Years ago, marketing leaders might have heard of a new platform or tactic--social media, for example--that could enhance their brands or strengthen their marketing efforts and given it a try. Being the first player in a new game like that offers substantial benefits. Nowadays, news and trends travel so quickly and change so often that it's harder for marketers to take advantage of new platforms and tactics and be innovative in the same way that we could have 10 years ago.

To be innovative today, you need to focus on which of your team's qualities, products, or services make you truly different from competitors and use them to position your company as an industry leader through exceptional content marketing. You can't rely on the next Periscope to elevate your brand or your marketing efforts: You have to embrace what's unique about your brand and commit to it with a high level of quality and consistency.

A great example of a marketing leader who understands this is Wipro CMO Naveen Rajdev. He's someone I work with and respect, and a lot of that comes from the way he leads his team. He doesn't just jump onto the newest tactic or platform that comes along, and he's not always pitching the next take-over-the-world marketing scheme.

He embraces the innovation and tech advancements his team is known for, and he marries that with his marketing to communicate Wipro's message and to elevate its brand.

Even if you don't think your team is at the same "innovation level" as teams like Wipro or other industry giants like Apple or Google, there are still factors about your team, elements about your process, or qualities about your products or services that can differentiate you from competitors.

You can still identify the innovation within your company and create processes to communicate that to your audience. The one thing you don't want is to continue doing amazing, unique things that no one ever knows about, so finding ways to communicate that innovation is critical.

One night, I had dinner across from the director of marketing for a leading marketing software company. As he described the different things his company did, I was surprised--I had heard of his company but had no idea what its software was capable of.

I immediately encouraged him to create and distribute content to educate his audience about that software and how it can help customers. I told him about how I work with my own team, which is by using a knowledge bank. While we have in-house software that stores our team's and clients' knowledge banks, you can create your own pretty easily with a customizable knowledge management template. It's such a helpful tool for streamlining the process while documenting the critical storytelling elements that make content engaging.

That moment when you see something really valuable or innovative but realize it's not well understood is what I call a content trigger. A trigger is something you identify as an idea or topic that you can develop content around to communicate a message to an audience. The better you become at identifying, documenting, and acting on these triggers, the better you become at communicating your brand's innovation.

Sometimes your brand's innovation is exciting new tech, like Wipro's, and sometimes it's as simple as embracing the unique processes or solutions that work for your team and educating your audience about how those solutions can help them, too. To harness that innovation--whatever it looks like--as a factor that elevates your brand and separates you from your industry competitors, you've got to incorporate one essential element.

The key to communicating your brand's innovation and differentiating from competitors is to commit to authenticity within your team and throughout your content marketing. Authenticity should be the core of your strategy, and it's a natural influence on your content and your brand that is difficult for others to mimic.

Competitors can follow you onto the new Periscope or Instagram bandwagon and mimic your successful tactics and practices, but it's hard to truly differentiate your brand and your marketing when you rely too heavily on certain mediums. Your story, your experiences, your achievements and mistakes, your developments--all of those are yours, and it's nearly impossible for competitors to mimic that.

I hear a lot of people say, "Let's look at what other companies are doing that's working for them, and we'll just try that." Or people will ask for case studies and want to follow them exactly, as if they were blueprints for their own team's success. But that's the wrong way to differentiate your company and position yourself as an innovative industry resource.

It's OK to learn from another strategy and even, in some ways, to copy a part of something. But if you go too far, you'll limit your potential and damage your brand.

I spoke with virality expert Emerson Spartz a few years ago, and he told me about how much of what we see going viral and how many of the marketing strategies that really take off are somewhat copied but changed enough to make it different. His lesson was to not get caught up in the following.

Take inspiration where you can, embrace the innovation and uniqueness within your own company, and use it to position yourself and your message in a way that fuels your marketing and enhances your brand.

Published on: May 29, 2016