By Robert Rose published July 15, 2013

Why Your Business May Need a New Content Map to Find Success

content mapIn the consulting and advisory side of our business, we’re honored to work relatively frequently with businesses both large and small. These days, because of the rapid growth of content marketing, the businesses we work with are, in many cases, actually reinventing an existing content marketing strategy. And sometimes in these instances, the business case for reinvention starts from a point of disadvantage because there is usually some level of skepticism that has been built up.

The result is a bit of a catch-22: It’s hard to throw out the existing approach, because, well… we worked so hard on it. And what’s to say that a reinvented one will actually work better? So, the business just tries to incrementally chase improvement to make the most out of what they have to work with. 

Seth Godin wrote a wonderful post on reinvention a couple of years ago, which I happened to have re-read over the holiday weekend. In that post, Seth says:

“If you define success as getting closer and closer to a mythical perfection, an agreed upon standard, it’s extremely difficult to become remarkable, particularly if the field is competitive. Can’t get rounder than round.”

This really struck me, because it’s where I see so many digital marketing strategies falling short these days: They are stuck working off an old content map, trying to make more out of the “less” that they have.

As we drive ourselves to raise content marketing to the next level, we’ve got to start creating new content maps to improve the efforts we’ve made in the past.

New experiences require new strategies

I was at a mobile conference recently, and a self-proclaimed digital marketing “guru” (that’s always your first clue) began extolling his process of creating “new content marketing experiences” for a client. He and his agency had “created” a mobile and social content marketing strategy that solely entailed publishing the most popular content and comments on the client’s current blog to a new mobile-optimized channel. He called it the new “SOMO content marketing hub.” (I’m not even making that up.) He then blamed the client when the mobile/social program fell flat on its face. He basically re-drew an existing map into a new interface.

Why is it that we so want to believe that new, remarkable customer experiences can be created by automatically transferring old ones into a shiny new wrapper? Is it that we feel like it’s safer to guide our strategy by the conventional wisdom and existing processes that the organization has institutionalized than to try original, untested ideas? One marketer at a Fortune 500 technology company recently admitted to me that they weren’t allowed to use paid search marketing for anything other than direct calls-to-action to “buy now,” because their CEO believed it was the only way to measure ROI on PPC advertising. That’s not marketing, that’s insanity.

We do all these things based on what we think we know today. But, what if that knowledge is wrong? Or, to put it another way, how much better could our efforts be if we took the time to completely change our perspective?

Only new content maps can create new experiences 

Sometimes the idea of creating new, remarkable content marketing strategies can seem esoteric — and it can often seem like even raising the discussion will just go the way of the “whooey wah wah” brand value conversations that have done little to move the needle, but can cause frustration with the past. In one very large B2B company, the marketing team is tasked solely with sending the emails an agency creates, creating internal sell sheets and making sure that the logo is in the right Pantone colors. They have, quite literally, become the brand police cliché.

But guess what? Not everybody gets to have the “what story are we going to tell?” conversation. Sometimes we do work for “gi-hugic” global mega-conglomerates, and aren’t given the opportunity to influence their brand stories. Rather, our mission is to just work with the ones we’ve been given.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t turn our content maps upside down and start to adopt completely new perspectives on what it takes to differentiate our businesses and create remarkable content and marketing strategies. This means looking at our existing marketing tactics and seeing how we might infuse them with content marketing techniques. It means looking at our measurement practices and searching for ways to abandon the myopic drive for only “more transactions” in favor of efforts that give us insight into how to engage more valuable customers, more retained customers, and more passionate brand subscribers. It means asking “why” — a lot!

With web content, social, mobile, call centers, and globalization, we are adding more and more interfaces to our business every day. Sales, marketing, product design, customer service, the ad agency, and our partners all engage directly with consumers. As we exercise the new “business muscles” of content marketing, social engagement, and enabling more customer touch points, we need to understand that all of these goals are dependent upon our ability to create new customer experiences.

