The goal of content marketing is to stand out. Why go to all the effort of creating content just to be a me-too brand?

Unfortunately, most content is me-too content.

If you want to stand out, you need to do something different.

So, here’s what you can do.  Pick up the phone.

Our most important job as marketers is to understand our clients. In fact, it’s our most important business goal.

And what better way to understand them than to pick up the phone, interview and write about them.

Yet, remarkably few of the millions of blog published every day are case studies based on interviews. So if you want your content marketing to stand out, write a case study.

But there is another reason that case studies make an excellent form of content marketing.

Content marketing as a research tool

I recently started a project to start to get to know more about the people who follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Many of my connection are marketers. Now, I spent a lifetime in journalism studiously ignoring what marketers do (in traditional media, it wasn’t done to fraternise with the commercial side of the business).

But the territory between journalists and marketers now overlaps. I both need and want to know more about marketers:  what drives them, what inspires them and where they are heading.

A lovely way to find out is to ring them up and write a case study about them and their work. Will they ever become clients? Who knows. But they help me to understand my market a little better, and I help them spread their smarts a little wider.

James Tuckerman, founder of Anthill Magazine and the Not-So-Freaky University, likes to point out that the goal of social media is to get your contacts off social media.

I couldn’t agree more.

But we are not going to sell anything to anyone the first time we talk to them! We may never sell them something. But that doesn’t mean they are not worth talking to.

Do you dare?

Picking up the phone and interviewing someone is a little scary. In my early days as a freelancer I rang the global advertising firm, Saatchi and Saatchi, and asked for “someone” to talk with me about the “pink dollar.” The spending power of the gay community was beginning to dawn on businesses at the time.

I was terrified. But the person I spoke was helpful. He probably guessed I was a rookie, and nervous, but he gave me good answers to my questions. I had a story. I pitched it to Marketing magazine, and I got paid for it.

It’s amazing what people will tell you if you ask them.

Keep up your end of the bargain

There’s an implicit understanding when you interview someone for a story: you have to write it. That’s the deal. They’ve given you time; you give them coverage.

Of course, in content marketing, we cannot write a  hard-hitting exposé. That is not the name of this game.

But we don’t have to write a sycophantic fluff piece either.

We can ask people to tell us about their struggles, the lessons they have learned, and what they got wrong. We can ask them for plenty of detail about what they got right, too.

In doing both those things, we will provide value for our readers without treading on our subjects’ toes.

Next steps

Think of all the people you would like to know in your industry and your market: the clients, the prospects, your social media connections, your peers, your idols, and the clients you want but hardly dare dream you could have.

Write a long list. Now find their phone number – it’s so much easier than it used to be. Now give them a ring, and write a story about them. Voilà! Market research, connection, creation, content. Noice!