This may seem like an odd article coming from someone who makes their living in the content marketing world. But when I say that content marketing doesn’t work, it’s true. It doesn’t work for many companies because they either have the wrong expectations or the wrong creation and promotion strategies. And when content marketing isn’t deployed correctly, it doesn’t work.
Content marketing is a bit of a buzz word. The idea has been around for a long time, but it’s recently garnered attention as social media and SEO have started valuing content more and more. Add to this the fact that customers are doing more research before they make a purchase, and you can see why content marketing is getting more attention than ever before.
In the chart below you can see that content marketing has actually surpassed search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) in search popularity. In fact, of the big four digital mediums, it trails only social media marketing in current interest.
But What Is Content Marketing?
The dangers of trends is that there is a lot of misinformation around what the trend really is. Because of this, I’ve seen definitions of content marketing ranging from native advertising to blogging to social media. Technically these are all forms of content, and yes they are also forms of marketing, but does that make them content marketing?
For this article, let’s limit the definition of content marketing to this:
Content marketing is the act of a company, business, or organization producing and promoting informative content to engage and interact with their target audience.
Why Doesn’t It Work?
Simply put, content marketing doesn’t work because it needs two attributes to be successful, a long-term commitment and high-quality content. And both of these requirements have high demands in terms of time and effort. Because of this, they are often ignored in an attempt to make content marketing more scalable and easier to deploy.
But unlike SEO and PPC, you’re not dealing with an algorithm when it comes to content marketing. You’re dealing with the reactions and emotions of your living, breathing customers. And that can’t be gamed, hacked, or exploited. Instead, you need to plan and deploy a content marketing campaign with the same care and attention that you would any other major company initiative.
Content marketing requires time and effort. And these are two things that are usually in short supply in most growing companies. So, how do you find them? You democratize your content creation. Instead of trying to shoulder the burden of content creation with one person or one department, the responsibilities should be spread around the company. This accomplishes two things. First, it allows the workload to be shared and ensures that there is always someone fresh ready to step up and produce content. Second, it gives your message many different perspectives and voices. This is great for keeping the content from becoming stale and tired.
Another great trick to remain consistent is to have a well-established plan going into your campaign. This means that you sit down and write up your content calendar and your promotion strategies. And you need to make these as specific as possible. Ambiguity in your calendar will open the door for dropped initiatives and forgotten tasks. So assign hard due dates and make sure that everyone sticks to them.
Finally, in order to stay consistent you have to make sure your content doesn’t become a chore for you, the producer. To do this, mix in many different types of content so you’re always working on something that challenges you in a new way. Here’s a short list of a few types of content that work great:
- Blog Posts
- Slide Decks
- Case Studies
- ROI Calculators
- Memes and Images
As you can see, content marketing isn’t dependent on having a blog. Yes, a blog is a great tool for content marketing, but it’s only one piece of the larger puzzle.
Once you have a consistent plan, you now need to focus on the quality of the content.
When it comes to the quality of your content, I like to liken it to the décor of your home. You want to produce content that you’d be proud to take home and hang on the wall. If you wouldn’t be caught dead with your content adorning your house, then you shouldn’t be using it to try and engage with your customers.
For the penny pinchers out there, it’s an unfortunate fact that you often get what you pay for when it comes to content creation. This doesn’t mean you can’t outsource your content creation, but you should expect to get what you pay for. That’s why for smaller companies it’s usually a better idea to create their content in-house.
So, whether you’re outsourcing your content creation or taking care of it internally, you need to ensure that you’re producing content on the right topics. To do this, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. At our firm we use in-depth buyer personas and customer journeys to give us an idea of who our target audience is and what we should produce.
Once you know who they are you want to help them. You do this by solving their problems. So, instead of producing content that’s all about you and your company, you should produce content that answers questions and helps them solve the challenges they face. As I’ve stated many times before, no one wants to download your brochure.
And don’t scrimp on the details. There have been many studies that the content that’s shared and engaged with the most is long-form, in-depth pieces that are supported by research and statistics.
This means you shouldn’t be killing yourself to produce new content every single day. But rather, you should focus on producing high-quality pieces. As long as you’re doing that consistently, then arbitrary cadences don’t matter as much.
The Proof Is In The Pudding
A friend of mine, Jake Baadsgaard, who owns a conversion optimization and PPC company calledDisruptive Advertising, realized early on how much impact content marketing had on his marketing efforts. And we’re talking about a guy who works with PPC every day. Be that as it may, he knows that his PPC efforts are much more effective when they’re supported by content marketing.
“We have one of the most active and informative blogs in the PPC industry. And it produces great results for us in terms of traffic and customer engagement. But the temptation to short-cut the content production and promotion was a major challenge I needed to overcome. But a dedication to writing and planning has allowed us to stick to our guns and produce content that we’re proud of and that we know our customers want to engage with.”
Jake is not a natural content marketer. He would rather spend time on marketing activities that can be easily quantified and graphed in an Excel sheet. But his blog has been active for over a year and the posts they publish are long-form with great insights and research. This has led to syndication of the content, speaking opportunities, and interview requests. But without that commitment to quality and consistency, he wouldn’t have experienced those fringe benefits.
Put It All Together
So the next time you hear someone tell you that they don’t see the value in content marketing and that they never saw results for their efforts, they’re probably right. Because as I’ve outlined in this article, content marketing won’t work unless you focus on what’s important and have a long-term plan for success.