I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Content marketing won’t work for everyone and there are some really simple explanations about why. In the age of content overload, “content farming” is on the rise and you will see many businesses doing a great job creating all sorts of content from blog posts, ebooks, white papers, videos, you name it. If all it took was creating content, every brand would be killing it, right? Wrong! If you think that creating and having enough content to stay timely and relevant in front of your audience is all it takes to up your marketing game, I’m sorry to break it to you, but that alone won’t work for you.
Welcome to my tough-love post. This isn’t to make anyone feel bad, I just want to call a spade a spade and unpack the primary reasons why content marketing won’t work for you or your organization and offer some simple solutions to turn that around. Content marketing can work for most every brand, but if you’re scratching your head wondering why it’s not working for you, here are a few theories why:
1. You’re a take, take, taker and not a giver
The old adage, “It is better to give than to receive” applies wholeheartedly to a social content strategy. One of my biggest pet peeves are the automatic direct messages on Twitter I get after I follow someone. It’s not that I’m not a fan of automation, but when I receive messages like, “I am so excited to connect with you! Meanwhile like my Facebook page [link to Facebook page] and just_unfollow.” I cringe, because 1. I can’t even write you back, because you haven’t followed me. It’s already NOT a conversation. And 2, we barely know each other and you’re asking me for something. It’s tacky. Stop trying to get as much as you can from everyone else and make it a priority to treat others the way you would like to be treated. Reciprocity is an act of kindness and respect, not an entitlement. Remove expectations like “if I do this, then they should do that” or any other form of manipulative posturing. Start a relationship first and make authentic connections before you start asking for favors.
2. It requires more than an investment in money, it requires an investment in your time
Personalization and accessibility go a long way to establish the right kind of connections with your audience, both of which require an investment in time. Content marketing is targeted and leverages social channels to engage, promote and broadcast. The key work here is “social” and if you aren’t willing to show up and be present every once in a while, how can anyone socialize with you? This is not a strategy for businesses that just want to invest in marketing for someone else to do. My best clients are the ones who are involved in every stage of the content planning process and who are open to being trained and educated about how to use social media to personally engage in conversations with their audience. Companies that put people and human connections at the heart of their business get this and find a lot of success with their content efforts. It’s kind of like, a professional can give you all the advice in the world about how to have a great marriage with your spouse…but they definitely can’t have that relationship for you.
3. Manufactured content is the exact opposite of authentic
There are plenty of content creation agencies out there that provide companies with content they can share with audiences. Templates and other starter-kits are awesome and are a life-saver to many of us. Just make sure that you are customizing your content with your own unique branding, from your style guide all the way through to your tone and delivery. Too often, businesses fall into the trap of just sharing recycled content that hundreds of others have already tried to pass off as their own. One of the worst examples I’ve seen is the misuse of content within the financial services industry. Forefield is a company that offers advisory practices with content for client communications and can be fully customized. The mistake that happens is that firms get lazy and don’t actually customize the content and then just wind up sending the same newsletter that hundreds of other firms have sent. There is nothing original or authentic about cutting corners like this and your “content strategy” will fail.
4. For the last time, it’s NOT sales
I really don’t know how to elaborate more clearly. For all of you who think that content marketing is going to provide rapid fire sales, stop thinking it right now. The world still needs talented sales people to close the deal. Remember, the official definition of, “marketing” is: the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (AMA.org) Content marketing in continuation creates and distributes valuable content that attracts and retains a clearly defined audience and works to drive profitable action. We are the lead the horse to water part, quite effectively. Marketing and sales need to work together to get the business, so don’t expect a content marketing strategy alone to go from the awareness stage to a closed deal. It’s all about the teamwork and hand-off.
5. You’re too impatient
There is one very clear and consistent message when it comes to content, social, and inbound marketing: it can take anywhere from 6-12 months to start seeing results, depending on how aggressive the marketing program is. All marketers agree that it takes time; how much time tends to depend on the client. Content marketing is a long-game strategy that takes time to ramp up and then is set on a positive course. The gap between what client’s hope for (even when they know how long it will take) and how a strategy plays out when done correctly is wide. As much as you’re hungering for immediate results, you must calm down and give a correctly implemented strategy the time it needs to take effect. If, after 2 to 3 months you quit the strategy, because you’re too impatient and frustrated, the strategy really won’t work for you. Just like any good relationship takes time to develop and establish trust, so, too, do the online relationships you’re making through your content marketing strategy. You can’t rush a good thing.
