Talking Content Marketing – With Ian Rhodes

Ian Rhodes_Talking Content Marketing_The ID GroupTalking Content Marketing brings an interview a bit more closer to home with UK marketing consultant Ian Rhodes.

Ian’s force is persuading clients to invest their resource and energies into better understanding their online audience and reshaping their brand accordingly. He calls it the development of a ‘brand less ordinary’.

Lets look at a UK perspective and the role businesses now need to play in their marketplace.

Six questions, six answers time to get down to the nitty gritty.

From what you see around you, is the UK embracing a content mindset more or are we still more familiar with a mindset of interruption and self-promotion?

There’s progress. We are doing. There’s no question about that. We’re doing ‘the blog thing’. You see most websites now attaching ‘blog’ to their navigation bars and a scattering of articles now being published. However, I see very little direction or purpose behind how businesses approach their content marketing efforts. There’s a confidence crisis when businesses look at the evolutionary marketing transition from ‘us’ to ‘them’. It’s easier to talk about ourselves and our business endeavours than ask questions of our audience. That’s where the challenge lies.

We’re comfortable with a mindset of self-promotion. We’re comfortable spending considerable chunks of our budget through Adwords and social channels to grow our audience. We then work on assumptions of x visitors yielding y revenues or leads. But there’s little activity in creating experience. That’s where the content mindset should be focused. We’ll get there. We have to.

Your ‘I’ve got better things to do today than read your blog‘ article, do you see a role for the blog as a mouthpiece for an organisation to own its space within a marketplace rather than a space that is becoming increasingly harder to be found/recognised?

Massively so. As we spend more time publishing great content it helps us, as businesses, get a better understanding of what we do (why we matter) from our client’s perspective. It helps initiate conversation. And we learn more about our audience through those conversations. Again, it’s an evolutionary process. As that process matures you see ‘blogs’ at the forefront rather than as a bolt-on side product of marketing endeavour. We no longer need to ask our visitors to ‘read our blog’. Those businesses are utilising their blog as a natural lead in to understanding their organisation and to help share their perspective on the challenge(s) their audience face.

Do businesses now need to take on the role of educators and teachers within their marketplace to differentiate?

This is a question where my response would deviate week to week. Yes, we must take on a role of the educator. Yes, that educational process must lead into a sales process. The challenge every business will face is connecting the two. So, are we educators or sales people? I don’t think the label really matters. What does matter is knowing our role through that transition process.

The answer differs for retailers as it will for a B2B organisation with a lengthy sales process. We can be the greatest teachers, but if we’re teaching outside the context of our product we’ll have very little to show in return. That’s why we need to see a direct relationship between the marketer and their audience develop far greater than the Chinese whispers understanding we have witnessed in the past.

You highlight the role for others to break convention. Has the role of technology and the democratisation of traditional media ie. we can now become media companies, the greatest opportunity to build our message and audience?

It’s by far and away the biggest opportunity to connect with our audience and solidify the brand audience relationship.

A question I always ask a new client, or within a workshop, is ‘Google have just closed Adwords down, what are you going to do?’. It’s a real conversation starter!How do you plug that gap in traffic? The focus is always placed upon that first month. I want businesses to think about the answer long-term. So, you’re spending £50k a month on Adwords, that one month of breathing time is enough to devise a strategy to build out your content strategy. Look to months two and three to implement your plan and now there’ £150k in the kitty. There’s a content team and further time to ensure buy-in across the organisation.

That’s why I talk (a lot) about breaking convention. Adwords won’t shut down, but I like businesses to begin thinking about the gradual transition that they could be putting in place. To create their ‘media company’ plan.

In terms of industry figures, who influences you?

I’ve read a book a week for as long as I can remember. There’s an amazing amount of valuable discussion and writing taking place which is so crucial for any business leader or market to be aware of and acting upon.

Andrew Davis – for ideas and inspiration on using content to create a marketing asset

Bernadette Jiwa – to learn the importance of the art of storytelling within our marketing strategy

Brian Solis – for where the industry is heading

Warren Berger – for helping us to understand the power of questioning and bringing our ideas together

Roger Dooley – how we take what we know and formulate our message in a way that our audience will understand and act upon

Which brands, in your opinion, tell their story well?

I love the brands where they let their own audience tell their story. It’s far less obvious and far more persuasive. Take Nest (https://nest.com/blog/2014/03/19/why-we-made-nest-protect/_as an example. One story I’m fascinated to see unfold is Custom Made (http://www.custommade.com/). They’re changing the way we buy and telling the story of the craftsman and the buyer. It’s fascinating to see how they’re acting as the intermediary between the two.

It’s always interesting to see how the startups and disruptors (you just need to look at a typical kickstarter) find it so much easier to deliver their message through story. They’re telling the story of their audience which is far more powerful than the simple biographical representation we see of the already established brands.


 

Thanks to Ian for his input to the Talking Content Marketing programme. Why not find out more from the spaces that Ian occupies:

Ian on Twitter: click here

Ian’s site: click here

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