The Real Secret to Content Marketing: Know Your Values

Content Marketing is the Only Marketing

Content marketing, especially in the age of ad blocking, is becoming more important than ever. It wasn’t too long ago when Seth Godin prophetically said, “Content marketing is the only marketing we have left.” It’s true. iOS ad blocking is just the beginning of a new era in marketing and advertising.

Content is about having a conversation and delivering high-quality, relevant information to a specific audience, in a specific place, and at a specific time. It’s not about pestering consumers with pop ups, pop overs, or banner ads that play video and dramatically interfere with how a company’s most valuable asset — the consumer — experiences your content.

In the past several months, I’ve worked with startups interested in making content marketing the cornerstone in the go-to-market strategy. They usually (and industry standards would suggest) start with their objectives: create leads, raise brand awareness, achieve thought leadership, etc. If that’s all you’re interested in, the Internet has plenty of resources. A simple Google search will yield hundreds of templates.

But they are all missing one thing: conviction.

You can “optimize your content” and create buyer personas all day long, but you’re still left trying to anticipate the needs of your potential audience. Trying to satisfy a fixed persona — who in reality is a living, breathing (and constantly evolving) human being — is like trying to pin Jello to the wall. If you’re operating out of assumption about your audience, rather than out of your core conviction, you’ll eventually lose stamina and more importantly, you’ll render yourself inauthentic.

Core Values Cost You Something

I’ve written about core values before: both here and here. I’ll save you some time and give you the gist: Every company has values; but there is a very big difference between lip service and conviction.

If there is a true rapport between brand and customer, the relationship must be treated like any other. Relationships require trust, and the prerequisite to trust is truth and honesty. When a company is fully committed to keeping a promise to their customers, it always comes at a cost.

You’ve heard it before: you’re only as good as your word. When a company violates the contract, trust is severed, and they are deemed dishonest or inauthentic — and no brand wants to be inauthentic.

Uncovering Your Core Values

Finding your core values isn’t as easy as it might seem. You really have to do some searching, and sometimes, your own professional experience can serve as a guide. Did you leave your last job because of a work culture of fear? Then one of your values might be openness or courage. Did “phoning it in” from nine to five leave you feeling exhausted and uninspired? One of your values might be sincerity. No work experience should go wasted. Use the bad ones as a lens for understanding what’s important to you and your company.

So what does openness, courage, and sincerity have to do with content marketing? Everything.

Now that you know your values, write them down. Weave them into your strategy. They can be the filter through which you make all content decisions. If you blog post or tweet doesn’t reflect your commitment to openness and sincerity, bag it. If your spring campaign doesn’t inspire courage, time to hit the drawing board.

Using your core values as the foundation of your content marketing strategy will keep you accountable and laser-focused. And most importantly, they protect you from trying to be all things to all people.

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