Are We Doing Content Marketing Right?

Without question, Content Marketing is one of the hottest topics today. But we are in the early days. Are we doing content marketing right?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a Content Marketing panel at the Texas Marketing Summit in Houston. The other panelists provided with great insight. I also came to the conclusion that our understanding of Content Marketing is in its infancy, much like social media was 8 years ago.

It seems we still have much to learn and to improve as marketers. Sometimes it feels we are failing. Are you failing too?

Let’s Start With the Basics.

To understand the right way to do content marketing, let’s be clear about what it is not:

  • Content marketing is not new – it’s been around for a long time
  • Content marketing is not a strategy – it should support your existing strategy
  • Content marketing is not a program – but it should influence your marketing programs
  • Content marketing should not be a department in marketing – all of marketing should embrace it
  • Content marketing is not a tool or a set of tools – tools support it and enable it
  • Content marketing is not publishing blog posts, slideshare decks, and Instagram posts

If your view of content marketing falls under one of the bullets above, you are limiting your success. Content marketing is far more powerful than that.


Defining Content Marketing.

Many define content marketing as a process or as a set of tactics. I have s lightly different viewpoint. Here is my definition of content marketing.

Content marketing is a philosophy based on the premise that marketing needs to be useful, educational and customer-focused.

The implication implicit in this definition, is that marketing needs to shift from talking about what you want to talk about (your products, most likely) to talking about what the customer wants to learn about.

What does this mean?

  • A philosophy, a mindset, means it is something everyone in marketing must believe. It should guide most of your marketing activities.
  • Adopting this philosophy requires us to accept that a good marketer must be a good writer. Marketers need to be able to write visual, understandable and effective
  • It requires understanding customers and their interests and needs.
  • The best marketing is educational; it helps customers achieve their goals, answers their questions, and makes them smarter.


Content Marketing is Making us Better Marketers.

One of the great benefits of the recent focus in content marketing is that it has brought about a renewed focus on customers (personas).

Understanding customers, how they think, and the problems they want to solve is the fundamental source of value that marketers brings to the organization.

More and more marketers are learning how to use personas effectively as a tool to create customer empathy. Personas should focus on the customer’s context, goals, and the specific questions they have during the buying process.

Good content is not only useful for customers, it also needs to help the company achieve its goals.

Therefore, good content exists at the intersection of what is helpful for customers, what unique knowledge you have, and what will predispose customers to buy from you.


Marketers are Failing at Content.

Content marketing has the potential to be the antidote to using discounting as your main engagement tactic.

The truth is that much of the content marketing out there is merely promotional marketing disguised as useful content. We are creating a lot of bad content.

Brainshark recently reported 62% of buyers called vendor marketing content useless.

An article about your products with a nice headline and an intro is not much different from an ad. The worst offenders are those who promote coupons and discounts on social channels and calling it content marketing or social media marketing when it is, in fact, just advertising.

Forrester Research recently found 87% of B2B marketers struggle to develop compelling content. B2C marketers are not doing much better. Why is it so difficult?

Is your content really customer centric? Here is a quick test: how many times are your products mentioned in your average content marketing piece? I challenge you to create content that does not focus on your products, and content that does not even mention them.


My Content Marketing Experience – a Failure in Customer-Centricity.

A few months ago I wanted to buy a large TV or projector for our media room. I spent a considerable amount of time doing research, like most customers do. I spent hours looking at the websites of some of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers.

I had many questions: should I get a large TV or a projector? What are the advantages of LCD over DLP? What is throw distance? Is 5000:1 contrast good or bad? What is MHL? Lag? Lens shift?

None of these large manufacturers or retailers were useful in answering these questions. They missed an opportunity to be helpful, to educate me and to predispose my thinking to buy from them.

Think about it! How many times in the past month, have you as a buyer, encountered content that has been useful in making an informed purchase decision?


Measuring Content Marketing.

As with most things in marketing, not everything that is important can be measured and not everything that can be measured is important. Because attribution models are in their infancy, it is impossible to know exactly how much your content has resulted in success. To an extent, you have to trust that you are doing the right thing.

This does not mean, however, that you should not measure. The simplest thing to measure is engagement. Engagement can be a meaningless measurement, though, and it can be an indication that customers are looking at excessive amounts of content because they cannot find what they need.

The wrong metrics can lead to the wrong behavior. For instance, we could be produce tons of cat videos, which would get a high number of views and ‘engagement’ but would not help the business in any way.

Engagement is only useful when it is helpful for customers and when it predisposes customers to buy your products. Good content allows you to establish your point of view, to educate customers, to demonstrate your expertise, and to create affinity towards your company’s products.

The only measurement that matters is impact on the business. You must find metrics that indicate a move toward reaching the business’s goals: awareness, interest, leads, growth, loyalty, and recommendation, for example. You will find leading indicators that map to those goals.


Improving Your Content Marketing Proficiency.

I will wrap up this post with a few summary points and recommendations to do content marketing right:

  • Content marketing is about being helpful to solve customer problems, not about promoting your products. The best marketing is educational.
  • Use social media not only to promote your content but also to learn about your customers, to identify influencers, to interact with thought leaders, and to amplify the conversation.
  • Don’t create a content marketing team. Embrace content marketing as a philosophy that dictates how you do marketing. Everyone in marketing is responsible for content. Microsoft had thousands of bloggers, every employee in the division had to interact with the community or to blog. It was part of the job, not the responsibility of a content team. Good marketers write.
  • To become proficient in content marketing it needs to become a competency of your marketing team. A few ideas on this topic can be found here.

Happy writing!