Here’s a fact about content marketing: It won’t work if you don’t believe in it.
I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else, but not for me
Love was out to get me (do do do, do do)
That’s the way it seemed to me (do do do, do do)
Disappointment haunted all my dreams
Then I saw her face (then I saw her face)
Now I’m a believer (J: I’m a believer)
Not a trace (J: not a trace)
Of doubt in my mind (J: in his mind)
I’m in love (J: I’m in love)
Now I’m a believer
I couldn’t leave her if I tried
If I tried
Now that you’re humming The Monkees (or the Smash Mouth version from Shrek), a HUGE factor in the success of a content marketing strategy (ESPECIALLY for consultants) is how deep the belief in content marketing goes in the company.
Like any marketing effort, there’s no guarantee of success with content marketing (though you have to try REALLY hard to completely fail). The flip side: I can guarantee failure if you don’t believe.
Now, you probably won’t see content marketing’s face and immediately become a believer (though, as I write this, I realize that I immediately found myself saying “yep” from my very first content marketing reading so maybe you’ll fall in love too). Do your due diligence. Research it. Understand it. Then start.
That said, once you start, you have to believe in the process and trust that it’s going to work. As the definition says, you must “accept something as true, genuine, or real.”
Disappointment Haunted All My Dreams
We’ve all heard the Wanamaker quote about half of advertising being wasted, but not knowing which half.
The great thing about marketing these days is you can figure out which half of your spend is being wasted.
The best marketing today is based on permission (the best book on this, IMO, remains Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing).
The key to gaining permission to talk to your customers and potential customers is to create something useful for them (or funny or whatever is true to your brand).
I’ll touch on measurement in future posts. For now just know that there’s no reason for marketing disappointment to haunt your dreams.
Then I Saw Her Face!
I fell in love with the ideas behind content and inbound marketing years ago. You don’t have to, but you will love the results.
The key is to believe.
Like when you fall in love and you believe that person is the best thing ever — better even than sliced bread. You believe in them, in the relationship, and in your future together.
Just like a relationship, once that initial drug-like euphoria wears off, there’s work to be done. Relationships don’t just happen, they require care and feeding.
Underlying the success of a long-term relationship is an underlying belief that you’re going to make it work.
Content marketing is the same.
You have to believe in the concept of content marketing as the strategy that is going to to improve your marketing results over time. It’s not a short-term tactic for quick results (unless you’re lucky).
Results will come, if you believe. Or, to use the words of the Wife’s favorite singer, “You gotta have faith, faith, faith.”
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing
Darth Vader isn’t going to choke you out with the Force, but if you lack faith in your content marketing efforts you’re wasting your time at the worst or, at best, you’ll hamstring your efforts.
Personally, there were times I would have liked to have Vader’s ability with the force (and that it would work in a video conference).
I’ve not had the good fortune to ever work with clients who were 100% bought in on inbound marketing.
To clarify: the people I worked WITH were all-in and believers; their leadership were mostly old school salesmen (always men) who were trying the newest marketing flavor of the month in their industry (copier dealers and/or managed IT providers).
There are things we as an agency and I as an individual did wrong in our efforts. On the other hand, there was always a toe-in-the-water feel to the leadership of our clients. Worse, we couldn’t get complete buy-in from sales.
Despite repeated attempts to convey the idea “this is going to take time, your website traffic is 1,000 visits per month, but 70% of that is customers asking questions about meter readings or putting in help desk tickets or hits on your ‘career’ page,” the message didn’t sink in. After three months into one engagement, we were being asked “where are the leads.”
As we had explained when we began, it was going to take us about three months to do the research (personas, right topics by talking to the sales team, creation, etc.) to create an inbound campaign built around a few content assets and blogging.
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it think.
If you don’t believe, you’ll stop your content marketing efforts before they have a chance to take off.
You Have to Believe in Being Helpful Too
As an editor, I thought of marketing as “the dark side.” My experience with marketing and PR folks was limited to representatives of companies who wanted ink, online or in print. Those people could be . . . deceptive. The ones I discovered who were liars, I avoided after. Those that were helpful . . . guess who had the best chance of appearing in our pages?
As online content began to change and I started reading about content marketing beginning with The New Rules of Marketing and PR, I started to change my mind about what marketing SHOULD be.
That belief was cemented when I began to read Seth Godin’s work and discovered that I agreed with two of his main points about marketing:
- Marketing is helpful.
- All interactions with customers are marketing.
Of course, I loved his quote that “All marketing is now content marketing.”
Those two points are where the belief in content marketing comes in.
If you are only in the business of using marketing to separate customers from their money, content marketing isn’t going to be a good long-term play for you. You can’t fake it forever.
