Every business, if you look hard enough, has an unfair advantage. The trick is to find yours and work it for all its worth.

Here are six ways that businesses can make the most of what they've got...

The aww factor

‘Never work with children or animals,’ as WC Fields may or may not have said. I can never work out whether this was because they’re difficult to deal with, or because they have a tendency to steal the scene.

Shameless scene-stealing is exactly what you want your content marketing to achieve, of course, as with this absurdly cute video from Paultons Park, probably best known as the home of Peppa Pig World.

The title says it all really: Meerkat Kittens venture outside for first time.

Why not a whole email programme for signed-up visitors (and their children) tracking the progress of Tiny Tim (pictured), ‘our smallest and cutest meerkat’?

 

As for working with children, here's a behind-the-scenes look at a kids’ ski fashion filmshoot, courtesy of AlexaandAlexa:


 
The science bit

OK, so perhaps the world your business operates in isn’t all pink and cuddly. But perhaps what you do IS big and it IS clever. Perhaps it is, like, actually rocket science.

No one is better at getting content mileage out of their technical knowhow than General Electric, which is all over just about every digital platform there is with a vast range of great media assets showcasing the company's innovative work in health, aviation and much more.

See, for instance, 140 things we just made or this remote-control helicopter factory tour. (I know GE has been featured on the blog before, and I looked hard for something else to illustrate this point, but no one really comes close).  

What’s really admirable about GE’s content marketing is the generosity of its approach, which is often about inspiring a sense of wonder in science and technology in general and only incidentally about its products and services.

See, for instance, 16 Amazing Things You’ll See At An Air Show on Buzzfeed, for instance, or the beautiful time-lapse choreography, the ‘continuous dance of take-offs and landings’, that is Paths of Flight:


And with #Springbreakit – in which everyday items are smashed, crushed and blasted to smithereens in the name of advanced materials testing – we have at last a B2B version of Will It Blend? 

The built-in calendar

Building out a sustainable editorial calendar is a big challenge for many business trying to take their content marketing to the next level.

Enviably, however, some business areas come with a calendar or seasonal cycle ready built-in. Fashion, healthcare, entertainments and sports all have their seasonal elements, but perhaps the best example is gardening.

When it comes to garden retail, no one for me does it better than the content marketers extraordinaire at crocus.co.uk. The whole Crocus approach is a wonderfully integrated blend of advice, inspiration and product, all delivered with a seamlessly engaging tone of voice that feels like one passionate gardener talking to another.

The Crocus email newsletter, Monthly Musings for instance, is full of informed seasonal reflections and care tips that come across as useful and friendly, and just happen to help you navigate the company’s voluminous product range.

The Crocus presence extends consistently across Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook and more. It takes skill and resource to do content as well as Crocus does, but the gardener’s year gives them a wonderful head start, providing a natural framework on which to hang an editorial strategy.

All in all, it’s a wonderful example of what used to be called ‘contextualised retail’. [Insert your own gag about evergreen content here.]

Making the most of the calendar in the world you share with your customers and prospects can work in lots of other areas too.

This email from thesharecentre, for instance, reassures investors that the company is on top of what’s happening in The City, with the readily made inference that they’ll be on top of any developments that could affect your portfolio too: 


The countdown... 

If you do business with individuals or businesses who are working up to a big milestone, you have another readymade framework for the planning and delivery of timely content: the countdown, with its built-in arc of suspense. And speaking of deliveries, the obvious example in this area is pregnancy and birth.

When you sign up to BabyCentre – the huge online resource for parents and parents-to-be owned by Johnson & Johnson – you’re immediately asked if you’re trying to conceive or when your baby’s due.

This data makes it easy for the site to start targeting you with content relevant to where you’re at – and, of course, to plan and create that content too. The countdown timeline at the top of every page is the skeleton of the site, and is doubtless just as important for the creators of BabyCentre as its consumers.

There are many other business areas where the countdown dynamic comes into play. Party planners, wedding sites and conference organisers can use the framework to generate relevant content and build anticipation for the big day.

Less obviously, companies that are supporting clients in the build-up to a significant business transformation such as the introduction of new company-wide software or migration to the cloud, or the impact of a change in legislation (such as pension auto-enrolment), can make use of the countdown mechanism to build interest and awareness about the big change ahead.  

The Jewel in the Crown 

The Press Association is famous for its newsfeed. Over 150 years old, the newsfeed is the trusted resource of everyone from Fleet Street to the BBC to the Royal Family.

The PA's photo archive contains over 13million images online, with 30,000 added every week; its archive of physical images dates back to 1863. When a British monarch dies or a royal baby is born, the news is announced via the Press Association.

This is a good example of what I mean by the Crown Jewel effect. Some businesses have an advantage in that they were the first to do something, or that they have created an asset that has come to be seen as the go-to resource in their industry ever since.

Halifax has its House Price Index, Deloitte has its Football Money League, Bayer will always have Aspirin. 

This asset or claim to fame need not be 150 years old, but if it has enabled your business to place an indelible marker of originality or authority on the map of your industry or marketplace, then you have an unnatural advantage to exploit. Use it liberally to add gravitas and kudos to your content output. 

The ready-made content team

Some businesses naturally attract audiences of people who are only too happy to contribute free content as part of a lively conversation with the like-minded. 

On Amex's Open Forum, SME owner-managers discuss ideas, share advice and get to subtly promote themselves in the process. Dell's IT Ninja site, meanwhile, is effectively a highly advanced, crowdsourced version of an old-style FAQ, where a wikified ecosystem of techie experts can debate glitches, patches and upgrades to their hearts' content. 

Done well, contests are another powerful way to inspire valuable UGC. Showcasing creativity (or cute babies) is always a winner: GoPro asks users to submit their best videos (taken with GoPro kit, natch), with the prize of greater exposure for the creator across the company's social media channels as a result. 

It only remains to ask: What's your unfair content advantage? And how can you make it do more for you? 

Dan Brotzel

Published 7 January, 2015 by Dan Brotzel

Dan Brotzel is Content Director at Sticky Content, part of the Press Association, and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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