Peter Altschuler in b2b marketing, Marketing, Advertising Head of Marketing and Creative Strategy • Wordsworth & Company LLC Apr 11, 2017 · 1 min read · +900

The context of content

Jim Murray, a man whose prose I enjoy in spite of his location in Canadia (that's not a typo; if Jim's Canadian, he must be from Canadia), re-published a post about how he promotes himself and what he does. In that article, he takes a gentle swipe at content marketing. I think he should have taken more of a smack.

His post dates to 2014. While that may be pleistocene to current "content" marketers, his pitch would have been valid generations ago - back when content was referred to as collateral, product literature, and sales aids.

Then and now

Thirty years ago, I worked with SMBs to refine their use of printed, audio, and video material to a) generate leads, b) overcome objections raised by prospects, and c) meet the specific expectations of a prospects' various influencers (the people who are asked for advice and analysis but aren't a product's end users). One difference, of course, was that, backThe context of content then, the vendor was in charge of who got what. Another was that the information wasn't fluff.

The materials were designed to persuade, convince, and motivate; not to fill the space that a vendor thinks is empty. The materials, regardless of their form, provided useful information that could help a buyer reach the right decision.

Genuine value

My focus is primarily B2B, but even in B2C, the offers were designed to add value, earn trust, and keep the brand name in a buyer's brain. Think of a car maintenance guide from Mobil or a booklet of recipes from Gold Medal flour. They'd mention their own products, of course, but the guide was still useful if you used Quaker State oil, and the recipes still worked if you baked with Pillsbury flour. Modern content makes it seems as if that's no longer true.

Today, my regret is that "content" marketers have little sense of history. Their content makes me malcontent. That's because much of it is useless promotional drivel composed in a vacuum that's devoid of competition and designed for web spiders, not sentient beings. The briefest glance back to discern how content marketing was born would do wonders. It would help ensure that content provided contentment.

Peter Altschuler Apr 13, 2017 · #8

#6 Ah, @Steve Jones, it's great content that's great. If the material's only good then the context will not help it very much.

Because you're a sales guy, your viewpoint makes sense. Yet not every document that qualifies as content is devoted to selling... unless you expand sales to incorporate the sale of ideas. Consider Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" or even the Magna Carta. They changed the political trajectory of nations.

Now that was great content.

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Peter Altschuler Apr 13, 2017 · #7

#5 Yes, @Jim Murray, you've got Trudeau, and we've got Falsedodo. You've got cheap drugs, and we have Martin Shkreli. You've got the Yukon, and we have frigid neocons. And you have Toronto (the Lone Ranger's sidekick). But we have things that Canada does not.

You can see our first lady in the nude. Watch the Statue of Liberty being loaded on a ship (France has asked for it back). Elect a chief executive with less than a majority of the votes. And have an all-white, anti-foreigner, all-Christian choir sing "White Christmas" (which was written by an immigrant Jew).

This makes us far more interesting. In the proper context, of course.

Steve Jones Apr 13, 2017 · #6

Thanks Peter for reminding everyone that good content is great, but without context is meaningless in developing sales. As I just wrote in another article Content must have Context. It should Entertain, Inspire, Educate or Convince - dependent upon where the buyer is in their buying process.

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Jim Murray Apr 13, 2017 · #5

You know guys, I'm right here on the front porch of my igloo in Canadia. I'll have you know that we have ,up here, one the hottest prime ministers going, pretty much free health care, and whole lot of people who could be world beaters if they weren't so damn laid back. What you have is the Trump family, bullets to avoid and prescription drugs that require actually real estate collateral to buy. I'll take Canadia any day of the week, even if I do have write this with illumination from my whale oil powered lantern. BTW @Peter Altschuler, thanks for the shout out. I have taken harder swipes in other posts. Sorry ... off to bed, gotta be up early to got get new tires for my Chevrol eh. (OMG)

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Peter Altschuler Apr 12, 2017 · #4

#1 Be nice to Jim, @Phil Friedman. He lives in a country whose national car, I realized on a trip to Vancouver last week, is Chevrol, eh? And if he was working by gaslight (and is still producing), he must be eating the raw carp guts that kept the earl going in "After Many A Summer Dies The Swan."

And, yes, "content" is a catchall that, too often, is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Listicles are my least favorite form, not least because they sound vaguely anatomical in a not very flattering way.

Done right, however, targeted information can be very effective in building a brand's (or person's) reputation, establishing credibility, engendering trust, and persuading someone to do business or interact with you. Sadly, though, most of the targets are as similar as snowflakes, and the segmentation tends to break people down into two general categories: those with too much time on their hands and those who were born yesterday.

I'm in favor of a different use for collateral, product literature, sales aids, call it what you will. It's to attract people who truly are interested in what you have to say, allow them to respond and request additional information, provide material that's specific to their needs (and gives them a way to ask for more), and moves them from "just looking" to "ready to buy."

The product could be cupcakes or computers. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that the presentation is informative, engaging, persuasive, and created for a purpose. That purpose can be to try something, purchase it, share it, join it, take action in favor of it (or against something else), save it for later, or any of a million other things.

Just don't ever let your audience guess what you want them to do. They'll guess wrong.

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Peter Altschuler Apr 12, 2017 · #3

#2 I'm glad you enjoyed it, @Paul Walters. Yet, from Bali (a long way from the cheese scones of Bath), I would think that everything is somewhat more enjoyable.

Paul Walters Apr 12, 2017 · #2

@Peter Altschuler Great piece ...thanks

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Phil Friedman Apr 12, 2017 · #1

I agree, Peter, that @Jim Murray exhibits a great sense of the history of marketing and advertising -- no doubt because he was creating "content" by gas lamp, some few years before the electric light bulb was put into full production.

That said, I've always felt that the use of the term "content" in phrases like "content marketing" signaled a contempt for the very thing the phrase is supposed to denote. For my experience is that those who speak of "content" -- as opposed to "copy" or "information" or "marketing collateral" or "sales literature" -- see it as generic and interchangeable, like bricks or sacks of sand. And that it, therefore, can be generated by people with zero knowledge of the product or of the industry sector in which the product competes, and people whose skills and experience are at the unpaid intern level.

How someone expects to build a product or company brand in the area, say, of industrial paints with curated "content" about raising ants on your patio is beyond me. Yet, so many firms today buy the proposition that "content" is an easy, cheap way to populate their website and build their brand. Good piece, Peter. Sensible and real. Keep 'em coming.

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