Content marketing is/was/will be all the rage in some circles dating back to about 2013, if not a bit before. However, some brands have tried to adopt it — and then given it up, because it’s not linked enough to business goals. Other brands have hesitated to start on it because they have their own model of what works for them in marketing — which probably means they have a magazine and sell ads in it, or go for TV buys, or whatever the case may be. Chances are if you run into a marketing division that is totally against the idea of using a concept akin to “content marketing,” you’re probably dealing with an old-school mentality.
I technically work in content marketing, in that I work in a marketing department and I produce content for them. As a result, I have a lot of people on my LinkedIn in a similar thought space, and I always see the friggin’ gold standard headlines of the moment: “7 Ways Content Marketing Can Help You!” or “19 Content Marketing Hacks!”
In a way, this is all bullshit.
I’ve never really been a fan of people who call themselves “marketing experts,” but with content marketing, it’s even more annoying. People who slug themselves as “content marketing experts” usually are selling a program to an organization. The program is essentially a set of “tips, tricks, and tools” where people can easily produce content, share content, and track content (give or take).
Here’s the problem: brands are, in essence, like snowflakes. They’re unique. Their stories, their backgrounds, the types of customers they want? It’s all different — and it’s often different even within the same industry or vertical. Honestly. The classic one here is probably Pepsi and Coke; they chase the same consumers in a way, sure, but the stories and approaches are different.
If brands are unique, then, why do brands follow paint-by-numbers content marketing “experts?”
One of the most frustrating things I hear from businesses who are adopting content marketing as a promotional strategy is that they feel the need to follow a formula laid out by some so-called expert – as if publishing exactly three blog posts a week, releasing one infographic a month and sharing them all on a few specific social networks will guarantee traffic and conversions.
This mindset needs to change if you wish to gain true benefits from your content marketing efforts.
Modern content marketing is driven by a brand’s ability to create high utility content; another part of the brand experience is companies creating their own online personality. This means that content types and subject matter can vary from company to company. In fact, no two companies can ever be the same. Each have their own story, culture, and set of visions and objectives. So how can you expect a single strategy to work for more than one company? This type of cloning doesn’t make sense, nor does it show results. What it does is kill people’s faith in content marketing. No wonder marketers respond with, “Oh, that thing doesn’t work. We’ve tried that.”
Yep. 100 percent agree.
Look, marketing definitely needs to evolve — and it probably would a little faster, if average CMO tenure was a bit more than 48 months — but the one thing that the entire evolutionary process for marketing needs to be rooted in is this core idea: it’s all about telling a story. That’s what marketing is, that’s what branding is, etc. And in fact, we should probably be starting with the outcome — how will a customer feel? — and telling the story backwards from there. We often focus on product product product sell sell sell, but what really resonates with a potential buyer of something is how and why it can improve their life.
If you really want your content marketing to work, you can use an advisor or consultant or expert, sure. Of course you can, and you probably want to. People love out-sourcing work to consultants. But make sure they’re coming in and thinking about your brand, your story, how you can resonate with customers, etc. Paint-by-numbers can’t cut it in the content marketing space. If you go that route, you won’t see results and you’ll be frustrated and stop — and then a competitor, who did it organically, will surpass you. It’s really that simple.