How to find your content tilt. Or, how to zig while everyone else zags.
A couple of weeks ago, godfather of content marketing Joe Pulizzi gave the keynote speech - The Future of B2B Content and What Marketing Professionals Need to Do Now to Survive the Crisis - at GMC’s B2B Growth and Innovation Summit.
He reckons COVID-19 has pushed content marketing into its third stage, which brings huge opportunity for content marketers to increase the value they add to businesses:
“Every time we get a big tragedy like we’re going through right now, advertising gets cut and we have to be more nimble. We have to be flexible. We have to really think about our customer needs. And that’s where content marketing shines.
And that’s why we’re seeing another resurgence – which I think will be the third stage, the most important stage to date – and you’re really going to see content marketing get more and more of the budget as we go on.”
The problem is though, more content means it’s harder than ever to stand out. Your audience are drowning in a sea of samey so-so content – and that’s holding your content marketing back from driving real results.
To survive and thrive, Pulizzi says, content marketers need to urgently reassess their strategic approach to content. And re-evaluating your content tilt is a crucial tactic.
For more COVID-19 marketing tactics, grab Joe’s guide ‘Corona Marketing: What Marketing Professionals Need to Do Now to Survive the Crisis’ for free here.
What is a content tilt?
“A content mission isn’t enough. You need a content tilt”.
(Joe Pulizzi, B2B Growth and Innovation Summit 2020)
Common B2B content marketing wisdom has it that you should write in your “sweet spot” (another Pulizzi term). That is, you write at the intersection of what you’re an expert at and what your audience needs.
That sounds obvious. You’re an onboarding software provider so you write about onboarding, employee experience, employee engagement, productivity, and so on. And that’s what your audience needs to hear, because they have a vested interested in creating an engaged, productive, motivated workforce with low turnover.
But that’s the problem.
Because your friendly next-door HRIS software providers, and the recruitment software providers down the street, and the LMS providers two streets over? They all write about employee experience, employee engagement, productivity and so on too.
That’s where a content tilt comes into play.
Pulizzi defines a content tilt as “the area of little to no competition that gives you a chance to break through”. That is, it’s your unique angle. The lens you apply to all your insights, so they’re uniquely yours.
So when prospective customers land on your content, they learn something they couldn’t’ve learned anywhere else. You provide exclusive insight. And so you become a definitive expert in that space.
And that’s where you genuinely cut through the noise, because you actually have something to say. Not a manufactured opinion or regurgitated facts.
Four ways to find your content tilt
In his keynote, Joe Pulizzi recommended four areas you might explore to find your tilt:
And we've added a bonus 5th too. Keep reading.
1 - Audience
How far can you drill into your audience and their concerns?
Say you’re a video interviewing software provider. Instead of creating an eBook about the benefits of video interviewing, could you create an eBook about the benefits of video interviewing for food service businesses operating a franchise model, facing extreme seasonal peaks?
Because sure, if I’m an HR Director in a food service business operating a franchise model and facing extreme seasonal peaks, the first eBook might be interesting. But there’s a good bet I could go to any of your competitors and download exactly the same.
But the latter? That eBook speaks straight to me, and it’s the only piece of content like it. And suddenly, you’re the experts I trust for specialist advice about my biz.
Read more about using buyer personas to inform your content…
2 – Story Positioning
What else could you call what you’re doing?
Pulizzi talks about how you can tilt from a positioning standpoint by embracing the power of naming.
For example, when founding the Content Marketing Institute - now a global powerhouse in the content marketing space – he created the term “content marketing” to appeal more directly to marketers. But the practice wasn’t new – it was being practiced as ‘custom publishing’.
By calling what you’re doing something slightly different from your competitors, you carve out space for yourself as an expert. You make what you’re doing seem new and exclusive, even if it’s not.
3 – Platform
Where else could you engage with your audience?
You publish on the platforms you publish on because that’s where your audience consume content, right?
But what if, you never actually followed your audience’s lead in deciding which platforms to publish on? What if instead, you followed your competitors who followed each other, in an endless conga line?
If that’s what happened, maybe your customers are several steps ahead of where you think they are. And if you start closing that gap, you might find opportunities to tilt that your competitors, stuck in their endless dance with each other, haven’t explored yet.
4 – Subject Matter
How could you look at your subject matter differently?
You can’t fake this. It comes from putting your ideas under a microscope; from cross-examining new perspectives.
That’s why working with passionate, switched-on people matters. You need people who’re excited to be in your space, and smart enough to think critically about your wider environment. They’re the people who’ll buy into you – but more importantly, interrogate you.
Encourage and embrace those challenging conversations. They can help you uncover a new perspective that breathes fresh life into overdone subject matter.
We’d also then add a fifth to Pulizzi’s list:
5 – Tone of voice
How can you sound different from everyone else?
As we’ve written before, tone of voice can be a fabulous differentiator. Especially in B2B tech, where ‘corporate robot’ is often the plat du jour.
Go look at your competitors. If they’re all talking about the same things in the same way (which they almost certainly are), that’s an opportunity gap.
That’s not saying you should totally overhaul your brand voice – but maybe it’s something you’ve never given much concrete thought to, or at least not recently. Perhaps there’s a hidden tilt opportunity worth exploring.
Standing out from the quintillion other pieces of content ensnaring your audience’s attention was a major content marketing challenge long before COVID-19.
But if Joe Pulizzi’s right, this third stage of content marketing offers heaps of opportunity for content-first businesses to extend their lead on the competition. Which means now’s a fantastic time to revisit your content strategy and re-evaluate your content tilt.
Let us know if you need some help with that.