How Company Values Challenge a Content Strategy

It’s a challenge to navigate the 21st century in business. In order to compete effectively, companies need to be part of different networks and actively engage customers through all the noise. According to Contently, less than 50 percent of marketers would rate their content as effective, despite the fact that 73 percent of marketers were creating more content in 2015 than the year before.

The Influence of Core Values
The problem is that, as Seth Godin said, “Content marketing is the only marketing we have left” — but so much of it is missing conviction. It tries to anticipate the needs of customers instead of developing a rapport between the company and the consumer.

“It’s getting more and more difficult for companies to handle complexity: increasing customer demands for more customization, more convenience, lower costs and faster innovation. At some point the machine breaks down and companies just can’t handle it,” explains author Dave Gray. “The connected company has the same kinds of dense, dynamic, and complex properties of well-designed cities: fast pace, high energy, rapid innovation and high productivity.” And, this ability to connect helps them navigate the complexity organically, like a conversation.

Connecting With Customers on Values
Core values are a solid common denominator. They can form the basis of that conversation with both customers and your sales team. When senior leaders are able to explain company values to employees, they empower them to follow that board direction and deliver results, as opposed to micromanaging efforts. This shared vision makes the way employees deal with customers more uniform and consistent, but it also impacts your client base.

For customers, connecting on core values comes down to resonance. “With meaningful resonance, we don’t just take our kernel and project it outward multiple times as a copy. We change our content and the way we create it based on the iterations we have with our audience,” says Samantha Stone, founder of The Marketing Advisory Network. “Their viewing of it, their feedback about it, their modification of it for their own purposes — they all inform what we create. Rather than a ripple effect, it potentially becomes a very different thing than we may have started out doing.” And, that’s okay. Customer values can inform content strategies and help your company agilely respond to those shared beliefs.

Importance of Addressing Values
More importantly, when you start addressing customer values and looking for shared beliefs, you open the door for earned media — that’s when your customers actually become the marketing channel. When something goes “viral,” this is earned media in action. Unlike owned media, such as your website and social media, or paid media, such as display ads, earned media is the most credible. It is seen as the most authentic because your company has no control over it and it doesn’t sell your products. Instead, it reinforces your brand values and shared beliefs to the world.

Producing a client-centric marketing strategy is the best way to attract earned media. Client centricity starts with redefining your products and services in the way your customers actually use them instead of how you assume they use them or need them. From there, you need to keep customers engaged by creating a conversation with them — give and take. This creates more buy-in and keeps clients interested and engaged with your company. Next, sources of revenue diversify to meet the way your customers use your products and services. As you respond to needs directly, productivity goes up and customer service improves, creating a client centricity loop.

The Downside of Change
One of the biggest downsides of change is that you have to navigate uncharted waters. Just ask Zappos. The popular online retail company calls it holacracy – an organizational hierarchy that divides what the company needs to do by what employees find the most interesting, so individuals often fill different roles, sometimes even in different departments. Zappos saw major gains in productivity once its holacracy was adopted.

Zapped by Zappos
“Research shows that every time the size of a city doubles, productivity per resident goes up by 15%,” explains John Bunch, holacracy implementation lead at Zappos. “But when companies double in size, actually the exact opposite thing happens, productivity per employee goes down. And part of the reason why we think that is that in cities, you are self-organized, you’re self-directed.”

Then, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh took it a step farther with TEAL, a management system that eliminates people managers. Roughly 18% of Zappos’ 1,500 employees left after that, choosing a buyout instead of TEAL – but the ones who remained shared beliefs. In the end, Zappos is just as effective as before the cuts. Hsieh effectively destroyed the village to save it but stories around the company did change.

When shared beliefs inform your content strategy, you put your company in a position to allow employees and your content to become more autonomous. While this is not without challenges nor pain, it is effective and truthful.