Billy Beane, the team's general manager, realized he couldn't compete with these big-budget teams by following the same strategies of those general managers who could simply spend more money to get better players. He enlisted Paul DePodesta to help develop a new strategy; one that used analytics to change the team's approach to recruitment (and gave them an edge on their competition).
Marketing and advertising your company is shockingly similar. There will almost always be a competitor with deeper pockets who can simply outspend you, acquire your ad space, and gain the exposure you’re trying to reach.
And that's a huge problem for companies trying to compete dollar for dollar with other companies in the traditional advertising space. Whether you’re gunning for the largest national audience during the Super Bowl or spending top dollar for the best spots on Google AdWords, you’re essentially competing with the amount of money you can spend.
Even if you can discern the most optimized, cost-effective strategy for each channel and tactic, you're still at risk of the next guy spending more and winning over you, which essentially means you'll have wasted your efforts over the course of however much time or money you spent testing and planning that strategy.
And competing only with dollars is harmful to your team because you're defining your ability to reach and engage your audience (and drive business for your company) by the size of your budget. Your brand's value has absolutely nothing to do with the size of your marketing budget. If you limit yourself by believing your success depends only on the amount of money you can spend to connect with your audience, you're communicating that the only reason you deserve that audience attention is because you have the money to buy it — not because your message is worth it.
You can always try to optimize the other guys' high-budget strategies, but you're still just playing by their rules. Instead, follow the lead of the Oakland A’s, and change your approach so you can better compete on a more fair playing field — not by adjusting to someone else's rules.
Content marketing is such a winning strategy for companies of any size to better compete with big-budget teams, you'd think it was developed by Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta themselves. When done well, content can level the playing field and help earn the attention, business, and loyalty of your target audience. Here are eight reasons content is the "Moneyball" of marketing and advertising:
Every day, people subscribe to blogs, follow social profiles, and engage with brands that produce quality content — content that offers solutions to problems, speaks to their pain points, educates, and delivers true value. Content like this allows a brand to earn the attention, trust, and loyalty of its audience. By creating and distributing this content regularly, you can keep that attention, trust, and loyalty far longer than traditional advertising could ever allow.
Content marketing gives you the opportunity to humanize your brand. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 70 percent of survey respondents indicated "a person like yourself" and "regular employees" as more credible and trustworthy than a company's CEO. Thus, when you embrace content and include your team's internal thought leaders in your strategy, your audience is better able (and more likely) to connect with the people behind your brand.
I can think of almost no bigger threat to companies that rely heavily on traditional ad spend and don't learn to embrace content than the rise of ad blockers. Recent reports estimate that ad-block users exist around the world, and that number will only continue to grow. So, if you're still communicating with your audience through ads instead of thought leadership content, chances are good your message is blocked before it ever reaches your audience.
If you build up a strong foothold as the go-to resource for information in your industry, it won't be easy for someone to come out of nowhere and replace you. An engaged following — one you've earned with quality content — offers a huge competitive advantage that can't be replaced by a competitor simply outspending your efforts.
Content is always appreciating in value. Yes, it costs money to create each piece of content, but once it's created, its value continues to build over time. And the longer you stay consistent in delivering a valuable stream of content, the more opportunities you have for touchpoints with your audience and the greater your chances are of appearing in search engine result pages. For more information on how content builds momentum, check out "The Time Value of Content: How Long-Term Growth Boosts ROI."
A solid content strategy is always growing in reach: Each piece of quality content has the ability to naturally gain links and references from other companies and content creators covering the same topics. When you create content your audience wants, it's more likely to be shared and to gain further exposure from other media outlets, audiences, and potential customers.
You might see this benefit and react by remembering that you can always go out and buy a list of names if you want. You're right — you can do that. Interested in trying it? Go ahead and buy a list of names, and tell me what kind of open-rate, click-rate, and actual interaction you get.
I'm not saying content is free by any means. Like any marketing and advertising initiative, it takes time, money, and talent, but these costs pale in comparison to other traditional media exposure alternatives. Plus, a content marketing budget can come from several departments, which not only makes for better content, but also makes the price tag for your efforts more affordable.
Plenty of companies have found success by focusing on creating and distributing great content to communicate their messages instead of heavy spending on more traditional advertising. HubSpot is a trusted leader and innovator in the content and inbound marketing space, so it's natural that the company would practice what it preaches and creates content that educates and engages readers.
Zapier (a former business that we've worked with) is another company that's become known for creating and delivering awesome content on productivity. Instead of spending a ton of money on advertising, Zapier's content strategy is focused on building an engaged audience around what Zapier does really well: solve app integration, workflow, and efficiency challenges its audience and customers face. That's what guides its content strategy, and it's ultimately what makes it so much more successful than traditional alternatives.
The function of marketing and advertising has changed. In a time when audiences are tuning out interruption, fast-forwarding commercials, and blocking online ads, marketing and advertising now must focus on the value your brand can deliver to an audience — content does just that.
I am a Vice President of Influence & Co. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, Mizzou, and all St. Louis sports teams. I've contributed to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Under30CEO, and Linked2Leadership.