In a recent CMI newsletter, Joe Pulizzi challenged marketers to the “content test”: Take your best piece of content, strip it of branding, and compare it with your competitors’ best work. Now step back and take a look. Is your content truly distinct? Would anyone, without the brand clues, recognize it as yours?

Joe goes even further: “What if your content marketing was removed from the planet entirely? Would anyone miss it?”

If you’re not breaking into a sweat, you should be.

Content Marketing World is just two months away, and I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m looking forward to it. (In fact, I’m leading two sessions there.) I can anticipate, however, that many speakers and exhibitors will be promoting tools, techniques and services that promise to make content marketing easy. Just use this application, apply this methodology, follow this model and–whammo!–instant content marketing. Easy.

Now, I’m all for making marketing easier, given our limited time, limited budgets, and limitless (it seems) obligations. But I think all of us should reject “easy” content.

Easy content is exactly the kind of content that fails the Pulizzi Test. Easy content is forgettable content. Easy content is noise. Easy content fails.

Easy content is what you should gleefully watch your competitors make.

Your content should be hard. It’ll be hard because you’ll take pains to find out what your customers really want and need to see, hear, learn, feel and experience.

It’ll be hard because it’ll reflect deep thought in its conception, and detailed effort in its execution.

It’ll be hard because it’ll reject conventional wisdom, defy common expectations, and reach for surprising insights or ideas.

It’ll be hard because it won’t be cheap–it’ll consume the budget and resources it needs to be truly excellent.

It’ll be hard because, frankly, if it really stands out from the pack, many of the people in your own organization won’t like it. Many of them will be scared.

But you’ll face all these obstacles with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Why? Because by doing the hard stuff your competitors don’t have the will for, you’ll gain the competitive edge. Rise above the noise. And gain the returns your competitors just can’t easily grab.

In any content test you choose, there is no contest: hard beats easy every time.

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