Tuesday, December 9, 2014

10 Lessons Your Competitors Can Teach You About Content Marketing

There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of competition. In fact, competition shows that each party is striving to do their absolute best in order to meet some sort of overall goal. In the world of content marketing, competition can be a bit cutthroat to be seen as the best of the best. Every company wants to be the industry thought leader, the go-to source for quality content or products, and the big brand name that instantly enters clients’ minds. It is a big world out there in content marketing, and competition can feel like it is lurking in every corner.
If you think that this is a bad thing, it might be time to change your tune. Sure, competitors can get in your way, but what I’m trying to show you is that there is a lot that you can learn from them. Whether you are the competitive type or not, analyzing the competition can bring big benefits to your own business. Let’s take a look at what your competitors can teach you about content.
  1. Competitors Help You Find Prime Marketing Opportunities. If you are in an older industry that is generally stuck in the 80s advertising mindset, this is a prime opportunity for your company to rise to the top. Take the vacuum industry, for example. Remember when salesmen would go door-to-door selling vacuums, and it actually worked? It is relatively safe to say that, in 2014, door-to-door sales are not what they used to be.
You would be surprised with how many industries are out of touch with modern marketing techniques. This may be more prevalent in smaller towns, but industries such as home improvement and plumbing have huge opportunity to out scale their competitors with modern techniques. A little bit of content and social media marketing can go a long way for small town businesses.
If you happen to be one of those small town business owners, and your competitors insist that old marketing still works in today’s market, the door is wide open for you to dominate your niche with great content. Their refusal to get with the times can quickly put dollars in your pocket, and put you on the fast track to becoming a thought leader in your industry.
  1. Competitors Can Show You How To Use Social Media (The Right Way). Thanks to social media, it is easy to see how your competitors handle customer service issues on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In general, responding to customer inquiries as quickly as possible is best etiquette. Unfortunately, many companies drop the ball when it comes to customer service on social media. Analyzing your competitors’ response time and customer conversations can give you great insight on how to handle your own customer issues.
Competitor social media profiles will also leave clues for what content is performing the best and drumming up the most engagement. If you are scoping out the competition on Facebook for content ideas, take a look at how many likes, shares, and re-tweets their content has. This will give you an idea of what kind of content can work for your company, too.
  1. Competitors Can Teach You How To Be a Real Person (With Content). All too often, companies can market themselves with little to no personality elements. Lack of personality in content marketing can be a big turn off to your audience. Customers want to feel as if they are engaging with a human, not a robot. Using scripted responses on your website with content that is dryer than a textbook will put almost any prospective customer to sleep. If you want to drive away sales, un-engaging content might just do the trick.
On the other side of the coin, injecting a little personality into your content can go a long way. There are several ways to implement this technique without going over board, such as:
  • Make fun of yourself
  • Tell a story
  • Ask questions
  • Respond to questions
  • Add humor
These are just a few ways of keeping your content a little less dry, and showing that you are, in fact, human. Writing with personality can be a little tricky to master, but you will be a step ahead of the ho-hum content produced by your competitor.
  1. Competitors Can Force You to Up Your Content Game. If your competitors happen to be successful content marketers that hit the nail on the head almost every time, you know that are faced with some tough competition. Instead of throwing in the towel and envying their every keystroke, you can turn the situation around and come up with some smart marketing of your own.
For example, there is a super popular and memorable UK Christmas campaign happening right now with Monty the Penguin. Monty is the brainchild of John Lewis, a UK-based department store that sells products from iPads to clothing. With this Christmas campaign, Monty the Penguin is the story of a penguin and a small boy who are best of friends. As time goes on, Monty starts to yearn the love of another from his own kind. The boy does an act of selfless love so Monty can experience true happiness, but there is another big twist that happens in the end. The story of Monty and Sam is a real tearjerker, and it is no wonder it has been a huge success in the UK.
As an attempt to one-up the story of Monty the Penguin, another UK-based company known as Sainsbury’s developed their own Christmas content strategy that tugs on the heart strings. The story is a three-minute video called Christmas is For Sharing, and it spotlights British and German troops during the World War I. On Christmas day, the soldiers set their weapons aside and play soccer with each other instead of firing off guns and driving around massive tanks. The video was well received by its customer base, as it uses the marketing tactic of emotion to draw in the consumer.
