Just as social media became a thing that most businesses "had to do" in order to keep up, so, too, did content marketing catch on for many companies both large and small.
Unfortunately, this resulted in an influx of content over the years that flooded every viable niche where content could be used as a form of marketing to attract a relevant audience.
And now it begs the question: Does the world really need more content about getting started with email marketing? Do we even need any content at all about how to choose longer-lasting church chairs?
Is it really worth spending the 4-5 hours it typically takes to write a post if we can't compete for attention?
Content marketing may not be the best approach for every business for a number of reasons. But you shouldn't shy away from it simply because you're competing against established giants in your space.
Here are some ways you can still compete for attention in a crowded space.
Diversify your content mix
Blog posts are the most accessible content format since a working ability to write is usually within reach on most marketing teams. The inevitable consequence, of course, is that everyone's doing it.
Blogging is the content marketing bare minimum. Visual content on the other hand, while gaining ground, still requires a designer's touch or an investment of your own time if you want to create a good-looking infographic. Naturally that means fewer infographics are published about blog posts. It’s quite possible that there aren’t many good ones that appeal to buyers in your industry.
And then there's interactive content, which requires a good deal of thought and strategy to create and distribute something that's both engaging and targeted, so you can leverage their innate virality for lead generation, which is usually built into the content experience when you use tools like Qzzr or SnapApp for your interactive content.
This quiz from Zenni Optical, for example, generated over 29K lead conversions in 6 months.
Go even more niche within your niche
“Stop writing about everything. So many brands create content and try to cover everything, instead of focusing on the core niche that they can position themselves as an expert around. No one cares about your special recipe... Find your niche, and then go even more niche." —Joe Pulizzi
Casting a wide net might make your content more appealing to the masses in theory, but what you're really doing is overwhelming readers with a variety of information and not speaking directly to the people you want as readers and subscribers.
It's better to become a source for a specific need that overlaps with what you're actually selling.
In many cases, specificity is more seductive than breadth because it does a better job of setting the right expectation, speaking to a target audience, and generating curiosity for specific information they might not have heard.
Not only does this focus offer you more content ideas to use, it makes it easier to generate headlines and optimize for search when you can hone in on specific needs and search queries that attract the right traffic.
PrecisionNutrition, one of the top nutrition brands online, is able to compete with other health brands (a very saturated space) by producing superb content that appeals directly-but-separately to health nuts and nutrition coaches.
Embrace your inner community manager
One of the flaws with an inbound-only mindset is that it often requires you to be one of the prettiest, smartest, funniest or most famous people at the party—at least when you’re relying on organic reach to get by.
You need a little bit of the “outbound” mindset to complement inbound—to put the "social" back in social media at least, especially if you're not going to put dollars into your distribution. In doing so, you can put your content in front of the right audience, sometimes within the context of an active discussion that’s related to what you're sharing.
Of course you’re usually better off looking at these opportunities as “networks” as opposed to "channels", creating real influence within them as opposed to throwing links into just another stream of noise. Like any good Community Manager, you need to be part of the conversation.
But if you rely solely on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook—the big three of social—you're competing with the entire internet, nevermind other content from competitors in the same vein.
That last blog post you wrote and shared on Facebook? It's going up against this guy:
That's why it pays to be a bit of a "distribution hipster" and spend time in non-mainstream channels where you can share your content. There are tons of digital places where people already invested in your space regularly gather, where there's far less competition for attention if you provide real value.
Let's say your niche falls within the “marketing automation” category, you might want to try the following:
- Answer questions around “marketing automation” on Quora.
- Become active in Reddit's /r/Marketing subreddit.
- Join the Demand Generation & Marketing Automation Professionals LinkedIn group.
- Google around for sites, comment sections, and other communities that might like your content.
Like I said, you need to think like a Community Manager. Engage as much as you share.
Differentiate your "voice" to differentiate your brand
"Voice" is a feature of content that more marketers should embrace in order to create content with impact.
When everyone in your space is singing the same song, there’s a huge opportunity to be had in playing a different tune.
Content marketing is branding through publishing. Everything you put out there contributes to your brand's voice online.
Vat19, which is a great example from the B2C world of eCommerce, took a different approach to online commerce and content marketing. Their overall inventory of “curiously awesome gifts" is inherent in their positioning as an online store for novelty items. But it’s the way that they carry it into their content that makes them truly different from competitors.
Vat19 creates an entertaining video for each and every one of their products. The quirky style and quality production is what keeps their audience engaged, and even if you’re disciplined enough to resist the desire to own [insert cool product] (I usually am), they give you a reason to subscribe (I immediately did) and nurture you to purchase later (I eventually caved).
But even in the B2B world, you can benefit from having a "different voice" from the competition. Your "loudest" content carries this voice forward, like Moz’s Whiteboard Friday or Lattice Engines' #ShowMeYourStack webinar series, in order to set your own brand of content apart from the competition.
Consistency is your ally here.
Deliver your content in a better user experience
There are tons of great, reputable sites—leaders in their space—that simply haven’t been updated for the times. Something we take for granted now, like responsive design, can actually break the entire experience if it's absent today, especially for visitors who clicked through to your site after seeing your post shared in a tweet on their phone.
So, one way you can stand out from established competitors is to focus on creating a better content experience.
Help your visitors:
- Find what they’re looking for — Be strategic about your menu structure and include a search option.
- Easily consume more related content — Implement content recommendations to keep their interest.
- Convert on premium content — Don't interrupt their experience with landing pages when you don't have to.
- Feel at home in the context—Ensure your call-to-actions make sense from the visitor's perspective.
Success in content marketing hinges on your ability to bring people back to the same place time and time again to consume your content. By optimizing for the above, you can serve up an overall experience that's worth revisiting.
What a good thing Adam had...
"What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before." —Mark Twain
That quote sums up the inherent struggle of content marketing, perhaps even the frustration felt in all corners of media.
Even if you can't be first, even if you're a long way from being the "best", you can always put the effort into creating, distributing, and delivering a content experience that will have an impact whenever a reader stops to give you time out of their day.