I am a Harry Potter fan, and I own two wands - one that "picked me" at Olivander's (Universal Studios) and the one that belonged to Professor Snape. Most days, they sit on little wand stands in my office.
However, sometimes, I wish I could use them in my marketing work.
Specifically, I wish I could use it to remove some of the thoughts and memories about marketing that hinder many of today's businesses and marketing departments.
For the last several years, I've been talking to companies about avoiding the failures of forcing old-school marketing strategies into the digital marketplace.
Most of that advice is rooted in "traditional" or outdated thinking that is corrupting marketing departments today. That corruption is usually present for one of two reasons:
However, the internet wasn't created yesterday. In fact, it's been around long enough that some of the common digital marketing strategies we've heard over the years are becoming "old school" as well. So much so, that it's time to remove them from our memories and re-think our approach.
We Need to Write Blogs
I'm not saying get the idea of blogging out of your head. I am saying get the idea of blogging out of your head if:
Remove the thought that this is a promotional tool
When I look at many of the company blogs today, I find myself asking, "Why would someone read this, and what would it inspire them to do?"
Like social media, companies can take a very one-sided approach to their content and focus on how it will benefit them. Here's the problem:
You might be asking, "What kind of proof would validate their skepticism?"
Two of the top reasons would be:
What are some of the new thoughts and ideas that will serve you better today? Let's answer that by removing another old thought.
We Need SEO
When marketers started to really dissect what would help them in the digital marketing world, SEO was front and center. It was all about keywords and infusing them into your content.
However, people attempted to game the system, and quality started to suffer. Suddenly, thought leaders were telling marketers to quit over-stuffing their content with keywords. For one thing, some people were getting so bad at it, that it became obvious when someone was aiming for more keyword benefit than consumer value.
Over time, algorithms and consumer behaviors changed, making harder for keyword stuffing strategies to work.
Now, several years have passed, and there are 600 million blogs on the internet. Plus, it is estimated that 7.5 million blogs are published per day.
Remove thoughts that view SEO as THE strategy
If you're in a crowded industry where every company uses the same keywords, you could drive yourself crazy trying to win that battle.
For example - How often does the healthcare industry use the word "care," or does the university system use the word "student-centric" in their content?
However, that's not the only reason you can't think of SEO as a standalone "strategy" today.
Eli Schwartz, author of Product-Led SEO says, “If content is the product of a website, and the goal of the website is for readers to consume that content, … words for the sake of a word count or keyword goal is an utter waste of time. Product-Led SEO requires thinking of the reader and why they should spend their precious time enjoying the content.”
In other words, when we have to consider everything from consumer attention spans and skepticism, finding the content isn't enough.
Why are they going to read the content? What's getting them to take action or convert?
Instead of making it all about keywords and risk duplicating generic content that is all over the internet, consider focusing on customer questions or "spiky" content.
We Need to Obsess Over the Competition
If you're in a crowded space, you might find it way more beneficial to spend less time, energy, money and energy trying to outrank a competitor.
Instead, find ways to fill the gaps in your space. Think about what we've gone over in this blog, and then look at your competition.
You can gain a lot more impactful ground by filling those gaps through:
Remove thoughts about your competition as nothing more than a threat
Marcus once created a blog that featured his competition in a "top pool businesses in the area" style blog when he was in the swimming pool business.
Some would think that was crazy, but the competition shared his blog.
Also, if your competition wrote or produced an insightful piece of content that adds value to something you're creating...add it! If it's a link, make sure it opens in a new window so the consumer doesn't leave your site.
It's about value. If you're so invested in providing value that you would link your competition in your content - that doesn't go unnoticed (assuming the consumer even knows or cares that it's from a competitor).
If you can remove these and other fading, old-school thoughts from your marketing mind, I think you'll find that it opens you to a whole new world of possibilities in the digital marketplace.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Dumbledore shares advice about dwelling on the past in ways that can distract him from the present and future:
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
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In the movie There's Something About Mary, Ted (played by Ben Stiller) picks up a hitchhiker (Harland Williams) who pitches his brilliant new business idea: 7-Minute Abs.
He says, "Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin' there, there's 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?"
If that wasn't enough, he had a plan if people still liked 8-minue abs:
"If you're not happy with the first 7 minutes, we're gonna send you the extra minute free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from A to B."
Whether you've seen the movie or not, you're likely smiling or laughing because the idea is pretty silly. For one thing, you have to ask yourself - How much of a difference will one minute make?
That's a reasonable question.
While it's a silly idea, many businesses are wasting a lot of time applying that thinking to their content strategy. They look at what their competition is doing and try to beat them with a better spin, message or concept.
That approach is likely worse than the hitchhiker's video store comparison strategy. Instead of focusing on a better way to get better abs, it's healthier to cover the areas of the body they're not talking about and provide your "better abs" methodologies in different ways.
In other words, don't build your content strategy with ideas focused on what you're competition is doing, instead focus on what they're NOT doing.
Expose Weakness in the Competition
Since you're likely not looking to stand out in the video store space, let's think in terms of contemporary content. Maybe they're spamming their 7-minute abs content on Twitter with repetitive graphics and CTAs.
The last thing you want to do on your Twitter feed is promote your similar offering in a similar way, with the thought that it just "sounds" better.
These days, if a competitor is top dog in an industry, they are likely to be complacent in their content and/or social media strategies. They probably have a lot of it automated because they're Number One and feel they can just keep cruising without any effort.
Two critical things to remember:
1. The landscape is consumer-controlled, and the key thought leaders and experts are telling businesses to focus on relationship marketing.
2. As Mark Schaefer points out in his book Marketing Rebellion, despite research as far back as 2009 pointing to the consumer disruption in traditional marketing, many brands still haven't made enough effort to evolve their strategies.
I've also heard Mark encourage people to differentiate themselves through what their competition is failing to do (as opposed to copying them). He said, "If you're Number 2 in your industry, you shouldn't be doing what Number 1 is doing."
If you're both creating similar content and distributing it in a similar way, how does that help? Instead, think of ways to take advantage of weaknesses in your competitions approach. Examples include:
If your competition doesn't engage in conversations with audience on social media - you should do it
If your competition doesn't repurpose content to reach more people - you should do it
If your competition doesn't produce videos or podcasts - you should do it
Suddenly, you'll find yourself gaining new followers, customers, prospects and advocates in a way that might get your competition's attention. However, by the time they respond, it will be too late to connect with those people.
Show More Courage Than the Competition
Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion) provides invaluable insights into taking advantage of a competition's weaknesses. You may wonder what he means by talking about what others don't discuss in your space.
Well, one example is writing a blog about what your product or services cost.
You may think - We can do that! We have to control that narrative. We have to wait until they contact us to discuss price because then we can provide assurances while making our pitch. That's dangerous. It could scare people off.
Yet, there's the opportunity:
Marcus says no - if you can explain WHY it costs a little more.
Talk to your audience. Answer questions. Be transparent. Build trust.
Get Results Faster Than the Competition
If you're in crowded space, it can be tough to compete in the realm of SEO. However, your 7-minute abs strategy could be focusing more time filling gaps in the content, communication and messaging in your space.
In the time it takes to write tons of content in an attempt to move up a rank, you could be having conversations on social, understanding customer challenges, providing answers and building trust in a way that generates a faster (and perhaps greater) impact.
Your can demonstrate a lot more value to your audience by turning your focus away from doing what they do (only better), and filling the gaps in your space where they can find you, talk to you and trust you. That's how you flex your muscle.
If I can help you develop content ideas or strategies to help take advantage of your competition's weaknesses, contact me today.
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