Content Marketing: The promise, and the reality.
In this post we’ll examine:
- The promise of content marketing
- The reality of content marketing
- Where to go from here
The Promise of Content Marketing
Much has been written about the awesome power of content marketing – publishing blogs, articles, how-to guides, videos, podcasts and webinars – to help increase your company’s revenue.
By publishing lots of content, you’ll:
- Have something additional to promote in your search engine marketing
- Support your SEO efforts to drive more traffic to your website
- Attract new leads and help move them through the sales funnel to conversion
- Establish yourself as a thought leader
- Gain the trust of new prospects
- Gain even more brand awareness and prospects because your content is shared
That’s the promise anyway. And an entire industry has cropped up around supporting this promise, including:
- Marketing automation platforms (a.k.a. “inbound marketing” platforms) like HubSpot, Marketo and InfusionSoft
- Inbound marketing consultants who will set up and run your content marketing campaigns for you
- Events and trade organizations, such as the Content Marketing Institute, who profit from providing continuing education on how to do content marketing effectively
The promise of content marketing is huge, and, done well, the payback is real. But, the “done well” part is not as easy as the industry would have you think. And done not well, content marketing is at best a waste of your time and resources, and at worst harmful to your brand.
The Reality of Content Marketing
Creating content takes time and resources.
A lot. Don’t fool yourself. If you think you’re busy now, wait until you start trying to come up with great topics and producing content about them on a regular basis.
Creating good content requires hiring good writers.
Whether freelance or employee, the writers you hire must not only have good grammar and style, but also know how to:
- Hook readers and keep their attention
- Organize a piece of writing to logically flow from beginning to end
- Provide relevant and useful information that readers will feel was worth their time – and better still, worth sharing with others
Many who attempt content marketing writing haven’t received the training to be able to do this properly. The result is writing that is flat, meandering, uninteresting and not useful. This reflects poorly on your company’s brand. I can’t overstate this. Poor content defeats the purpose of creating content in the first place – to position yourself as a thought leader and to gain trust.
You’re competing with a ton of content that is just like yours.
“Content marketing” has been a thing for nearly two decades now, enabled by the rise of the internet and then social media. That means a whole lot of people and companies have been producing content for a long time now. In fact, for any given topic, there are likely thousands or even millions of posts that have already been written about it – before you’ve hit the very first keystroke on your new blog.
The next time you publish that great “How to do X…” post, think about how many thousands of other people have published the exact same post on their own sites. Odds are you could do a search right now and in the first couple of pages find at least ten posts that are essentially the very same information. Go ahead and try it…I’ll wait for you.
In order to stand out then, you need to be able to create content that is fresh, original and unique, as well as authoritative – not derivative, “me-too” content for the sake of putting words on a page.
People just don’t have time to read content they’ve already seen many times already.
“Spray and pray” doesn’t work.
A lot of content marketers believe it’s all about quantity, not quality. Spray a ton of content, and pray for great results.
The thinking goes like this: the more you publish, the more pages and keywords you can provide to Google to index, helping your site rise in the search rankings, driving more traffic to your site, and gaining more conversions!
The problem is, nobody likes bad quality content. You might bring people to your site once, but, as soon as they see that your content is useless, they’ll bounce and not come back.
Even Google doesn’t like useless content. Over the years, Google has refined its algorithms to ignore sites with useless content – content that is just a jumble of keywords with no regard for human readability or usefulness. Increasingly, Google prefers exactly what you and I prefer: useful content that is well written.
Self-serving content drives people away and hurts your brand.
Too many companies produce content that looks like a promise of useful information, such as “How to choose the best plumbing company.” only to make the content all about just one company – theirs. This is another form of useless content that will only drive people away. How can you possibly be considered a provider of unbiased, useful information when you publish self-serving content like this?
Where To Go From Here
Content marketing can be a very important, effective part of your marketing mix – if done well. If you’re putting together a content marketing program, here’s how to make it successful.
- Don’t underestimate the time and resources that will be required. Commit to doing it right and doing it for the long haul – or don’t do it.
- Take the time to find good writers and producers to create your content.
- Find unique topics, and your own unique spin on topics, to create content that is truly interesting and useful to your prospects.
- Don’t make your content sales pitches. Ever. You’ll destroy the credibility of your content. Save that for your regular web pages and marketing collateral.
- Your content should do these two things: inform and entertain. Notice that “sell” is not one of those two things. After producing a piece of content, step back and examine it with a critical eye. Does it inform, and does it entertain? It doesn’t have to be funny or dramatic to entertain – just interesting. Here’s a good test: would you share this piece of content if it wasn’t yours?
- If your content is good, promote it! Take to social media, and your legitimate email list, to let the world know that you’ve published a helpful piece of content that people will find informative and entertaining.
One more thing: content marketing is NOT the holy grail.
These days, many marketers seem to think that content marketing IS marketing, period.
Let’s be clear. Content marketing is important – and so are a lot of other marketing strategies, vehicles and tactics, such as brand awareness, traditional advertising, public relations and events – not to mention, providing a great product and great customer service.
Content marketing is but one of the many important supporting players in your entire marketing mix – each playing its part and supporting all the other players. It is not a magic cure-all that can replace the rest of your marketing mix – so don’t buy into all the hype out there that it is. That hype only serves the content marketing industry – not you.
That said, if you’re going to do content marketing (and you should!), don’t let it be the weak link in your marketing chain. Do content marketing the very best way you can.
See you next time in the Brand 360˚ Blog.