Why your content marketing commitment may be missing the mark

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Published Sep 17, 2013 | Written by Jeremy Knight

pitch-content-marketingThis is one of those subjects that is difficult to address without sounding smugly and unjustly critical. Of course your commitment's not missing the mark, you protest. You're “doing” it diligently, and you have been for a long time.

The evidence and the hard work are there to see. You have case studies. That's content. You have blogs. That's content, too. You have whitepapers and discussion documents, joint-branded research and surveys, email newsletters, and other material besides. Clearly, when it comes to modern marketing, you've seen the light, swallowed the pill, "ponied up" the investment and pulled the trigger good and hard.

In fact, according to a piece written a few months ago by Ryan Skinner on Econsultancy, a recent survey states that some 95% of UK marketers “do” content marketing.

And that is precisely what leads me to believe that what many of them are doing is not effective at all.

The content marketing conundrum

Despite the fact that quality content is known to drive measurable results in terms of quality backlinks, social shares and search engine rankings, as we have noted in other posts, this type of marketing activity can a difficult sell internallyand it's my hunch that few businesses are truly going through that process successfully.

Think about it from the Board's point of view for a moment. Effective content marketing means asking your business and its stakeholders to invest in a labour-intensive programme of writing, design, video and other abstract sorcery that talks little about your products and services, is given away for free, and doesn't seek a direct and immediate sales payoff.

Now, there are exceptionally good reasons for pursuing such a difficult sell, which we'll explore in a moment, but to my mind, the suggestion that 95% of marketers in this country have already got there leaves me doubtful.

And, building from that point, it surely begs the question as to whether content marketing is really a viable fit for some businesses in the first place.

Defining the right mindset

This isn't just about appropriate resource, relentless schedules, or effective content plans (although the lack of any of these will hasten failure). It's also about whether the business has made the necessary leap of faith to accommodate the mindset, as opposed to simply “sending out content”. So what is that mindset, and does your business have it?

Effective content writing needs to be remarkable. And to achieve that, it often has to be bold, disruptive, counter-intuitive, unorthodox, generous, and more. In fact, it has to have the potential to upset the C-suite in many different ways!

Now, add to that the stat I uncovered in a recent post, showing that organisations without C-level buy-in are three times more likely to fail at content marketing!

You see the problem, right?

Your business has the right mindset only if you have argued your content marketing programme out with senior management, answered the difficult questions, presented the difficult truths, and, despite it all, got their green light. And if you don't have this, your business does not have  - cannot have, in fact - real commitment to marketing in this way.

And yes, I'm going to say it – if that's the case, you just shouldn't bother. Because, as Skinner once again so pithily puts it, not only will no worthwhile content writing ever come of your company, but worse, you'll have no effective bulwark against all those content philistines in your organisation who demand you “squeeze sales pitches into your content” and urge you to “abandon every campaign that doesn't yield leads right away.”

I think that would be a very depressing office in which to be “doing” content marketing of any kind.

The everyday reality of the content marketing commitment

So, the definition of true commitment in this regard is undeniably somewhat bracing. The commitment is born of challenging the company status quo at a senior level, grows by a ceaseless programme of execution, and, arguably, gains credibility by refuting the old-style marketing approaches beloved of many of your colleagues!

It's uphill work a lot of the way, I won't deny it. But then the extra sweat is what will put you in the relatively tiny percentage of those who don't just “do” content marketing, but actually do it effectively.

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Published by Jeremy Knight September 17, 2013
Jeremy Knight