I write marketing content for a living. A large proportion of this is for company blogs and is used in what we’ve come to know as content marketing.
So you’d think that I’d be a content marketing evangelist. I’m not.
First of all, to be an evangelist for anything you need blind faith. That’s not clever territory for any marketer. Also, content marketing won’t deliver results for every business at any given time.
Content marketing has a big problem with overselling: ‘Content marketing is the only form of marketing left,’ (Seth Godin). Allow yourself to be led down that path and disappointment and buyer’s remorse await.
Where it Works
I have used content marketing to help businesses raise brand awareness, re-position their business and attract higher value, better qualified leads. But is it the best option in all circumstances? Is it the only thing brands should be doing? Time to put content marketing into perspective and context.
Content Marketing is not a Strategy
Content marketing is often sold as a strategy. It isn’t. It is a tactic. It can generate leads and sales for many types of business in the right circumstances. But it shouldn’t be your marketing strategy – that has to be something more fundamental.
Content marketing is also not a marketing silver bullet. I recently saw a marketing and PR agency post the following ‘statistic’ on LinkedIn: ‘Content marketing costs 67% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times the leads.’
Wow! That’s quite a claim.
Where do I start?
- How are they defining traditional marketing?
- What research is this based on?
- Does this apply to all types of business?
- Does it apply no matter what segment of your market you are targeting?
- What about quality? Crap, poorly targeted marketing is crap, poorly targeted marketing, no matter what the channel.
No wonder marketers are viewed with suspicion.
Content Marketing and Strategy
Services and business to business marketing are a more natural home for content marketing than B2C, in my view. I’ve yet to be convinced that brand publishing by consumer brands works; except, possibly, for high value or niche interest products. Most of it seems to add little value to the customer experience. It’s the sort of marketing that makes brands feel good about themselves.
I also wonder whether consumer brands are chasing a concept of ‘loyalty’ that doesn’t exist in the minds of consumers. Happy to be proved wrong on this one, by the way.
If you are a B2B business; if you have a strategic marketing goal of increasing your brand awareness in a specific segment, then content marketing is 100% worth serious consideration. Again, there are a few caveats.
What does the Target Segment look like?
Are the target individuals in your target segment active consumers of the type of content you plan to produce? If they tend to be active on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter, for example, you have a channel to reach them. If they are not active online then the purpose of your content may be to reinforce traditional channels. The right content will ‘warm’ your leads and accelerate the trust-building aspect of the sales process.
If you want to re-position your brand so that prospects associate it with different qualities in their minds, content is an excellent option. First though, you need to be clear about what your intended market positioning looks like and whether it is right for the segment(s) you are targeting.
If you are clear about how you want to position your brand in your target segment(s) you have a foundation. This can build into themes and messages you can weave into your content plan.
Content Isn’t Easy
Here’s my final issue with how content marketing is sold. How often do you see content that you want to read? How often do you finish a piece of content and say: ‘that made me think, I learned something, I plan to do something as a result?’
There is a myth that publishing content is all you need to do. Perhaps, years ago, when the goal was improved search rankings, that was true(ish). Now you need to publish exceptional content that carries the unique ‘stamp’ of your brand.
Not many brands (and not all agencies) have the capability to create exceptional content. The people who can create this content are expensive. Smart agencies recognise this and outsource content creation while focusing on the strategy and promotion.
Strategy and Purpose
To sum up: start by understanding your market and the segments with the greatest opportunity; decide how your brand needs to be positioned to exploit that opportunity; create a strategy. You are then in a position to make content marketing a productive option that supports the strategy.
If you want your brand to be better known, or to be positioned to win higher value contracts I’d be happy to discuss how content marketing can help make it happen.
Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash