Have you ever created a SWOT analysis document before? I have. And as a content marketer, I have mixed feelings about them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m 100% in favor of knowing my content program’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats compared to those of my competitors. However, I’ve also seen scary stuff happen when this approach gets taken too far. Brands can get so hyper-focused on tracking the competition that their entire content strategy falls into orbit around how to compete with what other other people are doing. While this should be a component of your strategic marketing approach, it shouldn’t be the foundation.
In this article, I’d like to share 4 strategic marketing best practices I’ve learned in my career as a content marketer. I hope you’ll find these helpful as you continue to optimize your own content program!
Keep an Eye on Your Competitors—But Don’t Obsess Over Them
Should you be keeping tabs on what your competitors are doing with their content programs? Absolutely. Should you be obsessing over every little thing they do? Nope.
It’s easy to get derailed by what other people are doing when you’re knee-deep in competitive research. While the process is meant to keep you informed, it often times ends up leading to a FOMO response in which you match your competitors feature for feature, channel for channel, topic for topic.
Copying the competition not only severely curtails your creativity as a content marketer—it also takes your focus away from considering what’s best for your audience. Your prospects, followers, and customers are your most valuable source of inspiration when developing a kickass content strategy. Don’t let their voices be drowned out by your competitors.
Find Your Own Voice—Not Someone Else’s
Just as it’s easy to get derailed by too much competitive research, it’s also easy to muddy your brand voice by trying to emulate other people. Your content strategy should fully support your brand’s personality as well as its values and expertise.
Having a unique, genuine voice is important for a number of reasons:
- It helps set the tone for what kind of “person” your brand is.
- It can help you build trust and rapport with your audience.
- It can set you apart from your direct competitors and other web content creators.
Provide a Unique Perspective
If you’ve done your homework, you know what your audience cares about. If you use tools like Buzzsumo, Topsy, and Google Trends, you also know what’s getting shared and searched around the web. Your content strategy should include a plan to cover these relevant, popular topics with a new slant.
Now I know you may be thinking, “A new slant? Impossible. Everything there is to say about the topics my audience cares about has already been written about.” Before you wax too Ecclesiastical on me, consider this: There may be nothing new under the sun, but there are still a variety of new ways to talk about those things.
Here are a few ways you can breathe new life into popular topics:
- Use unique data or examples from your customer base to support your arguments.
- Cover a topic with an angle that applies to your brand’s specific area of expertise.
- Tap into the vision of your executive leadership team for an original perspective.
- Share your own personal experience and what you’ve learned from it.
Look for Inspiration Outside Your Industry
When you only look to your competitors and other industry influencers to inform your strategy, your content can start to recede into the background because it looks and sounds just like the stuff everyone else is producing.
To keep your strategy fresh, it’s important to look outside your industry for inspiration. As a content marketer working in the B2B realm, I seek new ideas from a variety of places, including:
- Design and UX bloggers.
- Graphic designers and artists.
- B2C campaigns and trends.
- Consumer technology publications.
- News outlets and digital publishers.
- Education and instructional design best practices.
I also incorporate ideas from some of my completely unrelated personal interests such as:
- Blogs on fiction writing.
- Blogs and interviews from my favorite authors.
- Sci-fi and fantasy books, movies, web series, and TV shows.
- Cookbooks and recipe testing.
- Psychology and scientific publications.
- Comics and graphic novels.
- Pop culture and memes.
- Costuming, quilting, and sewing.
The Bottom Line
Developing a solid strategic approach to content marketing involves identifying your unique competitive advantages and ways to bring a fresh perspective while remaining highly relevant to your audience. These 4 best practices can help you find the right balance for your program.