I wrote the other day about the reluctance of many companies to reveal the prices of their products. One of the daftest reasons often admitted to (which I didn’t get around to mentioning) is that “it gives away commercial information to our competitors”. I don’t know where to start with that one, so I won’t. But it did remind me to talk about “content marketing”, an idea whose time has definitely come, but which suffers from the same problem.
Content Marketing is all about publishing information to drive sales. In direct opposition to traditional interruption marketing, where we interrupt what people are engaged with in order to give them our message, content marketing provides the material which people want to be engaged with in the first place. To give a simple example: in the past, we know customers would be opening their copy of Widget World Monthly to read an article about how to service their widgets, and we’d use the opportunity to stick an ad next to the article saying how easy to service our widgets were. Nowadays, go-ahead companies bypass all the heartache of getting articles placed in magazines by publishing their own articles about how to service widgets, and publicising that instead.
Getting people to read the article you’ve published yourself means “spreading the word” (which is where “social media” comes in); it means investing in getting good search engine positions for the article (the search engine is where customers turn now, rather than magazines); and it may even mean good old advertising. So there’s a cost involved there, in addition to the cost of creating the content in the first place. But that doesn’t appear to be the main reason why some companies are reluctant to invest in content marketing. The reason given is that by revealing your expertise in public, you give customers too much information and – even worse – you give competitors that information too.
Let’s think about that for a moment. If your competitors could learn something from the information you give away, they presumably don’t have your expertise. By hiding what you know therefore, you’re hiding your single biggest competitive advantage and positioning yourself down at their level. On the other hand, if your competitors know everything you know, they may well be the ones about to position themselves as the industry authority, despite not having anything to offer which you don’t. Either way, by keeping your expertise private, or only hinting at it, you lose.
At the risk of sounding like some management guru, your competitive advantage is you. Shout about it.