A few years ago, we wrote a post titled “Content Isn’t King—Relationships Are!” in which we unpacked the popular—yet, in our opinion, very misguided—belief that the most important way for a company to increase its business is to create and disseminate content.
This “if you build it, they will come” philosophy works just fine in movies about constructing baseball diamonds in the middle of cornfields, but doesn’t really hold water in the real-life business world. Content alone won’t build your business. Sure, it can be a great door-opener, and sometimes it’s the only door-opener to relationship-building opportunities with clients. But if you want to go beyond attracting someone’s attention, you need to do a lot more.
In recent years, many companies have seized on content as their main offering. Social media, online publishing, and e-mail make it very easy and inexpensive to create and disseminate content. As we’ve explained elsewhere, though, that approach is very problematic, because often that content is inadequate, irrelevant, and annoying to its target audience. Content alone doesn’t cut it. And when that content is perceived as fluff or noise, then it can actually hurt you.
Relationships form the foundation of any successful business: how the organization connects with its clients, how employees and managers work together, how the company reaches out to new audiences. But relationships don’t simply arise from positive communication. They’re constructed and reinforced when an organization delivers on its promise to deliver something of value.
And that’s where marketing comes in. If you’re using content to attract customers, then not only do you need to provide good content, but you need to make sure that people also connect your content to your company. Without that connection, you could be missing countless opportunities to leverage that content.
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful outreach tools out there. For example, think about every time an online video goes viral because lots of people think it’s good enough to share. If the original source of the video is unknown, people just enjoy an entertaining video. But if the source is known and credited, people not only enjoy an entertaining video, but they also often look to see what else that source has produced.
Word of mouth drives a tremendous amount of business. Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Angie’s List are just a few of the companies whose business models are based on the idea that consumers based their business decisions at least in part on what other people think. I bet very few people buy anything on Amazon without taking at least a cursory glance at its customer reviews. And would you even dream of hiring someone without reading through the recommendations on his or her LinkedIn profile?
How can you leverage word-of-mouth marketing for yourself? First, you need to give people something to talk about. That’s where content (good content only, please!) comes in. But remember, content can’t carry the load by itself: you’ll also need top-notch products and services. You want the positive buzz about your company to be rooted in fact, not fiction, so be sure you actually offer something valuable.
Next, you need to encourage people to talk about you. Actively work on your relationships so that your customers think so positively about you that they’re eager to spread the word about what you offer. (This helps with recruitment and retention, too: if you provide a great working environment and build strong relationships with your current and former employees, they will talk you up so much that candidates will be flocking to your doors!) If your organization offers excellent services and products, your clients and employees will be your top supporters and cheerleaders—and they’ll help you attract an audience that’s ready to see what you offer.
In spite of what some pundits say, content isn’t king. We still believe that strong relationships are the most critical component of a successful company. But even though content isn’t actually king, it still plays a critical role in a business plan. If relationships rule the kingdom, then content is the king’s champion, and word-of-mouth is the royal herald—and together they work to fortify the kingdom and sing its praises!