The other day I heard a Guns N Roses track playing in the background in a supermarket or a department store or somewhere. Almost, but not quite blending into the background. It was the original recording, and it was just too damn good not to stand out, even under those conditions.
Let me tell you a little bit about Guns N Roses and me. We have been involved for a long time. They were my first musical love.
Others followed of course, more sophisticated, more challenging music, but Axl and the gang captivated me in a way no other band ever managed.
I remember sitting down to listen to ‘Appetite for Destruction’ for the first time. It was genuinely a profoundly moving experience.
I’d never heard such power, such energy, and it was all wrapped in a dangerous package that spoke to even me and my comfortable UK sensibilities.
Next up, allow me to introduce you to Frank Herbert. Frank wrote what is in my opinion the single greatest book of all time, science fiction or otherwise, the multiple award winning novel Dune.
It is the most epic of tomes, intricate yet full of intense action at the same time. The characters he created have lived with me since I was a young kid and Ive measured film portrayal and mini series alike against the ‘correct’ versions in my minds eye over and over again.
Next case! I remember seeing ‘Pulp Fiction’ by Tarantino on ‘video’ as it was those days, after I’d seen the great auteur’s previous work ‘Reservoir Dogs’. I was hugely impressed with the latter, but Pulp Fiction remains to this day one of the most extraordinary pieces of film making I’ve ever seen.
The dialogue is brutal in its assault on your senses, the performances from every single player mesmerising.
And these days I’ve discovered a new ‘art form’ – blogs.
I love blogs and I love blogging.
I love what I learn, I love the discourse with like minded (and sometimes not!) interlocutors and I love the relationships I have built up over the interwebs these last few years.
I count Mark as a friend, and I have always been drawn to the real life experience that is shot through his postings and best selling books. This is a man that knows a whole lot, but more importantly has lived and worked through a whole lot too.
When you are a mature (ahem) company executive like me (!) then the young pups you sometimes read online always smack of a little of naivety.
Don’t get me wrong. They are often great. Great writers and intelligent thinkers. But sometimes they lack, well, real world experience. Mark does not.
Gini is similar, but the great benefit of reading Gini’s blog is her community. Her posts are often the catalyst for the sort of discussion that leaves you riveted and looking at the clock an hour or so after you started perusing her blog.
Dino Dogan is one of the greatest ‘sales men’ I’ve come across online.
He is funny, self effacing, authentic, clever and above all, unbelievably passionate about Triberr.
All three produce ‘awesome’ content.
Or do they?
I’ve read Marks books – do they, as great as they are, live in the same league as Frank Herbert? Of course not!
Gini is a story teller, she draws people in and illicits brilliant commentary from her community, but she obviously isn’t the artist that Tarantino is!
And Dino, mad bad and dangerous to know, Dino is no Axl Rose, tearing through some of the most searing music of my lifetime dripping attitude and spite.
Let me stress, none of these people claim this sort of artistic value for their work (though there are those out there that seem too)
These guys produce good content for sure. Reasoned, rational and often entertaining.
But their strength isn’t in the content – and yours doesn’t have to be either.
Mark Schaefer, Gini Dietrich and Dino Dogon are all exemplars when it comes to creating relationships. Online relationships, real life relationships. it makes no odds.
All have engaged with me personally with a subtlety and earnestness that belies their money making objectives. Which is the point of ‘content marketing‘.
I love the idea of content marketing.
I think that trying to speak to people and entertain or educate or whatever, is a brilliant idea, and one that has finally supplanted the age old ‘sales pitch’.
People spot a sales pitch from miles away. And more worryingly for marketers at least, filter them out immediately.
The idea behind content marketing is to provide the client with the information they need, or even a service they desire, but with out pitching.
It’s an old idea. If you look at any basic ‘consumer buying behaviour model’ you’ll understand that once a potential client has decided they need your product or service they’ll next go into an information search for relevant detail on their intended purchase.
So called relationship sellers / marketers are very familiar with this process of educating the client.
However the Internet has revolutionised this process, in part removing the ability of sales people to ‘interrupt’ and gain some sort of leverage over the customer since they are now able to access a ton of information by reaching into their pockets for their phones.
So content marketing can be seen as an attempt to once more leverage the specialist knowledge that a company or organisation inherently owns.
But in way that fits in with the internets so called permission dynamic.
Brilliant! But not a new idea.
Content is a great way to achieve this education. Any content. Video, blogs, pictures, tweets, websites or whatever.
But the real trick is engagement.
The real advantage is to be gained by creating the sort of relationship with your customer that allows you to both create trust between you and the organisation, and an almost intangible sense of indebtedness on the part of the client due to the information and relationship they have benefited from.
And here’s what I am warning about here. I read so much about creating amazing, brilliant and awesome content. But that’s easier said than done.
The examples I’ve given of truly great content are practically art.
Instead of worrying about creating the sort of content that will move, compel and inspire your customer, an almost impossible task, worry instead about using your content to reach out and connect.
Worry about how you respond to comments or engage fans enough to submit their own content for you! Worry about consistently communicating with your clients, potential clients and fans.
Not everyone can create art. But everyone can build relationships!
As ever, please Let me know what you think in the comments below.