In today’s digital economy, content is the engine that drives business. From consumer goods to professional services—and even companies that don’t directly deal with their target consumer—brands are committing to content as a strategic investment. By 2021, global spending on content marketing is projected to surpass $400 billion.
Yet despite the growing importance of content, many myths still persist within companies of all shapes and sizes. Often, these misconceptions only rear their heads when you’re in the middle of a content project. And working through them at such a late stage can throw an entire project off track.
That’s why it’s important to ensure all stakeholders agree on what content actually is before embarking on any content project.
A few years ago, a marketing director at an e-commerce company asked me for help with her content. But after a few meetings, it emerged that she meant just the text in a few marketing education articles. Right away, I saw the potential for using other formats such as diagrams, video, and interactive quizzes, and I shared some suggestions with her. Because our discussion opened her mind to a range of possible media at the start, we finished with a successful content marketing program that included diverse content types.
Many people equate content with the text format, which can limit the potential of their content efforts. This myth—that content is simply copywriting—also implies that content assets only require writing skills. In truth, high-performing content teams benefit from a range of skills, both strategic and operational.
When you are building a content program, you might start by hiring writers—but you shouldn’t stop there. Keep pushing and hire a multidisciplinary team full of editors, designers, and content marketing managers. And as your company matures, adding capability in areas such as content intelligence and content engineering is the natural next step.
So, content isn’t copy. It’s much more. It’s the substance of a customer experience. Content is a video, article, whitepaper, podcast, photo, infographic, chart, or poll. Leverage the possibilities offered by each format to make your content stand out in the market and reach its full potential.
When blogs rose to widespread popularity in the late-2000s and early-2010s, they were nearly synonymous with content. That’s when many companies became interested in content. Global health firm Cerner Corporation dialed up its blog to great success, steered by Lance Yoder, even earning media mentions of its own accord.
But today, content is part of every customer interaction, from marketing to support. And now we have more options than ever for packaging and delivering content in great experiences across a variety of channels.
For example, TD Ameritrade, an online broker that offers a platform for trading stocks, produces a successful magazine for its customers called thinkMoney. This magazine boasts polished features and columns in print and digital formats that are a far cry from a blog.
As another example, Ikea has made YouTube a big part of its successful content programs. Its channel offers videos about bedroom design with soothing sounds designed to trigger autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), as well as product installation tutorials, and tips on interior design.
Yet a surprising number of modern marketers still think of content as simply a collection of blog posts on their website. This myth conflates content packaging, delivery, and experience, which can limit the possibilities for your content marketing. So, if you don’t want your brand to be stuck in 2010, let your coworkers know that content is much more than a blog!
I once worked with a midsize e-commerce company to develop a content marketing program on their behalf. After a few months, the initiative increased weekly sales to $17,000. Over the course of a year, that adds up to a sales increase of nearly $1 million. This is a prime example of content as a revenue driver.
Content can build authority, help grow your brand, and extend your reach. But, unfortunately, all too often leaders can incorrectly assume that content is simply a cost. In other words, they view content as an expense like travel, not as an asset worthy of investment because it has a direct impact on business goals over time. I often come across executives with this mindset, who change their views upon seeing the ROI of content that other brands are achieving.
TD Ameritrade’s thinkMoney magazine, for example, has engaged and influenced an important segment of customers over time. In fact, they did the math and found that active investors who engage with the magazine’s content are three times more likely to make a trade than other active investors. Simply put, that’s a lot of repeat business for TD Ameritrade. If TD Ameritrade viewed content as only a cost, the company would have dropped the magazine a long time ago, leaving a lot of money on the table.
Content engages and nurtures, which eventually translates into leads, sales, loyalty, and retention. When you show others that content is in fact an asset that brings a return, you make them more willing to invest in it. And you set your content efforts up for ongoing success.
Your manager, coworkers, or clients might have some other expectations caused by their misconceptions about content. Left unchecked, these limiting beliefs can seriously undermine otherwise healthy organizations and projects. For example, a marketing manager who sees content as a cost may be quick to pull the plug on a campaign before it’s had time to demonstrate a return.
But that doesn’t have to happen. If you can recognize and dispel these common myths at the beginning of your content project, you dramatically boost your chances of success. By demystifying the nature of content early on, you will avoid delays caused by confusion about what content is and isn’t. And you open everyone’s minds to the full range of exciting possibilities.
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