Content marketing has been the marketing buzzword for the last couple of years, but we’re now starting to see the backlash. Is content marketing on the slippery slope to irrelevance? Or do we just need to get better at what we’re doing?
The hype cycle goes something like this: technology trigger, peak of inflated expectations, the ‘trough’ of disillusionment, growing enlightenment and, finally, productivity. Content marketing is currently in the trough of disillusionment, with increasing competition, poorly planned and executed activities, and unrealistic expectations leading to cries of ‘content marketing is dead!’.
Yes, it is harder to get cut-through than it was two or three years ago; yes, key stakeholders are asking tougher questions and requiring more accountability from content marketers; and yes, there is a lot of bad content marketing out there. But that doesn’t mean content marketing doesn’t work, it just means we have to lift our game.
And how do I do that, I hear you say? Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. Expect expertise
At a time where every second person on LinkedIn claims to be a content strategist, it’s easy to assume that content marketing can be done by, well, anyone. But just as you wouldn’t have your legal work done by someone whose main qualification is watching CSI, your content marketing shouldn’t be done by someone with limited experience in the discipline.
Jay Baer says “competition commodifies competency”, and he’s spot on – without investing in expertise, your content marketing is unlikely to get the results you’re after.
2. Prioritise strategy
You’re probably sick to death of the statistic that content marketers with a documented strategy are 76% more effective than those without one, but there’s a reason why it’s cited so often.
If you’re simply pumping out content without a strategy or a strong understanding of your objectives, your content marketing program is just content. Without a clear strategy, your content is likely to be more expensive and less effective, and you’ll be unlikely to get that all-important buy-in from your audience.
3. Define success
While content marketing had a grace period when it was new and fresh, stakeholders are increasingly requiring accountability. But if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how can you show your stakeholders that you’re succeeding?
While discussions around ROI can be fraught, it’s important that we set our measures of success from the very start, and ensure they’re tied to the strategy’s objectives – whether it’s awareness metrics such as site visits, or conversion KPIs such as e-newsletter sign-ups or ‘contact us’ form completions.
4. Be better
Just as keyword-stuffing is no longer an effective method for SEO, it’s no longer enough for your content marketing efforts to consist of generic, ‘me-too’ blog articles. Your audience is swamped with content every day, so why should they consume yours?
This doesn’t mean you need multi-million-dollar Marriott-style budgets, but you do need to provide high-quality value in whatever you do.
5. Think critically
For a young industry, we have an enormous amount of orthodoxy floating around. Some of it (such as the importance of focusing on your audience) is absolutely correct; other parts (such as engagement as an end goal in itself) may not be. Think critically about what you read and hear, and make up your own mind.
6. Be realistic
Content marketing isn’t a silver bullet. You can’t half-heartedly put out content and expect the sales to roll in. It’s a long-term effort that requires commitment, quality output and a willingness to invest in distribution.
But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort that’s required to create a high-quality, strategic marketing program, you’ll find that rumours of content marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Let’s get to work.