Why Your Content Strategy Is Still a Step Behind the Competition

by Trisha Gallagher | November 2, 2020

Let’s face it. Coming up with new content is always tough. It’s even more difficult if your industry is already saturated with eBooks, blogs, and ad copy that all address the same topics over and over.

Stuck in a rut with your marketing content? Marketers will often give you the same advice: check on your competitors. Find out what’s working for them, and create content that puts your own unique spin on their idea or concept. 

And while it’s important to keep an eye on your competitors, it’s not always sound advice. Your competitors spent time and resources developing these ideas—and for good reason. They’re itching to stay ahead of the competition, while you may always be one step behind.

Competitor assumptions that can lead you nowhere

When you copy a competitor’s idea, no matter how much you customize it for your products or services, you’re working off a few problematic assumptions.

  1. That your competitor is actually achieving success with this strategy. You may be able to tell how this piece of content is performing on Google, but is the company actually meeting KPIs? Does this piece of content lead to conversions? 
  2. That this will work for your audience. Your content competitors may have a slightly different target audience than yours. Perhaps they have an enterprise audience while yours is mid-market. They’re focused on reaching IT or financial leaders while your sales team is speaking with CEOs. Although you have a similar product or service, their content may not work within your audience, campaigns, and goals.
  3. That this type of content hasn’t exhausted its potential. Your competitors have been advertising this content heavily in paid ads, using it to pitch ideas to industry publications, and pushing it out to their email lists. At this point, will your content really be able to compete? Or has this idea run its course?

Truthfully, you won’t know how well a piece of content works for your target audience until you test it yourself. And by the time you publish content that is similar to a competitor’s, there may be little opportunity left for it to succeed.

When your content strategy depends on following a competitor’s lead, you’ll always be a step behind. This leaves your competitors ample time to move on to the next great idea.

Your content strategy can quickly grow stale

When you pay close attention to your competitors, you might find that there’s one format or template they use over and over again. And this can lead to assumptions about what works and what doesn’t work within your industry.

But when your email subscribers, social media followers, and ad targets get the same type of content from you over and over again—and from your competitors—they can quickly lose interest. 

Your content should never grow stagnant. Content strategy is a balance between innovation, quality, and data. How will you know what your audience responds to until you test ideas and examine the data? And how can you test new ideas if you never try them?

It’s time to part ways with your industry assumptions. Develop a strategy that’s truly focused on your audience, your KPIs, and a brand message that turns heads.

Flip a competitor’s idea on its head

Yes, tracking your competitors plays a key role in your ongoing content success. However, that doesn’t mean their strategies should become your own. 

A better option? Take an idea or concept your competitors repeat over and over, and flip it on its head. 

Let’s say, for example, you work in investment banking. Marketers in this space often work under the assumption that content has to be straightforward and direct. That means your audience is receiving the same messaging and reading long, data-packed whitepapers from you and your competitors over and over again.

But what if you turned that idea around?

Take everything you know about your audience. Yes, they want to know growth trends and learn about investment opportunities in their industries. But they are also busy people with families and full email inboxes. They have limited time to invest in learning about your company. A bit of humor, a creative headline, or an out-of-this-world video introduction could be just what you need to help your audience get to know you quickly.

Questions to ask to stay ahead of the content game

If you’re ready to invest time into content that stays ahead of the competition, it’s time to ask questions that go beyond competitor awareness.

  • How can you truly differentiate your content from your competitors’? 
  • What assumptions exist within your industry that you have not yet tested?
  • What channels help you to best communicate your unique value proposition?
  • What’s working outside of your industry but with a similar audience?
  • Do you have the time and resources to develop content, test your ideas, and refine your strategy over time?

That last point may be the most vital. Most content teams are relatively small and don’t have the time to develop ideas that challenge industry assumptions while demonstrating an understanding of their audiences’ needs and pain points.If you’re ready to grow your content team and take steps to become the content leader in your industry, contact our team today.

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