When Content Marketing is NOT the Answer
September 24, 2014
Content marketing is not the answer to every problem, but it can be an effective tool in your arsenal. Content marketing can help build positive associations with your brand and establish your brand’s expertise in a particular area. However, if you’re content just generating awareness of what you do without following up with buyers who are interested then content marketing will never lead to sales.
Salespeople are used to talking with buyers, asking questions and persuading them to buy. Content marketing is about offering valuable information that people want. If you can’t get everyone to agree to your ideal buyer, then your brand has bigger issues than what can be tackled with content marketing. You’ll need to become familiar with what metrics are important in order to demonstrate effectiveness in terms that make sense for this style of marketing. Poorly managed campaigns can have a negative impact on your brand, rather than having a positive one. Content marketing focuses on moving a buyer along the sales cycle by enabling your audience to get to know your brand’s personality, to like the ideas and information you offer, and to trust you have the solutions they need.
You may lose an element of trust when your content is seen as advertising, but there are other risks involved that can lead to a negative association with the brand. You might find it challenging to educate your Sales Team on the purpose of content marketing or how it fits into the sale process.
Salespeople are used to talking with buyers, asking questions and persuading them to buy. Content marketing is about offering valuable information that people want.
Of the many reasons marketers choose to embrace content marketing – lead generation, improved SEO, building credibility, and lead nurturing among them – one reason that should never make the list is “because everyone says I need to do it.” In fact, in many instances content marketing is NOT the right answer for your brand, and a mismanaged campaign could damage your brand, rather than help it.
Content marketing can in equal measures draw a prospect to your product and services or repel them, depending on how the campaign is managed. In some cases, marketers should avoid initiating content marketing, including some of the following:
1. When you can’t decide to whom you are writing
Content is just a collection words, images, and media until there’s someone specific to whom you are writing, adding the element of intentionality. The first step is to identify the key people you want to engage with: what industry they’re in, what job titles they hold, what budgets they have, what language they respond to, what they value and where they congregate, for example. If you can’t get everyone to agree to your ideal buyer, then your brand has bigger issues than what can be tackled with content marketing. But if you can narrow it down, you will be able to focus on producing content those people would actually want to read. Remember, you’re not saying you’ll only accept business with this type of buyer, only that this is your “ideal” or preferred buyer with whom you’d like to work.
2. When your reader can’t answer “So what?”
The strongest indicator of your content’s failure is if after reading it, your ideal buyer can’t answer, “So what was the point of me reading this?”* Your audience is constantly pummeled by marketing messaging, information, and other distractions. This is in addition to your audience’s usual needs and responsibilities for the day. They don’t want another item vying for their attention, unless it can answer a question, provide insight, or meet a need that’s relevant to them. You’ve lost the advantage if your content leaves your audience asking, “So what?”
*This assumes a written content. The same theory applies for video, podcasts, webinars, etc.
3. When your content is seen as an ad
It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you get pressure to prove your content has a direct connection to sales. However, if your audience feels like they are being sold to, you risk losing an element of trust and risk gaining a negative association with the brand for taking their time. Advertising is best identified as selling a specific product or service. Content marketing focuses on moving a buyer along the sales cycle by enabling your audience to get to know your brand’s personality, to like the ideas and information you offer, and to trust you have the solutions they need. Much like advertising, however, you’ll need to become familiar with what metrics are important in order to demonstrate effectiveness in terms that make sense for this style of marketing.
4. When you don’t have a call to action (or end location) in mind
Providing your audience with quality content is the number one goal, but content marketing success hinges upon providing an answer to “What’s next?” immediately after the “So what?” This means having a clear call to action that drives your audience to the next step in engagement. That might mean directing them to your website where they can find more information. Or it might be directing them to another content source – such as Slideshare, social channels, or your blog – so they can continue to interact with your branded content. The next step should be straightforward, and fitting to the buying stage that particular piece of content fits into.
5. When there’s no system in place for follow-up
Whether you use a software like marketing automation to maintain and send content, or your sales team is aggressive in monitoring what content is getting viewed, there needs to be a system in place for tracking what content is being engaged with and by whom. By tracking at the individual buyer level you get key indicators of which stage the buyer is in as well as what the individual wants to hear more about during your follow up call or email. On its own, content marketing will serve to create positive associations for your brand and will start to establish your brand’s expertise in a particular area; but, there needs to be a system in place for your team to follow up with your buyers to help move individuals to the point of sale.
6. When the Sales Team isn’t on board with using content in the selling process
While content marketing isn’t new, you might find it challenging educating your Sales Team on the purpose of content marketing or how it fits with the sales process. This will result in Sales not checking how the buyer is engaging with content, sending new and relevant content to the buyer, using content as a touchpoint, or send available content that’s relevant to their current conversations. This limits the power of content marketing to solely what the buyer can discover on their own through search or social channels.
7. When only one part of the funnel gets all the content
It’s not unusual to find you like focusing on one end of the sales funnel (or cycle) more than another. You usually pick one based on your goals: the top because you’d like more leads, the middle because you like the balance of industry and brand-specific information, or the end because your strong case studies noticeably help seal the deal. However, when you create content for only one portion of the funnel, you risk missing the benefits of the other stages. Each stage of the sales funnel is defined by the experience the buyer is looking for, and the content found there needs to match. For instance, the testimonials that play so well in the final buying stage are of little to no interest to someone in the early buying stages who just want to understand the scope of their need. The content marketing strategy breaks down when a potential buyer is not successfully drawn in and nurtured through the cycle with branded content.
Any of this sound familiar?
If while reading this list you found yourself identifying with one or more of these situations, don’t give up. The value of content marketing in establishing your brand, in creating a voice and gravity for your digital presence, and in building up a non-salesy means of maintaining a relationship with prospects makes the effort to make your marketing content-ready worth it.
How do you take the next step?
Strategically, you should start by getting a strong grip on the value of content marketing and its role in the buying cycle. You can read other articles we’ve published on the topic here, or run a search on the Internet. There are a lot of resources for you out there! Your own understanding of the value of content marketing will be a big part in your ability to get your leadership team, partners, and sales team to see the possibilities.
Tactically, you’ll need to line up some team members dedicated to creating long and short-form content, as well as the processes for managing leads who start nibbling on your content offerings. Once the team is identified, set up an editorial calendar to help the team to stay focused, produce content for the full buying cycle, and build in periods of performance assessment. The last step is to find ways to distribute the content across platforms that are contextual for your buyers and your brand.
Hire an expert.
Nxtbook Media has experience working with brands across multiple verticals in helping them identify their audience, their brand voice, and in creating content that fits both the brand and the ideal client. We’d like to hear about your content marketing challenges and discuss how we can help.
Updated September 16, 2021