Now that the summer is over (I’ll wait while you boo), many marketing teams are getting back to work.
One area that is on many of their minds is content marketing. I’m a fan when it’s done right and unfortunately it’s increasingly rare that brands are going down that path in a way I admire. Let me explain.
As the folks as the Content Marketing Institute say:
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Putting aside how and why there is already an “institute” for something so relatively new, I like that definition because it emphasizes what’s missing in much of what’s being produced – value. As an aside, the fact that it only implies a customer-centric view is a shortcoming but I guess that if you’re focusing on “valuable” you must focus on the recipient’s view and not your own.
That’s the first mistake many companies make. This isn’t advertising, folks. Yes, potential customers are after information but they are trying to make intelligent, informed decisions. Done properly, good content marketing fills that needs and helps them to do so. Done badly, it’s another ad they toss and ignore.
We all know people on social media who overshare. I don’t mean that in the Too Much Information sense (no, I don’t care what you had for breakfast) but in the 100 posts a day sense. They share or retweet damn near everything that crosses into their stream. Bad content marketers make the same mistake. Sure, you’re just trying to be helpful but you need to strike a balance between helpful and annoying. When you have something useful to say, by all means say it. When you’re just publishing to make noise, think again.
Finally, one tenet of creating any kind of content is to write what you know. Companies who make cars shouldn’t be giving out recipes unless they’re hiring noted chefs to write them and publishing them is a way that makes sense: here is how to use your new Model X for tailgating and here is some great recipes to help you to do so. You can’t be all things to all people. Be a resource in your areas of expertise and avoid all the others. Your audience will thank you.
Oh – one last thing. Do NOT hide an ad as a piece of research or a white paper. I’ve written about that elsewhere so I won’t belabor the point. Be transparent. Be real. Add value. Don’t be sneaky. Your thoughts?