Discontent with content? The case for proper content marketing

You’ll be hard pressed to find any marketer who hasn’t come across the term content marketing. Yet, its rise has been met with murmurings of discontent: ‘content marketing doesn’t work’, ‘content marketing isn’t effective’, and so on. However, as with any marketing campaign, strategy, channel and tactic, whether it works or not is dependent on a number of factors.  

Before we get ahead of ourselves, what do we mean by content marketing? Content marketing is about using content on a regular basis across one or more channels to attract and retain (or build and engage) a defined audience. There is no ‘one way’ to achieve this. You need to be clever with your content. It all depends on what your objectives are and what the opportunity is with your audience.

The cause for discontent comes when marketers lose sight of the objectives and target audience. Take the traditional inbound model, as described here by Samuel Scott. In this instance, content is used to cast a net as wide as possible, where the audience is then funnelled into a sales cycle and remarketed to (or nurtured) until they convert or leave.  Whilst this works for some brands and their goals, it will not work for others.

All too often marketers see what’s worked, consider it a ‘blueprint’, and try to replicate. Being aware of successful (and unsuccessful) activity is a great way to garner inspiration and learnings. However, there are reasons why, for example, that a large corporate bank may not find content marketing success with activity identical to that used for an FMCG brand.  

Bad content marketing is the problem

In the last decade – since the term content marketing came to prominence – certain brands have been ‘doing’ or have ‘done’ content marketing really rather well. The likes of Adobe and HubSpot built huge B2B audiences establishing themselves as the go-to sites for all types of digital marketing advice, whilst Net-a-porter, Red Bull, Dollar Shave Club, Blendtec plus many others have shown how content can also be a hugely effective tool at boosting sales and increasing a business’s bottom line.

For every well-known success story, there are tens, hundreds, thousands of pieces which have simply failed.  A simple search in Google provides a litany of poor content campaigns, social media fails and UX nightmares.  

There are multiple reasons why content marketing activity either succeeds or fails.  The biggest trap for any brand is to take note of a successful idea and assume it’s as easy as CTRL+C & CTRL+V to replicate. Doing so shows a huge lack of audience understanding, strategic thinking, as well as creative and promotional considerations.  

So what does good content marketing look like?

There is no blueprint. That’s the point. Every strategy, idea, campaign and tactic must be tailored to your audience and your brand’s goals. Do you truly know what makes your audience tick – or better yet – click?

The first thing you need to be clear on is what you are trying to achieve as that will massively guide your audience decisions, strategy and resulting activity.

Once you have a solid understanding of your audience – including their likes, dislikes, attitudes, behaviours – then you need to consider a content strategy to reach that audience e.g. the what, why, where, when and how of audience (customer) focussed content. All of this research and data underpins your creative and distribution tactics.

Whether you’re a content marketing skeptic, or have tried but haven’t seen the results, think about the points raised above. If you’re discontent with your content, then it’s likely that you’re not doing it right. Bad content marketing is the problem, good content marketing is alive and kicking – if it’s ‘done’ properly.

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