Why your content marketing strategy is failing — and how you can up the ante with a dose of differentiation
By Alistair Norman

Why your content marketing strategy is failing — and how you can up the ante with a dose of differentiation

If differentiation and bravery in a content marketing strategy is crucial why are 42% of marketers not brave enough to really stand out and what’s holding them back?

“To make headway in a flatlining economy, businesses need to reconsider how they are perceived in their markets.”

In our hyper-competitive world, standing out from the crowd has never been more important. Financial results from the world’s biggest advertising network WPP, run by ad boss Sir Martin Sorrell, underscore the importance of differentiation in today’s challenging economy.

Announcing a near 5% fall in billings in the first half of 2017 on a constant currency measure, WPP pointed to low global growth, technological disruption, and shrinking ad budgets as global corporations cut costs. “In the last year or so, growth has become even more difficult to find,” says WPP.

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To make headway in this flatlining economy, businesses need to reconsider how they are perceived in their markets. Are they just one of a crowd offering good but indistinguishable products? Or do they have a distinctive offer, approach and image that burns their name into the minds of their consumers so they are remembered for years to come?

Grand or bland?

Will your company be remembered or forgotten? Are you out in front or just another runner? For those involved in selling services and products to businesses, differentiation becomes ever more vital.

Finding ways to stand out from the competition means demonstrating to customers that you have new and original solutions to meet their business challenges. Achieve that and you’re halfway to success.

B2B providers flourish when they are clear about the essence of their offer and have a strong sense of purpose. Differentiation can bring them huge benefits, helping businesses to outstrip competitors, take ownership of their market, and redefine the way an industry is perceived.

Whole sectors of business services have been transformed by differentiated offers. Salesforce revolutionised the software market by offering ‘Software as a Service’ managed through cloud computing, racing ahead of long-established rivals such as Oracle and IBM with their monolithic installed software offerings.

Doing things differently

Differentiation may mean simply taking a fresh approach to an old challenge — as demonstrated by email marketing company MailChimp. Its corporate body language stands out from its more stodgy rivals with its chimp logo, cartoon graphics, easy to navigate website and simple slogan: Sell More Stuff. This brings a level of informality and fun to a sector not renowned for either.

Xero accounting software has attempted to redefine its market with a brand image based on the idea of its product being ‘beautiful’ — a far cry from mundane rival software which focuses on specific features rather than benefits and solutions.

These B2B brands are seeking to shape their markets with fresh approaches to transform customer perceptions regarding their products.

Once a differentiated business is established, the next step is to communicate this inspiring and distinctive proposition to the customers who matter. That means using insights into the market and carefully crafted research to create unique content which strikes at the heart of the prospect’s business problem.

40% of marketers think their content is the “same as their competition”

Research by Tomorrow People and B2B Marketing Institute shows that B2B suppliers are giving content marketing top billing in their efforts, but 40% of them think their content is “the same as their competition”.

72% of those surveyed said they had a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process, not simply a campaign.

65% said they had well-defined business goals for content, while a similar number said they had a deep understanding of the audience personas of the consumers of content.

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But many businesses are reluctant to take the bold steps needed to relaunch along new, differentiated lines, and start-ups may lack the bravery and imagination required to create a truly unique approach to their industry. To justify following a differentiated strategy, businesses need a clear view of the extra value that differentiation will deliver for them.

A truly novel approach entitles a brand to charge a premium. Standing out from the crowd makes it easier to trigger conversations with prospects, as a unique proposition will pique their interest. Businesses need to analyse sales and establish to what extent clients are attracted by the company’s singular approach. And, they must calculate the extent to which the differentiated offer will help them retain customers. Measuring the financial benefits is a vital step in persuading leaders that a differentiation strategy will work.

Finally, businesses need a flexible approach to content, adapting their strategy to changing markets, thereby engaging prospects and turning them into sales. Differentiation is the key to stimulating that initial interest among potential customers. It’s time to put a differentiated content marketing strategy in place.

Take a moment — is your brand original, differentiated, and relevant? Find out with our CX audit now

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