I believe that to be an effective marketer you have to care about your customer. Marketing is an extension of that.
Otherwise, you’ll just do the same ol’ shit over and over again and wonder why your customers continue to hate you and worry about losing market share to the competition who everyone just likes so much.
Now I’m a Believer: What Should You Do?
Love. Your. Customers.
Shift your thinking of marketing from something you do TO your customers to something you do FOR your customers. That is the beating heart of successful content marketing.
Then trust the process. This series of posts doesn’t get into the basic blocking and tackling of content marketing, but:
- Have a plan
- Understand your customers — their wants, needs, pains, aspirations
- Have a good, solid list to be able to use for email marketing campaigns (content marketing isn’t just pulling people in, it’s also about pushing relevant information out)
- Keep. Blogging.
- Test calls to actions and landing pages and email subject lines and cross- and upsell email campaigns.
- Find where your customers live online and be there. Be there as a guide, not that horrible schmuck pushing their goods and services.
- Have fun. Content marketing is hard, but when it clicks . . . dy-no-mite.
Believe that it’s going to work.
One last point — the flywheel.
The Content Marketing Flywheel
When you believe, good things happen for your marketing.
My favorite analogy about belief, effort, and how long it takes is the flywheel.
Think of all of your content efforts as a giant flywheel. To get the wheel spinning takes a LOT of effort to overcome inertia, the weight of the wheel, etc. As you continue to exert the same amount of effort the wheel continues to spin more easily and faster as inertia is overcome. .
If you keep putting in the effort, the wheel keeps on a-spinning.
Stop and so does the wheel.
Too many businesses dip their toe into content marketing, give it a spin for six months to a year, start to get results, and then stop (either because they think they’ve arrived or because they aren’t getting results fast enough).
I’d like to leave you with two personal flywheel lessons I’ve learned. They are old lessons — I hadn’t even heard of content marketing at the time — but relevant.
The Flywheel: The Doorman
As an editor, you’re the doorman for your magazine — print or digital. People want in and there’s always only a limited amount of room for the words inside. As an editor, especially for a publication with no budget, you’re always looking for experts and contributors. Properly handled, vendors can be a great resource.
As an editor, lot’s of pitches came my way (bonus tip: 20 years ago, no one cared about your product. Today, no one cares about your product. They care about how it will make their life easier.) The folks who were persistent and helpful would consistently get my attention.
Over the years, there were some constants. There were also a good dozen companies who did everything right: good product, helpful PR and marketing, and helpful to an overworked editor. They got my attention and that of others in the industry, including occasional interviews or article placement.
Thinking they had arrived, these companies stopped their marketing and PR efforts.
They stopping spinning the flywheel.
Editors don’t have time to research every little thing. Without the reminders, these folks were out of sight, out of mind.
The Flywheel: Online Community Management
Starting from scratch, I was involved in creating an online community for AIIM members from January 2009 to launch in Mayish of that year (honestly can’t remember). The goal was to educate members with expert blogs and conversations.
I was lucky to have access to a mix of contributors from having edited the magazine, run the webinar program, and by just calling folks who might be interested in contributing. We launched with a wiki, a few pages that would be called pillar pages today, and a few blogs.
Day 1 traffic when we pushed go was 0.
Granted, we had a leg up on many communities with an existing professional member base and a good website. But to grow traffic was a steady grind of adding blogs, scheduling content, starting or joining conversations on the community and on social media pages — I was shoving that flywheel hard.
Fast forward about two years and the community was the most visited Web real estate for AIIM. So successful that we migrated from a standalone site to embedded in the AIIM site. When I had the time to push the flywheel — whipping contributors into shape, starting conversations, and all of the other grunt work community managers to behind the scenes — traffic would rise. When pulled in other directions, traffic would dip.
The flywheel is real. Keep it spinning with your belief in content marketing.
I Couldn’t Leave Her If I Tried
Once you begin to experience success, you won’t even try to leave her, er, content marketing. Businesses from every industry and of every size are using content marketing to grow their businesses, get closer to customers, and even have a little fun along the way.
What are you waiting for?
Here’s the videos, back to back, Smash Mouth’s cover might be better, or maybe I just like Shrek waaaay more than the Monkees.
About the Cheeky A-Z Guide to Content Marketing.
There are groaning shelves of books and whitepapers you can read about content and inbound marketing. What’s missing from (some) of them is the stuff between the cracks. The dirty, nuts and bolts examples of things that can go wrong and the random things that can go wonderfully well. I decided to run down the alphabet a letter at a time and highlight personal lessons learned from creating content for 25 years and from applying those content creation lessons to content marketing over the past decade-ish. I hope you enjoy.