Content Marketing has been around forever.
Well, almost forever. 1895 to be specific, when John Deere launched The Furrow, a publication that educated farmers on new technologies and innovation. However, this marketing concept has really picked up in the past few years, with the best brands re-organising themselves as publishers. In fact, recent polls show that about 30% of marketing managers believe it is the most important Digital Marketing trend for 2015. (Source: CAM Foundation).
Even with all the hype, and evangelists like Joe Pullizzi speaking highly about the value of content marketing, several organisations struggle to get this going.
So, why is content marketing so $%&#ing difficult?
Observation #1 - Marketers struggle to view the world from their customer’s POV.
Look at me. I’m a shiny brand. Hear the reasons why I’m the most awesome thing since sliced bread. Me. Me. Me. Me.
This is the message that a lot of brands are guilty of broadcasting. And every year, more and more of marketing spend is unaccounted for. Brands simply love to talk and content marketing requires exactly the opposite: to listen. Many marketers struggle to start with the customer story, identify the topics that matter to them and then only build the rest of the marketing message on that basis.
Observation #2 - Marketers are uncomfortable with activities that don’t have a direct ROI.
It’s not really their fault. This is what they are being measured on.
How many £/$/€/¥/₹ are you bringing in? No, really, how much? You DON’T know?!?! Wow, you must be pretty stupid. Maybe Brian should have your job.
The challenge with content marketing is that is not directly linked to sales. This is all about having conversations with your customers about the things they want to talk about. That may lead to a sale in a week. In a month. In a year. There is no way to know (although B2B organisations are getting much better at this, they just happen to call it lead nurturing).
You need a robust measurement and attribution model in place for you to map out the entire journey to an end sale. And a lack of such a model means that the returns for content marketing are defaulted to zero. Which would equal your bonus at the end of the year, given how most marketing teams measure success today.
Observation #3 - Brands are afraid to take “a stand” on the topics that matter to their customers.
We’re a bank. We deal in financial products. Why do we need to get involved in a conversation about health?
And yet, that is exactly what an enterprising Russian bank did. They linked their customers' current accounts to a savings account that yielded an exceptional interest rate. For every exercise the customer did in the day, a small percentage of their balance was transferred over to the attractive savings accounts. And they supplemented this with conversations about health and fitness with their customers.
There are more examples of such behaviours. Colgate recently ran a campaign on the importance of saving water. Dove regularly champions women’s rights. These brands don’t have to get involved in these conversations. But they do. Because it helps customers under who they are.
That is the benefit of content marketing. By creating content that your customers care about, you are advertising the values of your brand at the same time, and thus building trust.
There’s no other way to say this. Content marketing is hard. Bloody hard. It needs good data, marketers that place themselves in their customers’ shoes - backed by an organisation that rewards the right long-term behaviours. This isn’t for the short sighted, ROI driven managers, who are just buying time and kidding themselves if they think throwing more money is going to solve the problem. One thing is for sure, content marketing is here to stay.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow marketers - time to roll up your sleeves.
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