I’m afraid that right now, as marketers, we may be close to reaching a breaking point. Marketing used to get the benefit of the doubt, we used to be allowed to have “nice things”. But then too many abused that privilege and ruined it for everyone else.
Marketers started off with the best intentions, with the goal of simultaneously helping their audience and growing their businesses. And that turned into a movement, a movement that eventually grew to have a name, and a name that every marketer now wants to attach themselves to.
And that’s when things started to get, well … icky.
I’m talking about content marketing, but not the “original” version of content marketing, and not in the way that it’s practiced by many of the same folks who started it in the first place.
Before I go too far, I do want to say this isn’t a “we were there when” type of debate (see: grey hair and “get off my lawn”). Some of the best and most effective content marketers are new to the game. My issue is with the fact that every PR firm, SEO firm, web development firm and insert any other type of firm, now believes it is a “content marketing agency.”
It’s the influx of too many people doing too many bad things, with too many bad marketing practices. Things that are giving true content marketing - and by extension, marketing more broadly - a bad name.
Too many things I didn’t ask for
If some is good, then more is better - or so it would seem, based on how some marketers operate these days.
But the problem is, more is usually not better - for instance, email marketing has been one of the most effective tools around. Creating a program that distributes valuable information to an audience that actually wants it, that’s content marketing gold. But then some people had to go and take it too far.
You know, the relentless drip email asking for a “quick conversation” — the same one that after four non-responses, the sender makes some (no longer clever) joke about wondering if you are stuck under a file cabinet.
Yep, we went from helpful and useful to trying to relentlessly pound people into submission - sometimes multiple times a day, from the same company, to the same person.
And so, some marketers have ruined it for the rest of us. It’s become increasingly hard to get an email past spam filters, into an inbox, and noticed so it can ultimately generate the results you want.
The same can be said for social media spam (e.g., posting the same blog post 100 times in the same LinkedIn group). Yes, promote and market your content, but let’s do things the right way.
Too fast too soon
“Speed to lead” is a phrase every salesperson knows all too well.
When a lead comes in, you better be ready to jump on it - and for somebody who truly is a lead, that makes sense. But there’s a flip side of that, and it’s the experience from the leads' point of view. Things like the instantaneous and continued phone calls hammering you seven seconds after you download a company’s eBook or white paper.
Look, I’m all about viewing marketing through the lens of revenue generation, but when I polled some fellow marketers, this came in at No. 1 on the list of things that turn them off - to the point that they will discard reputable companies from consideration because it rubs them so much the wrong way.
Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and think like a human. We have sophisticated tools that score leads and qualify individuals, accounts, and engagements, and yet too many companies simply bombard leads after the first touch. It’s turning buyers off. So now, buyers rarely answer the phone when they see an unknown number, suspecting it’s that call they were really hoping they wouldn’t get the second after they filled out a form for your content - content they haven’t even had a chance to read yet.
Automating me to irrelevance
Marketing automation tools are great, and I’m one of the first to advocate for them. With the constantly increasing number of things a marketer is asked to do every day, it’s almost impossible to scale without some level of automation.
The key word there is some. All too often, I’m seeing marketers automate me to irrelevance.
What do I mean by that? While it’s great to be able to do things (warning: massive buzzword alert) “at scale”, it’s critical to consider the relationship you already have and want to have with your prospects and customers, and make them feel that you truly value them.
Don’t email me about a service I already pay your company to provide and ask me to try it for the first time. Don’t repeatedly offer up a “last chance” registration deal for an event I’ve already ponied up a good chunk of change for and was actually looking forward to.
In short, while automation is great, make sure to account for the human side of things. Stop, plan, measure twice, cut once, and then deploy.
Relying on gimmicks and making me feel like I fell for it
Clickbait (using “…and you’ll never guess what happens next” as every headline for your distributed content). LinkedIn posts that are extra long to game the system and get you to expand them … and then have
Gated content that doesn’t deliver on my expectations and isn’t worth the contact info I provided. Sales pitches disguised as conference sessions or educational webinars. The list goes on.
How many of these have we all seen just this week, let alone this year?
C’mon people, you’re giving us marketers a bad name. Tricking your audience is a pretty terrible method of getting them to trust you and your products or services. Let’s be better than that.
When I grow up, I want to be in marketing
So this may have been a bit ranty, but my hope is that by identifying just a few of the many ways some bad apples are breaking marketing, we can rally and fix it. We’ve seen it done right, and we’ve seen it as a waste of time and money. Marketing done right is absolutely a revenue generator, not a cost center, and the right approach can win.
Let’s get away from these bad practices and get back to the core of marketing - to generate revenue by helping our best prospects and customers be better at their business, and help them do so with the information, tools and services our companies can provide. Reach them, teach them, and educate them that there’s a better way. And make them feel good about it, not like they were tricked, trapped, and slimed.
I love marketing, and I’m proud that we’ve seen the tangible results that we can attribute to marketing programs done the right way. Let’s fix it, so if my kids happen to decide to go into the business, they won’t get laughed at when they say, “When I grow up I want to be in marketing.”