Content marketing has been established as the main strategy for building a community of customers for many years now. And, like many great strategies, as time passes it starts to be questioned. Those who aren't putting in the effort into their content and hence not seeing the results they'd like are abandoning it. But to me, there's still no better way to engage with people than to tell them a story. It's the best way for marketers to build an emotional connection that builds trust and translates into sales.

The emerging dominance of Amazon in an increasing number of sectors is all due to building a loyal customer base. In his book Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google author Scott Galloway writes compellingly about how those four companies have grown to become so dominant. They're impossible to avoid.

Scott talks about the way those companies have been able to manipulate our emotional needs with incredible success. And he focuses on Amazon as being most likely to push on to be the most dominant player of them all. 

Keep things simple and consistent.

The likelihood of that dominance is a view shared by Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute and a great author in his own right. Joe and I chatted about this recently for my podcast series. Joe hits the nail on the head when it comes to Amazon. He told me, "They simply and consistently focus on their customers' needs. They find out who their customer is, learn about the customers' pain points and deliver a solution consistently on an ongoing basis."

If you think about it, it's this approach has seen Amazon move from being an online bookstore into being a growing player in almost any sector you can think of. Pharmacy, groceries, furniture, technology--the list goes on. And the list will continue to grow the more Amazon learns about its customers and their needs, introducing products and services to meet those needs and selling them via the trust it's built up. They're brilliant at it, and any business can benefit from a similar approach.

Focus on the "Why?"

Having grown the Content Marketing Institute into a leading resource and influencer, Joe knows good content when he sees it, and he stresses the importance of consistency, using Amazon as an example. He says, "Amazon consistently focus on the "why". Their single mission is to make lives easier for their customers and they create content and opportunities every day to build their community."

I know from experience in my business that once your audience knows, likes and trust you, then you can start to offer them additional services and products. Optimizing and personalizing content is vital, so make it worth talking about. Customers now have the power 24/7, but so many marketing departments haven't changed to reflect that. They still work in terms of campaigns and interrupting their customers, rather than having a seamless and consistent approach that demonstrates how they are solving their customers' problems.

Lack of consistency and focus are the one thing that will wreck content marketing efforts. Content marketing isn't a campaign, it's a doctrine. The Content Marketing Institute became a world respected repository of content marketing advice by remaining consistent. They deliver quality content regularly. Without fail. Others have tried to do the same thing but have taken a campaign approach. But inevitably they run out of steam and ideas and give up. So don't give up.

99 percent of business do content marketing wrong.

As a content marketing expert, Joe knows that the medium has lost its luster in some eyes, but is adamant that it's still the right way for businesses to build customer loyalty and community. He says, "99 percent of businesses are doing content marketing wrong. Too many businesses are creating too much content and generating poor results. They need to look at what they produce and ask themselves--if they stopped, what would happen?"

That really resonates with me. In my business, we're streamlining our content production to focus on making sure we are sending the right message to the right audience. Otherwise, we pick up enquiries that are flattering but are not the work we want to do. That's just a waste of time and resources. If we're clearly and consistently communicating the way we can solve our customers' problems, and listening to their feedback to develop new solutions and services, that's time well spent. That's doing content marketing right.

Focus on the audience, not the funnel.

If you're still approaching your marketing by always focusing on leads and the sales funnel then you need to review what you're doing. Instead, zero in on who it is you are talking to--your customers and prospective customers--and focus on how you can offer value beyond the products and services you offer. By doing so, you'll build trust and loyalty and monetization will follow.

So in 2018 whether you have a marketing department, a couple of marketing assistants, or whether it's one of the hats you wear as an entrepreneur, look at your marketing outputs and consider focusing on less content of more quality. Deliver consistently and figure out how you can identify and remove the pain points that your customers are experiencing,  and you'll keep your content marketing alive and kicking.