Or: You Don’t Beat the 800 Pound Gorilla By Bulking Up to Become a 900 Pound Gorilla, If You’re Actually a Mouse (Or Something)
There’s a pervasive myth among SEOs and online content marketers that “better is better.” This idea is foolhardy in the extreme. Free yourself of it, and you’ll save massive amounts of time and energy.
Wait a minute. Isn’t the idea that “better is better” tautologically true? How could anyone argue against it? And if creating better content over time isn’t helpful, then what on God’s green Earth is?
Let’s back up here and take a lay of the landscape.
We can stipulate upfront that excellent content can and does knock people’s socks off. Great content CAN equal great marketing, and you obviously need a bare minimum of content (no matter what industry you’re in) to educate buyers to know you exist and to get them to buy your product or service.
Yet too many marketers – even grizzled veterans who should know better – use a surprisingly crude and naïve content strategy: the more content you spew into the marketplace, and the better that content “gives consumers what they want,” the more you’ll win. So your goal is to make content that’s better than any of your competitors and stay at the top of the heap.
The team at IntuitiveSEO encapsulates this philosophy here (and I’m not trying to pick on them at all! Just pointing out the CW in our field):
“The more attuned we are to the needs and desires of our fellow humans, the better we will be at search engine optimization. Sure there are an infinite number of tricks and tools that can help us along the way, and many are incredibly useful, but the most important things you need to know before creating a web page or a blog post is simply: What question is the page answering? When you know this, you can build the page. And, ideally, if you answer the question better than anyone else, search engines like Google and Bing will notice and raise your page to the top of search results for that particular query.”
Why Not Fight a War of Attrition?
This approach recalls in some ways the nuclear arms race during the heyday of the Cold War, when both the U.S. and the USSR stockpiled thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Why do this? Because whoever had the most and best missile systems would be more likely to survive WW3.
It’s a twisted mentality. At some point, you or your enemy will run out of money to continue the build up, and one side will collapse. In the actual Cold War, the USSR blinked first, because it ran out of resources and will. The Wall came down. Blue jeans and Gorky Park prevailed. Etcetra.
The same concept applies online. If you go up against the big kahuna in your market, you better have a LOT of resources in the tank. It’s costly, agonizing, brutal, unfun. The consumers of your and your enemies’ content might benefit, but you all (or at least most of you, except for the winner, but maybe even including the winner!) might go broke in the process.
Epic Example to Prove the Point
You sell gardening supplies. You’ve got a nice website. But your biggest competitor is kicking your rear in the SERPs. She has a 40 page resource library on her site detailing how every garden supply in her shop works.
Ah-ha! You think (or your SEO tells you to think). I need more and better content than she has!
So you dig into your pockets and finance an 80 page resource about tools, including multimedia and include YouTube videos and podcasts and Instagram and so forth.
You get your bump. But then she responds by setting up a Tool Time podcast, which knocks you out of 1st.
You respond by launching an independent movie network about tools.
And on and on it goes until one of you ends up bankrupt or exhausted and dead at your desk.
In more conventional marketing parlance, this competitive behavior is known as fighting in a “Red Ocean.” This Australian company explains:
“Red Ocean companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of existing demand. As the market space gets crowded, prospects for profits and growth reduce. Products become commodities and cut throat competition turns the ocean bloody red.”
You are contesting space that already exists in the consumer’s mind. Costumers know that “information about garden tools online” is a thing – a kind of intellectual commodity. So the highest bidder (i.e. he or she with the best content in that space) wins the attention.
Smart marketers, however, understand the power of what’s known as disruptive innovation or “Blue Ocean” marketing. Per our friends Down Under:
“Blue Ocean companies, in contrast, access untapped market space and create demand, and so they have the opportunity for highly profitable growth. In Blue Oceans, competition is irrelevant. Yes, imitators arise, but experience shows there is a wide window of opportunity to stay ahead of imitators.
What consistently separates winners from losers in creating Blue Oceans is their approach to strategy. Creators of blue oceans do not use the competition as their benchmark, but follow a different strategic logic that we call value innovation.
Instead of focusing on beating the competition, make them irrelevant by simultaneously creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space.”
Basically, when you create a new space in the consumer’s mind, there are no competitors.
Al Ries and Jack Trout in their famous book, the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, called this idea by a different name, the Law of Category:
“Given that it’s very hard to gain leadership in a category where competition already exists, it’s better to create a product in new category than trying to attack existing categories. Category doesn’t have to be radically different, e.g. if there’s dominant player in imported beer, one can become the first to import light beer. If one can’t be the first to fly over Atlantic, one can still be the first woman to fly over Atlantic.”
Being 10 % better, 10 % cheaper, 10 % faster, 10 % whatever with your content can sorta get you there. But it’s a slog.
Change the rules of the game, though – create a “category of one” for your content – and you will crush it.
To continue with our garden tool marketing Cold War example… A disruptive idea might be to create a funny puppet show featuring puppets dressed up as tools acting in skits. The goal is different – you’re not just trying to inform people about tools (fighting in the commodity space), you are trying to entertain and inform – something no one else is doing. This sets you apart!
Disruptive Innovation Works in Content Marketing and in Business
Before it blew up financially, FedEx found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. At the time, it offered three tiers of service: overnight, 2-3 day, and longer term. But then the company had an epiphany and saw an opportunity to create a new category for itself: to become known as the “when it absolutely positively it has to be there overnight” company.
It stopped advertising its other services – it did less!! – and promptly exploded into the stratosphere.
Starbucks did the same thing. Starbucks basically took the concept of “we’re only going to do coffee” and owned that space by creating something new. Same with Sunglasses Hut. Before Sunglasses Hut opened, if you wanted sunglasses, you’d have to go to a grocery store or a Walgreens or wherever. But Sunglasses Hut owned its space by creating something new.
The Big Takeaways
When building a content marketing strategy, don’t get caught in the rat race. Don’t go for “better” – go for “new.” People are attracted to new.
I’m not saying it’s easy to find that angle. And your content obviously must mesh with your goals and business’s personality and who your market is. But don’t stop looking for that new angle – it’s worth the push!
Whatever you do or dream you can do – begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe