Nearly nine years ago (yes, nine!), Joe Pulizzi asked Seth Godin about the role of content marketing in traditional media. His answer is truer now than ever:
“[Content Marketing] is all the marketing that’s left.”
In a Zero Moment of Truth world, brands must deliver engaging, helpful resources—or face being left out of a buyer’s consideration set completely. But what happens when we go blue in the face blogging, ebook-ing, Facebook Live-ing and generally spinning our content wheels … without gaining much traction?
The first barrier to our success is a lack of understanding of the basics of content planning, creation, distribution and promotion (get that here). But assuming we’ve got that covered, what’s holding us back? September’s Content Marketing World (CMWorld) conference offered some clues—straight from the industry’s best and brightest. Five common threads from the event may explain why your content marketing is flailing:
1. You’re not committed.
No, not you. Of course you’re committed. But maybe your boss or the organization at large isn’t. Pulizzi kicked off the conference with one eye-opening stat: only 20 percent of content marketers at global enterprise companies are fully committed to content marketing. And with that, he flashed the iconic Nike logo and the words “Just do nothing.” After a nervous laugh from the crowd, Pulizzi explained that mediocre content creation (or only being partially committed to the craft) can hurt your brand more than it will help.
2. You’re promoting (but not amplifying).
First came the realization that just making content wasn’t enough to gain and engage an audience (HELLO content glut and diminishing returns on SEO efforts); then marketers mastered the ability to form smart, integrated paid strategies to promote our content; but we may have missed a step along the way. This year’s CMWorld harped on purposeful amplification—creating content that, for a variety of reasons, is inherently more likely to catch fire and spread. This could mean quoting/involving thought leaders; jumping on a bigger brand’s traction; or releasing a timely survey or report. The same tactics that encourage organic sharing are also a boon for PR—a game-changing content distribution channel.
3. You haven’t found (and filled) a “content hole.”
This is another obvious foundational principle that’s easy to lose sight of. What’s a question your industry is afraid to answer, but that people are dying to know? Furthermore, what are your customers and prospects complaining about? Try content that either combats the problem or publicizes what you’re doing to solve it. Sessions from Jay Baer, Andy Crestodina and Andrew Davis all touched on this theme.
4. You’re creating branded content, but not a content brand.
Davis’ aforementioned session covered an example of wildly successful content marketing that ACTUALLY sells product, but we rarely think of it as such: Children’s TV programming. From Disney to The Muppets, networks consistently go over budget to produce shows, and they don’t care—because they reap immense ROI in the form of licensed product sales. The comparison may be a bit of a stretch for today’s corporate content marketers; but the bottom line is, truly inspired content—the kind that builds regular subscribers and true fans for life—sells. If you’re stalled out with content marketing, start treating your content as the product—and sales will follow.
5. You aren’t being truly generous.
This came up again and again in multiple CMWorld sessions and keynotes. Crestodina called content marketing a “test of generosity.” Michael Jr. recounted how his biggest comedic breakthrough was shifting the focus from himself to the audience. Just as charitable work first takes selflessness, but ultimately benefits the do-gooder, so does content marketing. That means giving up valuable information, time and resources to develop content that delights, entertains and/or educates. So kill the self-serving messaging and personal agenda promotion. The more your content is born from a place of generosity, the more likely it will be to succeed and pay dividends.