Content marketing is on fire.
With buyers demanding an end-to-end digital experience, the only way for a business to get seen so that it can attract and engage prospects is by publishing content that its target audience finds relevant and helpful.
And nothing attracts a crowd like a fire.
Maybe it’s a primal human instinct, drawn toward the warmth and protection of a flame, or perhaps it’s our fascination with its power, both useful and dangerous.
Whichever explanation you prefer, the fire burning brightly under content marketing is pulling people in from far and wide.
Like many hot attractions, though, it has its grifters and its impersonators.
Real content marketing involves a lot of hard work and preparation, figuring out what the audience needs to hear and when and where they want to hear it, then publishing that information in a comprehensive and cogent manner.
Faux content marketing is just publishing for publishing’s sake.
Content creator is a glamorous nom-de-plume for people who write blogs, social media posts, and webpages.
Content marketer should mean much more. It should involve a strategy.
In the same way that throwing a ball around in a park is not the same thing as playing baseball, publishing articles and posts does not constitute content marketing.
There should be an objective, and someone should be keeping score.
To stand a chance of beating the competition, there must be a game plan based on what it’s going to take to win and how to play to your strengths.
A team must be assembled that has the necessary skills, and they should practice until they can execute the game plan with alacrity.
Metaphors aside, real content marketing takes hard work and persistence.
To begin, it requires a deep understanding of the target audience. Who are they? What do they need to hear from you to form an emotional connection with your brand? How can you earn their trust? What will motivate them to evaluate, and hopefully purchase, your solution?
Then, based on that understanding, it requires designing and executing a content production and publication strategy.
Content marketing is neither a silver bullet nor an overnight miracle. It takes months of consistent, high-quality publication to earn the trust and respect of human readers and search algorithms alike.
Perhaps this is why there are so many peddlers of quick fixes and too many marketers willing to cut corners. Instant gratification is, of course, the hallmark of a certain generation.
Content marketing should cater to the needs of your target buyer at every stage of their buying journey—from initial awareness through to purchase and on to becoming a loyal customer and brand advocate.
Since the content a buyer needs and wants changes from stage to stage, this multiplies the library of material that a business must publish.
To up the ante a bit further, B2B buying decisions are usually made by a committee of people rather than an individual (as would normally be the case for a B2C transaction.)
Each member of that buying committee—what we like to call a buyer persona—will have their own needs, wants, and beliefs. In other words, they will respond to different content from other personas at the same stage of their collective journey.
The complete task, then, requires publishing relevant, helpful content for every persona on the buying committee at every stage in their buyer’s journey.
This can easily add up to several hundred topics that you ultimately want your company’s content library to cover.
How many pieces of content can your team produce, edit, polish, and publish in a month?
Unless you’re working for a large corporation, time and human constraints will limit you to a few pieces per week—perhaps even per month.
Divide the library list of topics by your team’s capacity to produce it and you’ll quickly see that content marketing is going to take months to do right.
And just when you think you’re getting there, a market trend will change, customer expectations will shift, or your competitor will zig to your zag.
Some of your content will become obsolete. Some of it will require updating.
The content marketing effort never ends.
As you have probably realized, an effective content marketing strategy requires a lot more than just banging out a blog every now and again alongside some corny social media posts.
For sure, publishing quick-and-easy material will get you noticed.
If it’s catchy and quippy enough, your company will grow its follower count and log some interactions. People will “like” all sorts of posts. Some will give a “heart” to a heartwarming story of good deeds being done. A few might even share that content with their network.
What is much less likely to happen is real engagement.
Unless you consistently publish something relevant to solving their challenge—something helpful that adds value beyond short-lived entertainment—none of those followers are going to engage in a conversation, let alone move toward making a purchase.
Attracting a prospect’s attention, engaging them in a conversation, and nurturing them toward making a purchase requires consistency and understanding.
How many emails (and InMails) have you received that promise effortless content production, streams of red-hot, qualified leads, and a fully booked calendar of sales calls?
Do they make any sense?
They certainly make a lot of noise.
Throwing a pot-full of content spaghetti at an audience wall will probably get something to stick. Ask enough people and there’s bound to be someone for whom even a badly conceived offer makes enough sense that they’ll sign up for a call.
Heck, even the Nigerian prince who wants to wire twenty million dollars to your checking account gets some action. There’s a sucker born every minute, as they say.
Stop for a minute and ask yourself what business would look like if those get-leads-quick schemes were predictably successful.
Who would use them?
If they consistently delivered qualified leads, who wouldn’t?
And there’s the rub.
Winning prospect’s attention, trust, and mind share is a zero-sum game. If my competitor convinces them to prefer her solution, it’s at the expense of mine. In very few situations can we both win.
If my competitor works with the get-leads-quick man and loads up on prospects in our sector, those same leads aren’t available to me if I try the same tactic. Unless, of course, the get-leads-quick man is serving up the same leads to both of us, which means they aren’t qualified leads at all. Would he do that…?
A cottage industry has sprung up around marketing content.
It feeds on the growing recognition that a business today must successfully implement content marketing if it is to thrive and survive, coupled with a widespread misunderstanding of what successful content marketing really means.
And, like so many corner-cutting, avoid-the-hard-work schemes, there’s plenty of appetite for what that industry has to offer.
Like the billions of low-cost, throw-away products that flood into the USA from Asia every year, cheap and nasty content gives the impression of productivity when all it really does is clutter up our lives, turning the internet into an online landfill.
Sadly, like many of those physical goods, crap content is slow to degrade. It hangs around for a long time, clogging up search results and polluting future generations lives.
If content marketing is important to you, then invest the time and effort to do it properly.
Avoid hustlers who promise rapid, content-driven success.
Do your homework. Dig deep to understand what your target audience needs and wants.
Commit to the process and consistently publish relevant, helpful material.
Be credible and authentic.
Do this for long enough and you will be rewarded with a steadily growing stream of engaged prospects that, nurtured properly, will become the life blood of your business—future sales.
Image credits: AdobeStock