teams. Few companies explicitly set out to make those departments obsolete via content, but you’d almost think so based on their user experience. Content marketing might bring in the lead, but it can’t close the deal; you won’t achieve that desired ROI on your content efforts if your account reps can’t follow through when it matters.
As for support, self-service help content might take care of some situations, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to blow it for everyone else. How will it dull the credibility and impact of your thought leadership content when one noisy customer bombards your social channels with complaints about service?
5. Be a quick fix
This is really where you need to set stakeholder expectations and make sure everyone understands what your goals are and what it will take to reach them.
Too many executives and marketers still think content marketing is just about writing a bunch of stuff and posting it online somewhere. When they find out how much time and effort it will take before they see results — and that content maintenance and governance continue indefinitely — they may want to kill the whole idea. Or they might try to move forward with a watered-down strategy that is cheaper and won’t tie up as many resources. But if you’re not looking at your company’s entire content ecosystem — your website, microsites, social platforms, off-line channels, event materials, sales collateral and so on — your impact will be limited and will weaken further over time.
Even if your company is golden on the four previous points, a reluctance to invest the necessary time and budget will undermine your content success.
As you plan for 2014, think about what your company hopes to achieve in its marketing efforts and where content fits in. Do your stakeholders have unrealistic expectations for how “content is king” and will whip their business into shape? Use that enthusiasm to push for content marketing with a strategy, but be sure to have an honest conversation about what it can and can’t do. After all, even kings have boundaries to their empires.