When New Strategy Is Better Than Better Strategy

Doing nothing when your content strategy isn’t completely broken nets nothing. While that may not be wrong, having some effort toward doing something new nets, at minimum, a new perspective on the possibilities.

With content now ingrained as part of a modern marketing approach, I work with many businesses – large and small – on reinventing existing content strategies.

In many cases, the challenge is the incremental improvements do not get anybody’s attention. The approach is broken (or suboptimal) but not so broken that people cannot maintain its relative success. The pain of changing something has not yet surpassed the pain of changing nothing.

It’s a Catch-22: You don’t throw out the existing approach to your content strategy because, well, you worked hard on it. And you question if this reinvention will prove as amazing as promised. Inevitably, you do not make a major change. Thus, you do not risk failing at something that might turn out to be remarkable.

Seth Godin wrote a decade ago about making something incrementally better. As he said:

If you define success as getting closer and closer to a mythical perfection, an agreed upon standard, it’s extremely difficult to become remarkable. Particularly if the field is competitive. Can’t get rounder than round.

That really stuck with me because I see a lot of digital marketing strategies falling into a similar rut these days. Teams get stuck pushing harder than ever for every single incremental improvement.

But treating and trying new approaches or content can often provide the needed shakeup – not because of a more efficient or productive approach, but because it provides a different perspective on what’s possible.

Resisting change because it’s not that bad

An audit of a client’s marketing content development process found the content team suffered because all marketing budgets were designated in siloed product groups. The content team had no ability to control requests, and the product groups had no way to control duplicative content across teams.

I strongly recommended the addition of a collaborative content planning step in their development process. Unfortunately, many of the product teams viewed the efficiency promise only as an incremental improvement to an otherwise working model. They resisted adding “yet another step” to their content process. For them, not changing anything was easier than risking changing the way they worked for a possible improvement.

Nothing changed. What was the result?

Well, nothing. Nothing happened. Nobody got fired, and no massive failures happened. Content development just kept going. To me, this is the most insidious thing. You could argue nothing was really broken to fix. But the company failed to gain any new perspective on how much better it could be.

You do most things based on what you think you know today. But what if that knowledge is wrong? Or how much better could your efforts be if you took the time to change your perspective, even for a moment?

Using new maps can create new experiences

Sometimes the idea of creating new, innovative content strategies can seem esoteric. Even raising the discussion seems like going the way of the “whooey wah wah” brand value conversations that didn’t move the needle and caused frustration in the past.

I know a large B2B company where the global marketing team created incredible experiences for customers, partners, and even prospective employees. But over the last 10 years, the steady drip of not doing anything new has reduced the team to doing … almost nothing. They now only send brand emails created by an agency, review and distribute internal sell sheets created by the design team, create content on the company’s “sustainable” practices, and ensure the correct use of the logo in press releases by the comms team.

Is it any wonder this team saw the first of the company’s bulk layoffs recently?

Any wonder why a global marketing team that did nothing new for over 10 years was the first to experience company layoffs, asks @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent.

As marketing teams, you must turn your maps upside down occasionally and adopt a new perspective on what it takes to differentiate your business and a new approach to your content and marketing strategy. For example, what if you:

Do something new because it changes direction.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the hit series South Park do something remarkable when they script episodes. When they write a sequence, they replace all the “and then” phrases in favor of “but and therefore.” It changes the nature of the script and provides new perspectives. It’s not always brilliant, but it always helps them find better ways.

What if you create a new way to deliver content to sales teams through training events rather than distributing it through the DAM system? It might even be less efficient, but what if it gives a new perspective on how to enable a better sales experience?

Do something new because you don’t know how.

A common pushback I hear when recommending changes to content management, distribution, structured content, or even new content platforms: “We don’t know how.”

Oddly, this response usually doesn’t come from the practitioners but from senior leadership. Their reluctance to adopt a fundamentally new approach happens because the organization doesn’t understand it. It is unfortunate that “not knowing how” is the equivalent of “we can’t do it” simply because the effort of learning doesn’t outweigh the risk of losing the average momentum doing it the way you do it.

Ultimately, you need to be comfortable with only one change – changing your ability to change with the new. Businesses add more and more interfaces, content types, and complex workflows every single day. Sales, marketing, product design, customer service, the agency, and your partners all engage directly with your audiences.

As you exercise this new business muscle of content marketing, customer experience, and expanded customer touchpoints, you should understand all these goals depend on your ability to create new. New what? New everything. You just have to try new.

Independent of where you sit in the organization, you have the power to develop these new maps. It’s a choice – you can continue to only fix things in such disrepair as to qualify for demolition, or you can look at things that might be better (or not) and try a new way of doing it.

You might fail. Or you might not. But at least you’ll have a new perspective.   

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