Competing on Content

The bookseller story

Put yourself in the shoes of a bookseller for a while. You have thousands of books in your store. All of them are paper-made objects with different covers and different dimensions but some of them sell very well and others keep your cleaning people busy with removing dust. Most of the EBITDA of your store is based on the bestsellers and you dedicate them your best shelves. But what does make a book become a bestseller? The brand for sure, which in that case often is the author’s name with his history and prizes. It can be the packaging as well, as there is no doubt that covers, with title, graphics, summary and expert recommendations, influence the buying decision.

But nothing is more important than content.

It doesn’t matter whether it is academic, spiritual, inspirational, technical or fictional, the greatest value comes from content. Readers communicate about content, word of mouth is based on content. The value of the book is driven by the knowledge, the inspirations, the information, the “better-being” or the emotions it has provided to its readers. And value leads to sales. James Patterson on his own has generated close to a hundred Million US$ last year because people enjoyed reading the stories he tells and he made many booksellers grateful.

Your love story with customers

Now give back his shoes to the bookseller and fit your own shoes again. Your products can be far away from being books but they also have a story to be told and your customers – while using them – will like these stories and buy some more of them if they fulfill their expectations. Your customers will even love you and actively promote your products if they got more than expected and have been impressed by their value. In the “what’s in it for me?” traditional question for a customer, content is the answer. This can be a pre-purchase or a post-purchase question, content is the answer. Content for you to promote your product or content as an experience for your customer to communicate on it. And the better the quality and consistency of your content will be the more your product will sell.

The way to success in two – consecutive – steps

Now let’s say that you have, thanks to a perfect collaboration between your marketing and R&D people, created this ideal, marketable value. Let’s imagine your product is a running shoe, which makes its users feel more comfortable, more performant and safer than their previous running shoes. That’s for sure a great achievement, but you only are half the way to success. The first users who have provided you with this extremely positive feedback are by far too few to represent a market. The second half of your way to success is paved with marketing communications and more and more of today’s pavements are digital, simply because the way most of your potential customers consume information is digital.

Again, don’t forget every pavement, no matter if it is digital or not, has to be built with… content. Solid, consistent and reliable content.

Content and digital marketing

The good news with digital marketing is that it offers many unprecedented opportunities to reach directly the people who are most likely to become your future customers and thereafter to maintain their loyalty to your products. The bad news is that the number of possible “vehicles” with variable performance GPS and the price for renting them are so high that the risk to waste time and money in trying to find the strategy that leads to successful sales is considerable. You might get many clicks from many people, and thus spend a lot of money, without selling a single product. Just because the “vehicle” you used did not convey anything worth to be considered by the “clicker”. Even worse, you might be perceived as another “bloody spammer” and seriously damage your Company’s image and reputation if the quality of your contents is poor and looks fake. “Vehicle” vendors will use their jargon and technical words to impress you, and above all your boss. Themselves too do their job and want to sell their products, which can be bicycles, cars, cargo ships or even space rockets… but don’t forget one thing: there again content always has to come first! And nobody will create content better than the people who truly know your products: your customers and you.

Find and keep the right pace for producing and distributing content

You have to compete on content and digital marketing offers you another opportunity, which comes with another challenge: content can and has to be constantly adapted. People will “like” you and “follow” you if you have new and always credible stories to tell them.The old good one is fine but it’s not enough, new ones have to follow, consistent with it and with the way market moves, at the best pace.

How-to: Think about setting up your Company’s content factory

By considering this you may find out that – besides your R&D, your production plant and your conventional commercial team – relying on an organized content factory is worth the investment for your Company. It for sure will help you getting more than clicks… i.e. leads and sales. A content factory is a team of experts (either internal or, better, a mix between internal and external people) lead by a content marketer, which role is first to produce the best quality contents and then to distribute them using the most adapted vehicles. A strong and faithful relationship with customers and users, is a key success factors as they are your most credible testimonials to rely on for the creation of contents.

Jérôme Puginier