What’s Next for Content Marketing?

I’ve been engaging in content marketing for more than a decade. I’ve used content marketing to take an obscure, niche, commodity business, that no one wanted to write about, and turn it into a branded service that’s known as a leader in its industry.

Back in 2006, no one in the electronics industry cared about manufacturing. It was something that stood between design and selling. It was a wall, a black hole, that sucked up time and money, and eventually, hopefully, ended up spitting out products.

Trying to get press releases, case studies, and other material published, was a non-starter. I was told, many times, that: “our readers aren’t interested in manufacturing”, or: “we don’t publish anything about manufacturing.” Granted, I was talking to electronics engineering publications, not manufacturing or purchasing publications, but I had my reasons.

Prior to that time, manufacturing had simply been one small part of the supply chain. It was a purchasing and manufacturing issue and it was bought and sold through that supply chain. It seemed to make sense to promote my company, Screaming Circuits, through the supply chain media channel.

It would have made sense, except we were breaking the supply chain mold. We were selling direct to electronics engineers. We were selling a service, that would, years later, be called personal, or on-demand manufacturing. We were turning the small volume manufacturing world on its head, and the people buying from us were not readers of supply chain media.

Just turning to a different set of media, as I quickly learned, wasn’t enough to sell manufacturing to engineers. I had to change what I presented to the media. I also had to create my own publishing channel, until the engineering media world caught up.

We published easy to digest, short subject, technical content in our blog. We pushed it through our customer newsletter. We linked to it from message boards and social media. Eventually, we started turning it into publishable articles, and made our way into the mainstream engineering media world.

Over the years, we created a library of credible, valuable content, that’s been used and published by dozens of organizations – partners, and media – and has been sought out by other industry players. Media and industry leading companies come to us for content, advice, solutions, and marketing help. We’ve been referred to, by media industry experts, as “journalism.”

And, most important for a for-profit corporation, we’ve outgrown the manufacturing industry in the country. We’ve grown in absolute terms, every year – except the one really bad recession year, and we’d caught up and surpassed our pre-recession record in the following year. I’d have to say that content marketing at Screaming Circuits has been an unqualified success.

So, what’s next? More content marketing? Something different?

I wouldn’t use the phrase: “out with the old, and in with the new”, but there will be an element of that in the marketing universe. Content marketing hasn’t run its course, though it is quite long in the teeth for some of us early adopters. It won’t go away, but it does have to change and adapt.

For Screaming Circuits, the company blog has always been the anchor. That blog will stay, but I don’t know that I’d call it an anchor anymore. Content is used differently than it was a decade ago, and it needs ways to stay fresh and accessible. A blog is still a great thing, but its structure falls down when it holds 700 plus articles that don’t go out of date. It’s a vehicle for presenting content, but not a good one for reusing content.

Public relations, the granddaddy of content marketing was largely a one way street: information went out. Content marketing turned that into a multi-path, two way boulevard. The next derivative turns it into an interconnected world, with content being as much a product as is the core of what the company sells.

The content becomes a core competence of the company, and becomes a major part of the value proposition. That’s what follows content marketing. Content merges with the core of who and what the company is.

Content marketing doesn’t go away. It just becomes something greater, and more valuable to company and customer alike. If those of us who developed and matured content marketing are up to the task, the time is now.