Content Marketing Isn’t Working.

I hear heavy sighs and watch shoulders drop as another piece of content fails to set the world on fire.

The content looks good, but the sales targets are still the sales targets and the content marketing team still seems to be having little impact on conversion. Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. Marketers everywhere continue to question the efficacy of their Content Marketing Strategies. Maybe if we stopped calling it ‘Content Marketing’ and went back to calling it, ‘Inbound Marketing’, that would help. Does it help, for example, to know that there’s a difference between nurturing inbound enquiries and promoting outbound lead generation activity? Well, yes, it probably does. In trying to adopt a ‘new’ kind of marketing plan, we seem to have forgotten that we used to separate elements of the marketing mix for a reason.

We used to send endless press releases (remember those…?) in an attempt to appear independently authoritative in the publications of our choice. We used to place display advertising in magazines and digital media where we could control the artistic, visual and conceptual representation of our branding. We used to create all kinds of marketing materials in an attempt to entice an elusive B2B audience into believing we were better, smarter, faster or cheaper than other no-mark brands we called the competition.

We did this to increase our brand awareness because nobody had ever heard of our obscure B2B brand and without significant investment, no one ever would.

We called that ‘brand awareness’ because all it was expected to achieve was, wait for it, awareness of the brand. Not leads, meetings, a pipeline, measurable ROI or sales. Just awareness. We knew we needed awareness because if you asked anyone they’d say, “Nope, never heard of you.” Easy.

Meanwhile, there were sales targets to meet. There were Sales Managers with shiny shoes and an unhealthy interest in hair product. They needed to sell shit. Every day the beast needed to be fed – not with ‘awareness’ but with leads, with prospects, meetings, calls, responses. Glossy magazine advertising didn’t feed the beast. No. To feed the sales beast, we had to do 2 things. We would call people endlessly in an attempt to secure a sales meeting, and we would spam the bollocks off them. Call, mailer, email, call, mailer, email… repeat as necessary.

That shut the sales team up. That shut everyone up. That was called ‘Outbound Marketing’. Or ‘Lead Generation Marketing’. It was different from awareness and only real men in a marketing agency were allowed take on the ‘Lead-gen’ role. Yeah. Grrrr.

When we were lucky enough to either raise awareness and/or generate a lead, we used other materials to fulfill the brand promise. We produced brochures, mailers, leaflets, diagrams, landing pages, microsites, web pages, even videos. And we called that… “Content.” We bundled everything and everyone together in a Content Marketing frenzy of right-on awesomeness and called it all, “new”. Why did we do that? I’m happy to report I can tell you why – because we are all complete and utter dickheads.

Instead of clearly defined and delineated actions, activities, responsibilities and expectations, we now have a massive smorgasbord of content bollocks in B2B marketing. Very little of it seems to ‘work’ because very little of it is targeted, implemented or measured effectively against individual objectives. But it’s all called ‘Content Marketing’ so that’s all fine then…

A good Content Marketing Strategy enables the appropriate delivery of brand strategy via chosen channels using multiple platforms – online and offline. Dear Everyone, instead of calling everything Content Marketing, figure out what your digital marketing strategy should be and go deliver it. What the hell, be all grown-up and use social media strategy too. You can even produce content to support your marketing strategy. But stop calling everything Content Marketing because we all look like twats and that’s not my best look. Blue Steel is my best look.

Scot McKee