6. For goodness sake, write something
Content marketing requires content, clearly. Original content from a leader or brand ambassador of an organization is invaluable. No two people can write exactly the same, because we all think and compose our messages differently. Write something and let your audience in. Your voice, your message. Write something directly to your audience so that they feel they are part of a conversation with you. You don’t think that would have an impact on your content marketing success? I personally loved this blog post, “Good Managers Write.” Clear writing means clear thinking and it truly has an impact on your audience, both external and internal.
7. Learning new tools is beneath you
I think the idea of just having someone else do it doesn’t serve the bigger picture here. Be willing to learn new tools and technologies. If you aren’t willing to learn, you will miss out on opportunities to connect and engage with your audience, which is the point of content marketing. I mentioned during #socialhangout chat yesterday that I have worked in environments where the leaders and employees had an arms crossed position against social media and engagement. It came as no surprise that many of my fellow marketers have experienced the same thing. If you aren’t willing to do it, neither will your employees. So, don’t be intimidated by social platforms, learn them and use them.
8. Your focus isn’t really on relationships
If you really aren’t focused on human interactions and building relationships, don’t even try content marketing. There is no point for you. Adding value to your audience is at the heart of content marketing, so you have to care about your audience and want to nurture a long-term relationship with them to better understand their needs, wants, challenges, etc. in order to be successful.
9. You think you know better
Sometimes, we need to get out of our own way. I know you are smart, that is why you have gotten as far as you have and I commend you. However, can we both agree that perhaps your ego or stubbornness of doing things the way you have always done them before is hindering your ability to grow? If old school sales and marketing methods were still working for you, content marketing wouldn’t even be on your radar. The truth is, the world is changing and the way we market to our target audiences is ever-evolving, more rapidly than you can imagine. Technology has changed the playing field and direct mailers and breakfast seminars just aren’t as effective anymore. Be open to new ways of doing things and surround yourself with smart people you trust who can help you navigate the wonderful world of online marketing.
10. You’re a sheep, not a Shepherd
Stop following and copying the crowd. Content marketing is your way of positioning yourself and your brand as a thought leader. Having that solid brand foundation is critical to your ability to flourish as a Shepherd rather than always chasing the flock. Know what makes you and your brand unique. Be different and learn from your peers and competitors without mirroring their every move. Strive to lead within your niche and industry and avoid copycat movements that always leave you steps behind the rest. Doing what everyone else is doing when it comes to content marketing merely adds to the noise, it doesn’t necessarily give it its own frequency.
11. Hired the wrong person or agency
Sometimes you just hire the wrong people for the job. You think you had the Chuck Norris of marketing and instead saddled up with a Brian Williams (too soon?!). Marketers have been known to embellish ::shocking:: and perhaps you have someone who couldn’t quite deliver on the bill of goods they sold you. Any organization should take great care to hire the right person with the right skill sets. At a minimum, your content marketing professional should have an online personal brand footprint you can easily checkout. If they can do it for themselves, they’ll be able to do it for you. Be skeptical of the content marketer that isn’t producing his own original content.
12. There’s a disconnect between what you SAY and how you SERVE
Ok, this one is a biggie, so don’t miss this! What you say through your content and the brand perception you reinforce through your content marketing must align with the actual experience your customers have with real people in your organization. If it doesn’t, your potential customers will see right through you and bail. So, for example: don’t have a fun and playful online brand and then have a dry, monotone employee answer your phones. Reinforce a consistent brand personality across all customer touch points to ensure that your content marketing successfully drives that profitable action we talked about earlier. You can have the best content marketing in the world, but if the customer experience fails to deliver on the expectation it sets, you’re in trouble.
13. You have company culture issues to work out
Lastly, content marketing won’t work well for you if you have deep-rooted cultural issues. Negativity and silos are hard issues to work through and tend to stunt content marketing progress before it can even start. A collaborative environment where employees can and want to personalize a brand and engage with audiences online is a great sign that content marketing will work for you. Again, it’s about relationships and reinforcing a consistent message across all touch points. Consistent message does not mean a robot message where everyone says the same exact thing. It just means that there is a culture that buys in to this concept of human connection and adding value to an audience. There is a desire to engage with clients and potential clients that inspires the right kind of content for a long-term trusted relationship with your audience.
Maybe you identify with one or several of these issues. Any of the above reasons I outline why content marketing won’t work for you can be addressed if you are willing to make the necessary adjustments. Take heed and make sure you are setting yourself up for content marketing success when and if you decide to go down this amazing journey.
Subscribe to LMHinz Marketing Blog!
Get my latest marketing articles straight to your inbox. Enter your name and email address below: