If you are running a marathon and pass the person in second place, what position do you hold?
The correct answer is second place.
The race to second place is pervasive in the business community. Every company wants to be the leader but few are willing to take the risk to lead. Often the first question posed in response to a new initiative is — such as social media or content marketing — is who else is doing it?
Nothing gets senior management’s attention like the competition. Benchmarking the competition is a near-sure-fire way to make the case for content marketing. Replicate the effort in sleeker packaging and a head for first.
Some might argue this is the Microsoft strategy — though in fairness Bing is doing things Google isn’t with Klout, Quora and others. Say what you will about Klout. It is an interesting marketing tool and Microsoft does deserve credit for experimenting.
Leaders lead from the front. They try new things and they take risks. Surely, they also fail, but dust themselves off and get back to it the next day.
Any new marketing effort includes inherent risks — an investment with little return or hard to measure return. Marketing must change because the effectiveness of traditional marketing efforts are despised: people don’t hate marketing, they hate the interruption!
Marketing with useful, informative content is inviting, it’s engaging and increases the odds of being shared. This isn’t a new approach, but it for many organizations it’s a new mindset. It’s a long slow race to second place.
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Good timing for me - was just reading about marketing automation piece on SpinSucks, and it got me thinking about how marketers/PR/brands sometimes get structure right, or content, but rarely both.
They were talking about Twitter auto-DMs (admittedly a wasteland at this point) but I started thinking about the standard "download whitepaper/case study and give us your email so we can market to you" problem.
The problem, as I see it, is that marketers are often guilty of not providing a structure that allows for real conversation with customers. Or, if they do, it is only in the context of buying. Some are doing this better than others, but very few are actually having a conversation. And a meaningful conversation is what you'll need in order to connect with that (fairly large) portion of people not ready to buy yet.
Great post, as always, Frank! I find it's a commonality that transcends marketing, as I'm finding myself doing a lot of "peer review" in the higher education setting, which is to say I'm scoping out the competition. The other problem of being first/the leader is you always have to look behind you to see who's catching up to take your place. Either way, you have to take the risk sometimes and be the leader in order to move beyond the stigma of always coming in second.