On the face of it, content marketing has finally caught on. Around the world, nine out of ten companies now use content as part of their marketing strategy.
But that only tells part of the story. The fact is that most businesses are not doing enough of it to be making a significant impact; and many of those that are have been putting out content that is, frankly, not very good. As one content expert recently put it, most business content is "self-serving, not useful and... pointless".
© Hannes Grobe / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.5
Perhaps the most striking thing, though, is that it's precisely those companies with the most to gain from content marketing which are least likely to be doing it well - if at all.
A classic example is the investment and personal finance industry. Here is a sector that is crying out for high-quality content for several reasons:
Recent scandals have undermined public confidence in the financial world. Engaging with customers through content is a proven way of building trust - and counteracting all the negative news and comment about the sector in the traditional media and online.
Investing is a complex business, or at least it can appear so to the layman. Video in particular is a very effective way of conveying complex information in an accessible manner.
Let's face it, personal finance is not the most exciting of subjects. Investors are deluged with printed material that more often than not goes unread. They're far more likely to engage with visual content such as videos and infographics.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing financial advisers, fund managers and so on is that there are so many of them, offering - from the customer's point of view - pretty much the same thing. Content marketing can help companies stand out from that sea of sameness and to deliver a distinctive message.
© Taro Taylor / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-2.0
One of Ember Television's biggest recent projects has been SensibleInvesting.TV (SITV), a not-for-profit website that aims to help ordinary investors make better-informed decisions. In just a few months we've built a large and loyal following on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and the positive response we've had has taken even us by surprise.
So why has it been so successful? I'd suggest there are four main reasons:
Quality Investors - particularly of the high-net-worth variety - often have substantial sums to invest. They demand quality. Every video we produce for SITV is thoroughly researched, carefully scripted and produced to a high technical standard.
Although independent, SITV has a definite stance: it favours low-cost, long-term investing over paying high charges to active fund managers to buy and sell shares for us. That's just the sort of disruptive message, challenging the status quo, which is made for content marketing. Even if people don't like (or, more to the point, feel threatened by) the videos we make, at least they're talking about them!
The most successful content marketing strategies are integrated. Although SITV's strategy is video-centric, just as important as the videos themselves is the wrap-around social marketing we also provide - blogging, micro-blogging, commenting and interacting.
One of the main reasons why SITV has caught on so quickly has been the sheer dearth of alternatives. True, there are excellent blogs out there - Abnormal Returns and Monevator are among my personal favourites - and I love the diagrammatic approach favoured by Behavior Gap. But quality video content in particular is notable by its absence.
Of course, we wouldn't be too disappointed if SensibleInvesting.TV continues to face such limited rivalry. But with so much to gain from quality content marketing, I can see plenty of other financial sector companies seeking to reap the benefits of it very soon.