Here’s what we know, generally-speaking:
- If you read enough blogs and marketing sites, you’d think content marketing is all the rage.
- It certainly is in some respects, but 65% of B2C companies and 62% of B2B companies report NOT actually having any type of content marketing plan.
- (You see the same things happening in the social media space.)
- Content is everywhere and people are sending it out so much to their “targeted, segmented” lists and all that, but the ROI is hard to prove and the planning doesn’t seem to be there.
- With content, companies often chase social engagement (not the best idea), which is weird because no one really reads content before they share it. (So essentially, they’re sharing something they barely considered, and the company that produced it is saying, “Well, that’s a win!”)
We also know this, or we should:
The goal of marketing is to drive sales, plain and simple.
Content marketing might not be doing that — but could we make it do that?
There are a couple of problems that need to be addressed, though. Here’s a small sampling.
“The Menu Problem” and “The Sausage Problem:” This is laid out well here by Ryan Skinner; you need people to determine the “what” of the content — what will be produced, and what customers need help with or have questions about (since the entire goal of inbound/content marketing is, in essence, flipping the script and bringing the customers to you). That’s Tier 1. Then Tier 2 is people who will actually produce the content (designers, writers, etc.) “The Menu Problem” refers to the direction; a head of marketing and a head of content would be akin to the chef. “The Sausage Problem” refers to the production; bloggers and writers and designers and editors and videographers are kind of like the line guys in a kitchen. This a very broad-level analogy, but it generally works.
Hiring For The Menu Problem: Most marketing-based people, although they often deal with words and images and the layout of those words and images, aren’t necessarily editorial people. The tone and vibe of doing “marketing” (which can sound sales-y) and doing “editorial” is vastly different, and there’s been a couple of contextual studies in recent years that people prefer that more “editorial,” story-telling type tone. (Here’s a little more on that.) In the jobs I’ve had — almost all of which have been marketing or editorial in some way — one thing you see a lot is that marketing people know how to run a magazine (because a magazine is often a linchpin of a marketing department) or know how to run a newsletter, but broadly, they don’t actually know how to tell a story. (Depressing.) The biggest mistake I’ve personally seen in this space is hiring old-school journalists to be content gurus and lead a content process for an organization. It makes sense from a job flow perspective, because some journalism jobs are dying out, but not necessarily from a logic perspective. Being a journalist and managing the content schedule and upkeep for an organization are, again, vastly different jobs. I’ve had some friends that have gone from A to B and been miserable. A journalist is about telling stories and securing facts, weaving a narrative and informing others. A content guru-type job? That’s about making sure the trains run and the headlines are catchy. It’s different.
Hiring For The Sausage Problem: Wrote about this once before; hire more top-of-funnel, especially in marketing. Generating — and knowing what to generate (perhaps an analyst role) — is crucial.
The Role Of Big Data: At this point it’s pretty much well-known that no one really understands Big Data (very few do), but the notion needs to play a bigger role in the idea of content marketing. I’ve worked at so many places — SO.MANY. — where some editor or content guru says to us, “Hey, I saw this thing on The Huffington Post a few weeks ago. Let’s ape that for our industry!” That doesn’t actually work. There is literally raw data out there on what customers are searching for to get to your website, what they do when there, etc. Your salespeople know “pain points” about a process. All these things are opportunities for content, and content that would resonate with the right people (i.e. people who might buy). This is a little bit similar to the “viral vs. retention” argument. You don’t need to chase viral; viral will happen if the right factors are in play. You need to chase retention, because that means money.
Focus and attention: Fact is, content marketing isn’t making a lot of people a ton of money right now at the organizational level. As such, it’s not getting attention; for some marketing leaders, it’s probably a one-off (“Is that something we can put on … the blog?”). That’s stupid. Give it focus and attention and think about what you want to do with it, and maybe — yes, it requires some serendipity — it will help you in your longer term sales goals. Stop and think about goals. Honestly.
The Bottom Line: One thing I hate more than almost anything is the idea of silos. I’ve written about them a little bit. In my mind, if you work for the same employer — if your checks are signed by the same place — then I don’t really give a shit if you work in finance or HR, you should be talking about the same issues/concepts and helping each other. It’s really that simple. Sure, your day-to-day deliverables are different, but my day-to-day deliverables are different than people who sit 10 feet from me and work in the same department. That’s the nature of work and deliverables, you know?
My point is this with marketing: valuable content — finding it, thinking about creating it, proposing it, etc. — is the responsibility of everyone. Marketing cannot drive sales without words and images and context and content and beauty pointing to what the actual STORY / VALUE PROPOSITION (whoa, sorry to sound like I’m screaming) of the brand/organization is. There are problems like “Menus” and “Sausages” and focus and big data, etc. — but at the end of the day, those are all just concepts and terms. It’s everyone’s responsibility to find a way to create value, and that means outside of their own little box as well.