You’re Not Really Doing “Content Marketing”
May 24, 2016
I was having a conversation with my colleague, Dave Baeumler, about some work we’re doing for a client. It’s good work. It’s highly valuable information for a specific audience. It’s creatively expressed content that’s unique in the marketplace. The particulars within the pieces are of benefit to potential buyers in an industry with a specific need – and they aren’t focused on an immediate sale.
It’s most everything experts would say “content marketing” is. But it’s not content marketing. It’s a singular piece. Sure it’s one piece in a family of pieces. But the family is a dysfunctional one…a loose grouping of disconnected singular pieces about similar subject matter, that are highly focused on a particular point in time.
Dave summed it up like this: “These are product ads that are longer than 30 seconds and are not on TV.”
That’s content. But it’s not content marketing.
The truth is a lot of content people would like to claim as “content marketing” isn’t really content marketing at all. It’s long-form advertising around products or events and their value props.
But here’s the thing: I’m not judging. And I’m definitely not one to make statements like, “if you’re not doing real content marketing then you’re doing everything wrong.” I’m not a purist of one sect within the greater realm of marketing.
As a marketer cognizant of the modern, social-media-heavy, video-entertainment-laden, “don’t sell me, bro” world, I know there’s great ground that can be gained by doing good content marketing. But I also know that one-off long-form advertising can also be effective…when used at the proper time. (So can regular ol’ traditional advertising. And display ads. We could go on.)
The problems really arise when, as marketers, we try to measure the efficacy of content marketing when you’re not really doing content marketing. And, unfortunately, that means we have to get into a pedantic debate about the term.
Content marketing requires a consistent adherence to creating and distributing valuable and relevant information to attract, retain and ultimately motivate an audience. I’ve added some emphasis to specific words to make this point: Content marketing requires an interplay between brand and audience. Consistent, valuable, relevant information that retains an audience over time means creating both proactive and reactive content – the first based on what you (as an organization) has to offer and the second based on what the audience is interested in right now.
If you’re trying to take advantage of a moment in time to sell, like an event or product launch, then by all means make the long-form advertising. But don’t look to measure—and expect to achieve—the long-tail results of a content marketing approach.
If, instead, you are truly looking for long-tail results of increased awareness and favorability in your marketplace, then let’s work on a content marketing framework. Let’s start creating many pieces of content connected by a focused exploration of a subject matter that educates and motivates. Let’s make your organization a go-to expert within an industry or subject matter. Let’s act like journalists, learning from our audience and providing the content that they’re craving, as they crave it. Let’s form powerful relationships with influencers in the same field by empowering them to also tell more value-lead stories. Let’s never look at a singular piece and call it content marketing.
In short: Let’s all just make sure we’re connecting the means of marketing and how we’ll measure the efficacy first. Then we can determine whether content marketing is the answer we should provide, rather than just calling it that.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.