I shouldn't recommend content marketing to everyone. It's dangerous. And not everyone has the skills to cut it.
But I can't stop myself. I believe in content marketing. It works. So I write about it and deliver free seminars on the subject. But to do it effectively, it's you that has to believe in it.
Mr. Big Mouth...
I suppose I don't beg my clients to get into it. I suggest it.
Then, typically, I answer questions about what content marketing is and how it works. I cite examples of how some brands are rising above the noise, enjoying the benefits of search success, expanding their community, and making money because of their efforts.
And then I get the green light. And then we go. And then we stall. And then we stop. And then we're forced to admit, we wasted time and money.
So I wish I had kept my mouth shut.
A great website isn't the key to the treasure chest.
Most of these ill-fated forays into content marketing begin when I get contacted to create a new website, which is often. I consult with my client and we forge a plan to make a great website. I refer often to my eBook on the subject, "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website," and use it as a guide to the strategies we'll pursue.
Along the way, it's nearly impossible to avoid subjects such as blogging, search, social, and some of the other tricks of the trade. Why? Because the best website in the world won't make you a dime unless people come to it and find themselves engaged with the content there.
There I go again. I can't stop spouting the gospel.
I want my clients to understand the key to effective online marketing, or any marketing, is to get customers to know, like and trust you. That's a high bar seldom achieved with a heavy dependence on ad or brochure-like communications.
Ugh. Stop me now before I talk you into doing content marketing against your will.
There are good reasons to do content marketing and there are bad reasons. Let's get to the bad ones now.
Bad reasons to do content marketing.
1. Content marketing is where marketing is at right now.
Most big brands, your household names, are pouring it on with blogs, magazines, apps, video, eBooks and all kinds of compelling content aimed at being educational and/or entertaining. Done well, the content draws the company and customer closer together, emotionally speaking, and loyalty and word of mouth is ignited in the process.
So, yeah, content marketing is en fuego. That doesn't mean you need to do it too.
Don't do content marketing because it's hot. Don't do it because that's where media is going. Don't do it because your competitors are doing it, your friends are doing it, your mom's doing it, or the crowd's doing it.
Content marketing isn't for followers. It's for leaders.
2. You don't have to buy media.
True. No doubt, it's incredibly intoxicating to startups, smaller companies, or any company attempting to rein in the spending. Though there are certainly exceptions, most companies are seeing their return on investment in advertising, direct mail, and the gamut of "outbound" marketing wither away and die.
The sting that comes from burning money-or the job insecurity that comes from flimsy results-tends to grease the skids for joining the great content craze.
Sure, in content marketing, you dial-down or eliminate the traditional media spend. However, you can't escape the need to "use" media, for lack of a better word. So you have to make media, be media, or earn media.
There's a learning curve. And guess what? You never reach the top of it. Though you may master the tools in reasonably short order, you'll never be able to stop investing in learning. Translate: content marketing requires expertise. Expertise takes time. Time is money. The discipline isn't as free as it may seem.
And what about earned media? It's even more important than "owned" media (what I was writing about before). To get people on your website to do business with you, you have to make yourself known elsewhere on the web-in the news, on other blogs, throughout social media and social commerce.
There's a secret to all this earned media stuff. Your content has to be great, as in worth publishing, worth sharing, worth praising.
Content marketing isn't for media amateurs. It's for professionals.
3. You want to join the conversation.
A brand is essentially the sum of what people say about it. We're connected and social now. And that's not all. We're hypercritical, hyperactive and so hyper-online, we're barely offline when we sleep. Scheduling our content to publish while we're snoring is easy. There are apps for that.
So once again, this bad reason comes with a major league disclaimer because it's a good reason too. If you're not a part of the conversation, you are indeed going to miss out on some opportunities.
But joining the conversation is a commitment. You can't just talk. You have to listen. It's not enough to be there. You have to have presence.
Content marketing isn't about adding words. It's about adding value.
Will you take this stuff to heart?
For a few years now, the research reveals marketers two biggest challenges in the content marketing arena are (1) lack of budget and (2) producing enough content. You could make a case these are two versions of the same thing.
But I want to challenge the said challenges. Don't get me wrong, I'm not attacking the integrity of the research. If the research is flawed, I believe it's because one challenge has been left off the list of choices:
If you think about any of the things you do well, stick to, get satisfaction and rewards from, you're going to conclude they're the things you truly believe in-the things your heart is in. And where your heart goes your brain will follow.
You shouldn't go down the content marketing path with doubt, trepidation or hesitation. Go down that path if you believe it's worth the effort, if you believe you're going to get good at it, and if you believe it will become a part of your corporate culture for the long haul.
Content marketing isn't for you for the reasons you think. It's for you if you believe in it.