Independent of where you sit in the organization, YOU have the power to develop these new maps. It’s your choice — start building them now, or start learning to deal with the frustration of inevitable failure.

To help get your ideas flowing, we’ve taken a few tidbits from a presentation I gave at Content Marketing World, Sydney this year and have compiled them into the eBook below (you can also view it on SlideShare). I hope it’s just the thing that will help put you on a reinvented path to better content marketing.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Robert Rose

Robert Rose is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory - the consulting and education group of The Content Marketing Institute. As a strategist, Robert has worked with more than 500 companies including global brands such as Capital One, Dell, Ernst & Young, Hewlett Packard, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert is the author of three books. His latest, Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has been said to “rewrite the rules of marketing”. His last book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, was called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” Robert is also an early-stage investor and advisor to a number of technology startups, serving on the advisory boards for a number of companies, such as DivvyHQ and Tint. Follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

Other posts by Robert Rose

  • Web Development Company

    One of the best information sharing. specially middle one topic is best and i really like it.

  • Ardath Albee

    Hi Robert,

    Great post! One thing I’ve learned over the last few years of implementing content strategies and maps is that they need to be thought of as a guideline more than a “rule.” They must change in relation to response, customer issues, product developments, market trends and channel developments, etc.. Tweaking and tuning is the order of the day. Content marketing is a continuum and, as you’ve pointed out so well, static just isn’t going to do it. 🙂

    • Robert Rose

      Ardath – as always you finish the thought better than I… Indeed… A new map to use as a guideline, not as a rule. As I’ve said before – it’s smart to start at best practices, and foolish to end there.. You’re so right.. it’s a never ending process….

      • Ardath Albee

        Love this point. We should never forget that best practices are what worked yesterday…

    • Tamar Weiss

      Hi Aradath and Robert, yes, the customer decision journey is a dynamic process more than ever before and you need to adapt to this more and more quickly with content that suits the customer wherever he is in this cycle. With real-time reaction! 😛

  • Chuck Frey

    Unfortunately, so much of what passes for marketing is the functional equivalent of “throw a bunch of s**t at the wall and see what sticks. Some clients aren’t even sure what the difference is between a strategy and a tactic… What seems to make sense to me in this Brave New World of content marketing is to devise and conduct experiments utilizing new approaches, measure the results and then expand upon what has worked well at this “pilot test” level.

  • aboer

    A great piece.

    Our most difficult challenge as a content marketing agency has been creating the connective tissue between the content we create for brands and the conversion/action the brand is trying to realize — ie. creating the right call to action. We might succeed at creating epic content and delivering an engaged audience to a content site, and might still fail if we are working on a version 1.0 content map that came out of an three year old experimental budget that hasn’t considered how to move the audience to the next stage in customer development.

    This is a unique challenge for content agencies, since we are doing something relatively new. If we were a branding agency, we wouldn’t have to worry about exactly how our efforts led to the sale, as long as something seemingly worked — per 100 years of Wanamakers law. If we were a direct marketing agency or SEM/SEO firm, we would be evaluated on how effectively we can drive clicks to a landing page, (and conversion is up to the brand.)

    But a good CM strategy has to make a (sometimes inelegant) leap from a neutral content environment to a marketing environment. The best methods of doing this are 1) different for every firm and 2) still being discovered. Which is why content maps need to be revised.

    I also don’t think there is consensus on whether that critical middle step should really be an internal (marketing) or external (agency) responsibility. But anecdotally, we are coming to the conclusion that we probably need take a bigger role there.

  • Anna Brown

    Great article! I think the struggle can be that the C-suite is so used to hearing the ‘new latest and greatest’ pitched to them that they become jaded. I think that running small pilots, as Chuck stated, is the best way to test the waters and show executives real results. I know from experience that folks who spend months on a project get very invested – it’s hard to be told ‘that’s yesterday’s news!’ The challenge is to take people who are trying to find a single, stable, end-all answer and teach them that innovation and change is the only answer.