Content Marketing is Chess, Stop Treating it Like Checkers / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Too many businesses waste money on content marketing that's ineffective and wasteful.

How many companies have blogs that have long been abandoned?

How many companies treat writing content like a chore, a box that just needs checked every week, rather than a valuable business tool?

How many companies gave up because content marketing simply didn’t seem to work at all?

According to a study by Content Marketing Institute, 93 percent of B2B marketers say they use content marketing.

But the same study found that only 42 percent, less than half, say they are effective at content marketing.

And only 41 percent of larger organizations said they even have a documented content marketing plan.

That’s a big problem.

Related Article:In a Content Marketing Rut? Tailor Your Content to Your Customers’ Interests

And it points to one of the fundamental problems with the way companies understand and execute content marketing.

As effective as it can be (and there are plenty of studies that back that up), too many companies treat content like a magical fix or a necessarily evil. In reality, it’s neither of those things.

Too many companies fall into the trap of thinking that they can grow their business by simply having a blog and posting something, anything, once a week. It’s just a repetitive task that’s to be done regularly and infinitely, forever and ever until something happens. Right? Wrong.

These companies are treating content marketing like checkers.

In checkers, all pieces are equal and you only have a few moves to make. You move forward and capture a piece when you have a chance. You can think ahead a few moves, but there’s very little actual strategy. It’s mostly about reacting to what your opponent does.

But they’ve got it all wrong. Content marketing isn’t checkers. It’s chess.

Content Marketing as Chess

In chess, each piece has a specific role. Their limitations are their strengths. And to win, you need to use each of them in concert, with precision and planning, to execute a strategy and outsmart your opponent. You need to plan in advance and see several moves ahead.

Many people know the basic mechanics of chess, but few people are truly masters of the game. That’s exactly how content marketing works.

In order to be effective at content marketing, it takes more than just writing and publishing content. Any schmuck can hire some kid to write blog posts once a week for $20. But if you’re expecting that to grow your business, then you’re playing checkers and your competitors (at least the ones that are good at content marketing) are playing chess.

Great content marketing involves a lot of nuanced and creative planning. It takes strategy and tactics. It takes investment.

Each piece of content has a role to play, a unique set of capabilities. It’s our job, as marketers, to move the pieces and put them in just the right position to win the game.

That means creating unique pieces of content that speak to various buyers and stakeholders. It means creating content that serves strategic purpose within the buyer’s journey, from search to social to purchase and beyond.

It means creating a mix of guides, how-tos, videos, and case studies. And then all of the content needs to be moved at just the right time. Relevant content needs to be served up to a prospective buyer at the time when it makes sense to them. That takes technology and planning.

Related Article:The Write Stuff: The What, Why and How of Content Marketing

Looking Beyond Content

Content for the sake of content marketing takes a lot of planning and strategy. But let’s not forget that content marketing is almost always the basis for a much more-robust digital marketing strategy.

Content drives SEO and social strategies, which in turn have their own caveats. In order to be successful at SEO, you need to have strategies that generate links, domain authority, and social signals. All of these require their own consideration within your content marketing strategy that goes beyond just the role that it plays in the buyer’s journey.

If we take a macro view, Copyblogger says there are four main types of content:

  1. Attraction
  2. Authority
  3. Affinity
  4. Action

But that only tells part of the story. You also have to overlay your digital marketing goals:

  1. Link building
  2. Search/keyword relevance
  3. Social virality

All told, you have a huge number of types of content that can be created.

Each piece of content needs to serve a role within our content marketing and marketing strategies. But, most piece of content won't be able to serve all of these goals.  We need to identify the needs within our strategy and then come up with specific content that can meet those needs.

It’s not as simple as just writing blog posts.

Related Article:Making the Invisible Visible: Content Marketing Amplification Tips

Invest or Lose

As a business, it can be hard to justify investing thousands of dollars in your “blog” each month. Especially when you can hire someone to crank out content for a couple of bucks an article.

But that’s a short-sighted approach. It’s looking at content as checkers instead of chess.

What you gain in savings on content, you ultimately lose by spending money on ineffective content that becomes a cost rather than an investment.

Think of it this way: Would you rather spend $1,000 on content without purpose or invest $10,000 in a proper content strategy and generate $20,000 in revenue?


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