Although Christmas is For Sharing invokes emotion, I personally think that John Lewis did it better with Monty the Penguin. Then again, I am biased toward adorable animals.
Either way, Sainsbury used John Lewis’ leverage of pulling on the heartstrings to create their own compelling campaign. You can piggy back off of your competitor’s ideas, just be sure to always add your own twist. 
  1. Competitors Can Help You Find Content Gaps. Once you understand what makes great content, it is easy to spot gaps and missing information within the content of your competitors. Even if the content gaps are not so obvious, customer comments can leave clues. Take your time to read through your competitors’ comments section, and take note of questions customers are asking.
Finding content gaps from competitors is beneficial to you for several reasons. First, it gives you an opportunity to create brand new content that the competition was not able to provide. Second, it helps to position you as a thought leader. Lastly, it helps you be seen as a reliable and educational resource in your industry. The best content always educates, entertains, and provides value to the audience. Filling in content gaps give you the ability to meet the criteria from all of the above.
  1. Competitors Help Teach You The Value of Good Content. Have you ever went to a website that did not contain the information you were looking for? If so, what did you do next? I am willing to bet that you clicked the back button and went to another source to get your information. Am I right?
This is a shining example of what can happen when your website is filled with bad content, or even no content at all. Lucky for you, bad competitor content can send visitors straight to your website in this instance. Unfortunately, there are companies out there that still fail to see the value of good content. The truth of the matter is that bad content can literally mean losing money. If customers can’t get the information that they need from you, they will find someone else who can provide.
Compare your content to the competition and see how you stack up to one another. If they have considerably more content from you, carefully analyze what you are missing and strategize a plan to get better content on your own website. This might consist of simply adding an About Us page, or taking the steps to setting up your own company blog. If your competitor has higher quality content on their website compared to yours, it is likely that customers are clicking in their direction.
  1. Competitors Can Teach You a Content Schedule. If your competitor is on top of their content game, pay close attention to their publishing schedule. How frequently do they post new content? This matters because you can be prepared with similar content around a similar publishing schedule, which will keep competitors on their toes.
Analyzing your competitor’s schedule is also beneficial, because you will get an idea of what kind of content works best in your industry. Use their schedule to build your own base schedule with your own fresh content.
  1. Competitors Can Teach You About Content Curation. Content curation is the act of sharing third party blogs, articles, and other forms of content to your own audience. When you are creating content, you want to find the best possible content available in your industry. Sometimes, that content happens to come from your competitors. When this happens, there is no need to hold back sharing competitor content. In fact, you can actually benefit from curating competitor content for several reasons.
  • Curating competitor content can help you establish relationships with said competitor. You might be competitors, but that does not mean that you are always at war. Good and valuable content deserves to be shared, and your audience will thank you for it.
  • Curating competitor content also puts you in the position as a thought leader, as you are not afraid to admit when your competitor created something spectacular.
  • This form of curated content also helps with branding. Since the two of you are in the same industry, sharing content gives you an opportunity to build your name in your industry and establish credibility.
Curating content from your competitor does not equal defeat. It means that a door has opened to new content marketing opportunities, and possibly new and lasting relationships.
  1. Competitors Can Teach You About Repurposing Content. If you are running short on ideas for your own content, you can repurpose competitor content with your own twist. Blog posts can be turned into slide shows, info graphics, and even videos. The trick to repurposing competitor content is adding your own twist. For example, you don’t want to repurpose a blog post into a slide show with the same exact information. Use that content to branch off into another direction that provides value, enhance the presentation, or find a better and smarter way to turn that topic into an influential piece of content.
  1. Competitors Can Help You Find Your Content Identity. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, everyone wants to the thought leader in their industry. If you are just starting out with content marketing, you might not be too sure as to what message you are trying to convey to your audience. The key here is to fill your content with what your competition is lacking. This can take a bit of serious brainstorming and creativity, but finding your identity is essential to building your brand and creating the most compelling content possible. Once you have your voice and understand your customers’ needs, your competition doesn’t stand a chance.
As you can see, there is a lot to be learned of content marketing from your competition. However, once you become a content marketing rock star in your own field, they can learn a thing or two from you, too.

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