5 ways to awe your customers in the era of content shock

Maybe you’ve seen the widely-noted article Content Shock by Mark W. Schaefer. It’s all the rage.

I’ll sum it up for you: the exponentially growing supply of marketing content will soon outstrip our ability to pay attention to it. And the growing cost of producing content exciting enough to compete for attention will soon outstrip our marketing budgets. He’s got a good point. But, as you’ll see below in tip #2, the author himself used one of the 5 best techniques for overcoming this dilemma.

I'll explain why content shock shouldn't cause SMB2B marketers to duck for cover

I'll explain why content shock shouldn't cause SMB2B marketers to duck for cover

I'll explain why content shock shouldn't cause SMB2B marketers to duck for cover

For SMB and B2B companies, this theory shouldn't be used as an excuse not to pursue a content program. Yes, there is an ever-growing amount of mediocre content, but your customers will always ignore what doesn’t interest them. And they’ll gravitate toward helpful, relevant and entertaining content.

Content marketing is just following the same curve that all marketing does: As more people enter the channel, the quality improves and the best rise to the top. In smaller business niches, this process is taking much, much longer. The majority of business categories are still ripe for content marketing.

Here are 5 techniques to exploit that opportunity:

1. Try a medium others aren't using.

I have a B2B client who stood out in a big way by producing a 56-page book of customer success stories. It’s been a valuable new business referral tool for them. And it differentiates them from all their competitors—not only because of their compelling client stories, but because print has been largely abandoned by content marketers in favor of digital media.

Imagine, in 2014 printed communications is considered an alternative media. But the truth is, print still is taken more seriously than digital media, and is more trusted according to Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute, who publishes a print version of their Chief Content Officer magazine.

Partial spread from the 54 page Tom Irwin Portfolio

Partial spread from the 54 page Tom Irwin Portfolio

2. Define what you stand against.

This technique is not new—just incredibly effective. It also happens to be used by some of the largest brands in the world. Apple’s Think Different mantra is a prime example of a message that tells a story of how they stand against the status quo by celebrating the misfits, the dreamers, the rebels and trouble-makers who change our world.

Michael Drew tells how powerful this technique can be for small businesses in his ebook The #1 Way to Increase Your Close Rate: Define What You Stand Against. He writes about a consultant who doubled her close rate using this technique, and an Ottawa-based radio station that increased their audience share 29% by promising Bieber-free, Lady Gaga-free listening.

How can you employ this technique to get your content noticed and attract a tribe of loyal followers? State bluntly what you stand against in your content, your marketing and your brand message. It creates a mental void for your prospects to fill with the exciting alternative you offer.

Attitude sets you apart in a big way, and costs nothing. Mark Schaefer’s article is a great example. He puts a stake in the ground that goes against conventional wisdom, and gets a lot of attention without having to spend a penny more than he usually does to post a blog article.

When I mentioned this to Mark, he suggested another technique.

3. Be more entertaining

Big companies like IBM and Cisco have employed former professional comedian Tim Washer to add humor to their presentations with some very entertaining results. And Red Bull, the energy drink, is creating an entire new cable network to showcase their content.

Being more entertaining can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.

If you think how dull most corporate presentations are, you’ll realize there's an opportunity to be more entertaining in every presentation you make by simply following some well-documented principles of design in your slide deck.

If you want to add entertainment to your marketing, think about context. Ad executive Bob Hoffman uses social media to create the hilariously sardonic Ad Contrarian blog that rails against bloviating Social Media “gurus”. He also calls attention—in entertaining fashion—to the fact that marketers are all but ignoring the lucrative 50+ market segment. The blog has helped him launch and support his latest venture, Type A Group, that consults marketers on how to exploit this gap. (Note: Bob also uses technique #2 quite effectively with his blog.)

4. The Youtility formula

Based on the idea of Youtility by Jay Baer, the basic premise is that you don’t have to outspend your competitors, or over-hype your messages, you just need your content to be incredibly useful to your ideal customers.

One reason it’s effective is the principle of reciprocity—people feel a sense of obligation to return the favor if you’ve helped them—but I think it goes much deeper than that. Being extremely useful with your content establishes you as a leader in your niche. And most people looking to buy products and services in your category, will seek a leader.

5. Stamina

Stamina is the most effective way to win with your content over time.  While the average corporate blog is abandoned after only 6 posts, writers like Chris Brogan and Seth Godin have established huge followings with thousands of insightful blog posts. You could reasonably argue that they’re responsible for having helped create a communications revolution. Or maybe you could just say they stuck around.

John Hadley runs a career counseling firm in New Jersey to help job seekers market themselves and find the ideal six-figure job. He has a very modest web site, filled with hundreds of helpful articles on marketing yourself, finding the right employer match, and nailing the big interview. They dive into a level of detail and depth on the subject you can’t find elsewhere.

This approach didn’t cost much, or require big production values, but it was built over a decade. And it has netted John inquiries, referrals, and speaking gigs that keep his services in high demand.

John Deere's The Furrow magazine    , running since 1895

John Deere's The Furrow magazine, running since 1895

Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute says, content marketing shouldn’t be viewed as a campaign, it should be thought of as something that never ends. John Deere Company, publishers of The Furrow magazine since 1895 would agree.

It’s all a mindset

Consistency, Inventiveness and focused purpose will help your content win today and avoid an ever-increasing spiral of spending and hype. Think like the artist Keith Haring, who became famous in the competitive art world by painting his graffiti-style murals on the walls of New York City subway stops.

Would you like some help creating content that will stand out in the era of content shock? Let’s connect.