Content Marketing: Don’t Knock it ‘Til You’ve Actually Done It

July 29, 2014

I’ve seen plenty of headlines lately about why content marketing doesn’t work, why it’s a fad or why it’s a fading fling.

But nothing will work – regardless of how foolproof it is – if you don’t actually do it.

The complainers and naysayers are quick to point out the shortcomings of content marketing. But what they’re grossly overlooking is that the examples they’re using aren’t true examples – because either it lacked a sound strategy or the execution wasn’t there.

It’s no different than when the calendar flips each year and people head to the gym to lose weight. It you partially go through the motions, you’ll partially see results. If you go through the motions once in a while, when it’s convenient, you probably won’t see any results at all. The “fails” that I see usually involve a combination of six things:

  1. They didn’t know why they were doing it – Until you understand the motivation behind why you do anything, you’ll never have something that drives you when the going gets tough. Why do you want to get in shape? Is it so you can actively play with your kids as they grow up? Or is it so you can save face at your high-school reunion? The same goes for content marketing. Why are you starting down this path? What business objectives are you trying to move forward? Unless you know and have a commitment to truly integrating content marketing into your overall marketing strategy, it’s too easy to let it fall to the wayside when pressures mount and budget fade. If you don’t make it a priority, who will?
  1. They didn’t have a strategy – Every year, this statistic from the Content Marketing Institute just stares people in the face: the number of people who say they do content marketing (93%) doesn’t sync with the number of people who say they have a strategy (44%) and the number who say they’re realizing success (42%). Just like getting in shape, you have to have an overall plan that will guide you from point A to B. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re headed in the right direction?
  1. They didn’t have goals – What is it that you’re trying to accomplish – greater brand awareness? More sales leads? Better qualified leads? If you don’t have some kind of picture of what success should look like, how will you know it when you see it (or don’t see it)?
  1. They didn’t have a process for performance – If you have you strategy and goals in place, excellent. But strategy without execution is like mapping out your fitness plan and then never getting around to actually going to the gym – you’ll never see results. What’s you process for actually managing the content creation process? Who’s responsible? What’s your editorial calendar? And how does all of it integrate with each of your channels?
  1. They didn’t measure – Goals are your first step to measurement so that you at least know what you’re shooting for. Relax, not everything should always be going up and to the right. It’s OK if some things fall flat on their face because that shows that you’re trying something new – and that takes courage. Bravo! You can test small pieces and get feedback before launching anything on a broader scale. So if you do fail completely, there’s less at stake. But you won’t see key opportunities for learning, even how to make what’s good really great, unless you measure what you have going.
  1. They didn’t adjust – One of the beauties of online content marketing is that you can plan, launch, test, measure and adjust very quickly. If something misses the mark, you can adjust quickly. It may not have hit the mark the first time, but that just gives you an opportunity to iterate and go through the process again and continue to make refinements.

Content marketing isn’t in its infancy, but there’s still a long way to go before it’s an engrained mindset and practice. It takes someone who either already knows what they’re doing to lead the process or someone who’s hungry to learn.

In the Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark study, 73% of the respondents said that they have someone who oversees content strategy. But what that’s person’s background is and what expertise they have in being able to bring success can vary greatly.

It’s important that marketing leaders understand the type of person they should look for. Joe Pulizzi talked about the 12 essential roles for content marketing – not that you should feel that you need all of these just to get the ball rolling. A report from marketing software evaluation company Software Advice, looked at over 300 job posting for content managers and came up with specific skills that companies look for in a content manager in 2014.

Once they naysayers understand that having the right person in place to oversee the strategy and execution, and then admit that there are specific steps that just can’t be skipped, I guarantee that there’ll be less content marketing blasting. But, like anything, there will always be people who will coach and criticize from the couch, rather than getting the mix and understanding how things are really done.

Just please, don’t be one of them.

About Carla Johnson

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Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.