It’s not because it’s newfangled (what it is, is a new name for an oldfangled idea), or because it’s the marketing discipline’s red-headed stepchild (really now?) , or any of those… things.
It’s because it’s so often pulled off in a less than ideal manner. It’s mishandled. Plain and simple.
Let’s do ourselves a favor and repeat the obvious. Content marketing is powerful. It’s versatile. And it’s turned businesses around. But only if it is content marketing. Which is why it pays to pay attention if ours in fact isn’t.
Is it Marketing, but not Content?
Interruption marketing, despite the distaste of its victims, isn’t ready to curl up and die just yet. It’s quick to act, quick to measure, and when time is an issue (as it usually is) many still find it an effective shot in the arm. But the whole concept of shoving brands in people’s faces is anathema to proper content marketing.
So whence the branded call-to-action? That brand of content marketing that is all conversion, no education?
Nobody’s saying marketing content isn’t created with the goal of bringing in customers and sales. It isn’t about trying to pass this off as something else. It’s about prioritizing the customer. About showing them you subscribe to the theology of give and take, and believe in earning their goodwill and patronage by doing something for them that you’re not obligated to.
Put aside the sales-ese, and keep the spotlight on what your readers want to see. Because there’s not much of a difference between a hard-sell piece, aimed at getting readers to click and be redirected, and an annoying pop-up ad asking to be blocked. Actually, it’s worse. Because pop-ups don’t try to disguise their intent.
Never forget that your readers know your purpose. A piece of content structured around influencing them to become your customer is not the same as one telling them to buy. If it comes off as little more than a glorified banner ad, it probably is.
Is it Content, but not Marketing?
The polar opposite is just as true. You craft a piece of content for an audience, put it out – and have trouble finding it again. Because it’s quite literally lost in the crowd.
Perhaps, like the above, it’s lacking in relevance. It’s too generic, covers too broad a base; not addressing problems or pain points sufficiently. Or perhaps it has no unique hook. Every business has one (or can come up with one), and this ought to be baked into everything you, as as a content marketer, roll out for your organization.
In order to resonate and succeed, it’s necessary to have a clear vision with regard to how readers are supposed to take your content. Say your piece, and then glaze it with that special something. If you’re talking a solution, for instance, focus on how you, and not just anybody else, can pull it off.
We’ve said something to the effect before, about how B2B marketing content has to not only educate, but guide. Otherwise, you’re just giving people something to read that doesn’t do much else than… giving people something to read.
Forget all notions of subliminal messaging. The idea is to stand out. Be relevant, be different, be genuine – and be bold about it.
Is it (oh snap) Neither?
Then, of course, there’s always the off chance that marketing content is neither content nor marketing. This is, admittedly, rare as white crows, but if it’s
- not delivering value to your readers,
- not talking directly to their concerns and/or issues,
- not helping them to see things your way,
- and not contributing to your brand or business image,
then it likely is. And that’s not doing both your assets and your prospects any justice.
Step back and get a fresh perspective on what you’ve done up. Get second or even third opinions, preferably from readers ‘outside the circle’ who are much more likely to view your content independent of industry or organizational bias. Remind yourself of what customers want to know. You owe it to both sides to get this right.
There has to be more than these few indicators of whether a given brand of content marketing has gone off the rails – have you seen any? Describe them below!
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