In a highly competitive business environment, establishing points of differentiation that add value can often mark the difference between failure and success. Unfortunately, differentiation often comes at a steep price particularly when it concerns product innovation. In the retail FX space, where competitive pricing practices have drastically reduced revenues, those who are not in a position to develop their own proprietary technologies need other means to create competitive differentiation.
But what would those other means consist of? Service is definitely not one of them. Sure, a company that provides products that are identical to their competitors may have an edge if their service is superior. But isn’t service a given? What company in this position would not say, “our company was built on superior service,” especially if they have nothing else new or different to offer? That’s not a statement of differentiation; it’s herd mentality.
A customer has several reasons why s/he prefers one company to another: products, convenience, low costs, good customer service, etc. Is that all there is to it? These are all rudimentary functions enfolded within the schematics of commercial practice. Is there not another element that expresses a certain personality or ‘spirit’ of a company’s culture that actually resonates with customers; one that potentially transforms customers into an active and inspired group of followers and proselytizers? There is one area of practice that can help accomplish this if done right: content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term process for creating and distributing valuable content to attract, engage, and acquire a particular target audience. The end goal is to influence profitable customer action. It is not a short-term campaign, nor is it bombardment of sales solicitations.
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How does it work? Let’s try an easy thought experiment:
- You need (product) Y.
- Both Company A and Company B sell Y (with very little difference in quality and price).
- Company B regularly publishes and sends you information that is both interesting and useful and that actually benefits your lifestyle or professional enterprise (and it has nothing to do with selling product Y).
- Which company goes the extra mile to provide customers with added value?
- Which company better expresses its culture, demeanor, and attitude toward customers and markets?
- Which company might actually establish a following as a thought leader or go-to source for relevant information?
- Which company might you end up buying from (given that both offer the same products)?
- If you are a company owner or executive, which company are you more like: A or B?
Why Use Content Marketing?
Let’s suppose your brokerage does not offer a product or technology that is completely innovative, in demand, or solely your own. You offer low cost services…like everyone else. You may have a white label platform…that your clients know is the same platform offered by your competitors, though under different names. Perhaps you offer the same platforms as everyone else. If you were to use the Gartner Group’s Competitive Swap Test, wherein you swap your name out with a competitor’s for any product or service you provide, you realize that there isn’t much of a difference.
Perhaps you offer so many platforms and services that you are trying to be everything to everyone, thereby diluting your chance at being the best in the world at something (as Seth Godin would put it). Note that ‘best’ means best at one or few things and ‘in the world’ means in a customer’s world of interests (not the entire world, of course).
In short, if you can’t innovate in the realm of products, then you need to do ‘something’ of value that sticks out. Companies are not defined solely by their products, operations, or sales; this is true especially from a customer’s perspective. Sometimes, there’s a certain intangible feeling or factor that comes into play: a sense of something intangible yet compelling. Maybe it has something to do with a strong brand. But a brand is just the starting point. The potential that a ‘brand’ envelops often exceeds the limited dimensional perspectives through which a customer views and accesses a company’s offerings. Smart companies utilize this knowledge and press further by offering and delivering information that enhances the actions or beliefs of their target audience.