Why Content Marketing Fails

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Tell me something I don’t know.

Let’s do the checklist of what every “leading” B2B company does:  Account Based Marketing, CRM, Marketo-SPAM, DiscoverOrg lists, develop customer personas, and — yes, you guessed it — content marketing! This activity composite is almost universally failing for B2B companies because, well, when everyone does the same stuff, nobody is different. If you are not different, nobody sees you and they are not going to engage.

In comes content marketing — so obvious yet is so badly done.

A couple of years ago I went to the country’s dreariest city, Cleveland, and attended the Content Marketing Institute to hear what content creators had to say. That is when I knew content marketing was a real dead end as it being practiced now.

The Content Marketing Institute is the place where content marketing types give each other awards; kind like a Cleveland-Oscar thing. Doesn’t quite make an attractive simile but you get it.

Everyone, literally everyone, now does content marketing. And almost all of it, certainly in the B2B space, looks like the same team created it. Perhaps they did as they all have the same mindset.

Buyers today do 95 percent of their research on any complex purchase before they engage with a vendor. A step in that engagement is downloading content.

Buyers are onto the account-based marketing part of the content marketing — when they download that “white paper” the chirpy kid calls and calls, and never leaves them alone. Thus, the buyer, to get valuable content, tries to leave as few footprints as possible so they can be left alone.

Delivering content via account-based marketing (SPAM driven, with seven follow-up emails, then incessant calls, then “my manager would like to speak with you”), poisons the content experience so real execs NEVER see the content. And “never” is not too strong a word.

When one does see the content, it’s spread over 11 pages of infographics called an “eBook” where anything of note is hidden in those pages, infographics; just too hard to find. Great content and graphic arts can be mutually destructive.

Most of all, traditional content marketing is all about not messing up anyone’s hair. There is almost never a position taken; a vibrant, new, interesting point of view put forward.

Let’s take an example.

Last month in this publication I wrote an article noting most digital transformation efforts are vendor-led hoaxes. Those hoaxes are about repositioning existing, obsolete vendor products and services as transformative when they are not. Complicit in this scam are the IT people who just want to “do something” they can tell their management is aligned with digital transformation. It is a hoax, everyone knows it, but nobody said it.

I did.

Well, that was pretty different. And it messed up some people’s hair. But it was seen, read, republished in several other media, and lots of interesting new acquaintances reached out.

Now it wasn’t that good as I did not get death threats from the vendor community, but it met the key criterion of content:  People read it.

You have all seen the stats — every American sees 10,000 selling messages a day or something like that. I do not know who counts this stuff but since one gets a video experience at a gas pump, it is a lot.

Nobody can stop all the messaging. But there is no mandate anyone has to listen. And they tune out.

That, dear friends, it the content marketing opportunity of a lifetime. There is so much pabulum content, saying nothing, with little differentiation, no strong point of view, anyone who has an interesting, strong point of view is likely to stand out.

So, take the wonderful opportunity given to you by the brain-dead marketing departments who never say anything that could offend anyone, never take a stand, avoid any kind of controversy, and put them to work for you.

Take a point of view that is true, stark, adds value. Say it, write it, video it.

And you will have mastered the key to successful content marketing.

Tell someone something they did not know, or they did know but didn’t think anyone else out there agreed with them.

Reprinted from Software Executive Magazine OnLine