Your “content marketing” sucks. (Here’s how to fix it.)

A sure symptom of a failed content marketing strategy is that which gains no traction, earns no engagement, and ultimately fails to bring in new business. But how do you identify a failing content marketing strategy before it becomes a dead horse?

The most common causes of bad content marketing are: impatience, ignorance, and bad content.

The #1 problem is the impatient product marketer who wants instant results. Content marketing (and its close cousin, social selling) is fundamentally about building relationships, growing knowledge of and interest in your company, and establishing yourself (and your company) as industry experts worth working with. Worse, the impatient marketing executive doesn’t understand that these process take time (and create longer, more sustainable results!) than traditional push marketing (sell, sell, sell!), resulting in high pressure on content marketers to deliver immediate results (or else, say “bye bye” to your budget!).

The ignorant product marketer is problem #2. This well-meaning, traditional marketer just doesn’t really understand what content marketing is, viewing the internet as just another set of channels for promoting their brand. (Hint: if you read your content out loud and it sounds like a commercial for your product, it’s not content marketing.)

The net result is problem #3: bad content. To be successful, content must be relevant, engaging, and valuable. Good content gives your audience value without asking anything in return. It’s an investment in your relationship with your (potential) customers. Ultimately, a buyer is more likely to purchase from the brand they recognize as an industry leader and expert when compared to products with similar benefits. You’ve done even better if your customer comes to you via content that someone in their network recommended (hello, social selling!). This happens when your content either inherently builds value for the audience (e.g. helps build their professional skills and knowledge) or connects with them on a deeper level.

The bottom line is that content marketing is about relationship building. You build relationships with your market by offering authenticity and value. Your audience is more open to learning about you if they don’t feel they are being sold to.

Ever heard of social entrepreneurship? The business model (profitable companies with a social giving component) only works if there is content there to tell the story about your cause. Why does it work? It engages people and makes them feel good about what they’re buying — which is more than just your product. Millenials, in particular, buy into companies, not products.

So, how does a standard product manufacturing company effectively utilize content marketing? Well, there are a few companies that come to mind that are already doing an amazing job. Think about Dawn dish soap and their “Dawn Saves Wildlife” campaign. Or Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign. Or my favorite example, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. Of course, these companies want to sell product, but they understand that consumers these days need more than just a list of product features. They need to connect with the brand. They need a story.

So, tell us your story.

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