Bad Content Marketing is Ruining Content Marketing

The Rise of Content Marketing

For years now, marketers have praised content marketing as the solution to grow their customer base. The outbound, “interruptive” approach doesn’t work anymore they say — somewhere in the early Internet era (based on Google searches), inbound marketing was coined as a new methodology. Content marketing as its own practice would come soon after.  Today, planning for content marketing (which includes social content) is a standard practice for most marketing teams.

Since content has always been a part of marketing and advertising since its earliest days, what exactly is the newly coined “content marketing”?

There are 54,700,000 Google search results for “content marketing”.

content marketing

According to the aptly named Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Well, it’s a pretty broad definition. You might even be able to replace a few words and have a good definition for your media or advertising strategy (a great way to open your next PowerPoint presentation, also great at parties).

The Truth Is

A lot of content marketing “tips” are worthless and many brands are bad at content marketing. Some of the experts will tell you to have a great hashtag (nearly irrelevant) or tweet directly at customers or send 1000 retargeted emails with your #content or create 20 infographics about a new product feature.

But I’ve yet to meet a marketer in a product or manufacturing business that is fully satisfied by their content marketing efforts versus their paid advertising efforts.  But maybe that’s the issue. Brands can’t distinguish their content marketing versus advertising.

I believe one of the primary reasons content marketing fails for both B2C and B2B brands is because they’re disguising advertising as content marketing. The content being produced, whether it is an infographic or a video, is self-serving. They’re advertising their product with a thin veil of “benefits”.

Many companies resort to content marketing with inflated expectations of quick sales, while providing no actual benefit to the person viewing or receiving the content.

Bad content marketing reminds me of a bit from Wayne’s World:

Many brands are just sponsoring content while advertising their products and call it content marketing. The “conversation” you’ve started with your prospects ends up much like the conversation between Wayne and Benjamin Oliver.

In Order to Work

I’m not saying content marketing doesn’t work — if done correctly, it almost always works. Marketers need to clearly define just what their version of content marketing is and define their expectations thereafter. It’s not enough to pick a format and a message, goals need to be set and guidelines set in place to police the tendency to oversell products without being useful.

Great content has always been the foundation of marketing and advertising. The so called “race to the bottom” has done more than raise the stress levels of agency teams all over the globe. The shrinking of marketing budgets with each successful campaign can lead brands to be ineffective at marketing in general. But the fault does not lie just with investment.

As Seth Godin recently (and wisely) stated, “Ads can still work, especially ads with consistent budgets, excellent copywriting, smart frequency and a thoughtful strategy. Easier said than done.” This is true for both ad creation and content marketing. Content marketing is hard. it takes thoughtfulness, consistency, and creativity to make it work.

Consistency is where many brands fail — if you’re not committed to the long term success of content marketing, it might be best to look elsewhere for the “quick” wins. And if you’re not looking to be creative or thoughtful, then forget about it.

Best Practices

Since we know bad content marketing is, so here are 3 ways do it better:

  1. Offer something meaningful — it’s almost too easy to fall into a “product features and benefits” trap. The best approach is to consider what your prospects are looking for — Do you have knowledge that will make their job easier? Can you provide research with insights for their business? Can you improve their daily life?
  1. Be consistent — if you’re looking to gain customers from content marketing (which I assume you are), consistency is what will convince prospects. Try choosing a certain format and creative approach and stick to it. Your customers may even recognize your efforts and refer their friends.
  1. Invest the time to make it work — obviously, time is money. However, content marketing is usually not a strategy for quick results, but it can provide major benefits for long term customer growth and engagement. It’s worth it if you are willing to put the time into it

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