Digital Summit

Last week’s inaugural Digital Summit Phoenix embraced two key realities for marketers. Speakers from Mashable, Hubspot, YouTube, Google, Twitter and many more focused on two facts that are impacting everything from search to social media:

  • There is no silver bullet for digital marketing
  • Get a content marketing strategy or get left behind

No Foolproof Secret to Success

There is no silver bullet, as in…

  • No guarantee that your video will go viral
  • No shortcut to preserving your Google rank from year to year
  • No magic trick to win Instagram or Pinterest
  • No simple tool to turn followers into loyal followers and eventually to customers

Essentially, there are no easy answers but a lot of work. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise. Digital marketing is a living, evolving universe that threw out most of the rules in the traditional playbook. It reinvents itself every 6-12 months (and that number has probably reinvented itself since you started reading this post). Every emerging platform, device or social channel is a unique opportunity that requires research, testing, and most importantly, risk.

Organizations with a strategy of simply “tacking on” digital tactics to their marketing plan will fall behind. This report from Forrester Research details the consequences of a “tack-on” strategy and how to start on the path to becoming a digital business.

The Gap is Widening

The other point from presenters was that the gap is widening between businesses that implement effective content marketing strategies and those that don’t. Content marketing is here to stay. Get used to it. Learn to effectively manage the risk, or be left behind.

Standing on the profitable side of that gap starts with understanding the value of content. This list by Lee Odden and this checklist by Jay Baer are great places to start. It’s the difference between promoting your product and promoting what your target users care about. Do I try to cram my messaging (a.k.a. rhetoric) down consumers’ throats, or do I win their loyalty by giving them information and tools that make their lives easier? Do I try to control my target audience or influence them?

Google is the latest testing ground for content. In the six months since its release, Hummingbird has had a magnified impact because of the way it rewards sites with useful content. Gone are the days of winning top search rank by padding your website with keywords. It is no longer enough to have the first result on the first search engine result page. You must own the entire page, be persuasive and compel the click.

This post by Lance Cummins lists 59 benefits of content marketing from experts. Some of my favorites are boosting engagement, humanizing your brand, building relationships with your audience, establishing yourself as a thought leader, increasing the impact of email / other digital channels, generating sales and making money.

Where to Begin

Content marketing can start as simply as looking at your digital strategy from the target audience’s viewpoint, which will lead you to the following principles of creating brand evangelists by Brian Critchfield:

  • You can’t sell a man who isn’t listening
  • Content is about influence, not control
  • Create relevancy, not rhetoric
  • Customers buy products; evangelists buy causes
  • Connect what you do with what your audience cares about in order to create a cause

Digital marketing may not come with a guarantee, but a solid content marketing strategy gives most organizations the best chance at success. What about you? What successes or failures have you seen with content marketing in your industry?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn: