Why you’re missing the boat on content marketing

I think it’s best to read this post as an open letter to old-school marketeers who still think that brand advertising is the way to go but see in content marketing the new hip vector to the holy graal of marketing: conversions. It’s not. And here’s why you’re totally missing the boat.

See, the idea goes along the lines that by this point in human evolution, most people know how to ignore ads, but they can’t ignore relationships. To put it simply, do you prefer an ad for a Maui resort, or a pic of two of your friends enjoying a great time at that Maui resort? So the winning strategy today that the “marketing experts” are bringing to organizations is content marketing.

Seems to make a lot of sense: marketers and salespeople realize that traditional ad channels are being tuned out, so they want to turn to content/stories/narratives. But — do they actually understand what ‘content’ should mean?

Unfortunately, the traditional marketeer first instinct is to write content and use stories that conform to the brand’s messaging strategy, for example underlining positive brand values and attributes, because they see them as a means to an end — the result is dull and totally highlights the primary disconnect between ‘old-school’ and “new-school’ marketing. See, old-school marketeers are always very concerned with “The Brand”, which is okay, brand is an important intangible (look at any public company’s like apple’s balance sheets under the intangibles line), but the problem is …. the power of the brand is declining … and what’s replacing it is the consumer connection back to what you do.

As an example, see what Facebook does when there is a disaster — they activate safety check so that anyone can easily see who is safe. Connection is important. Snapchat allows you to see things for what, 10 seconds? In those 10 seconds people are truly engaged, though. It’s about connection and stories and people and relationships. Bye bye “brand guidelines” and 20th century “processes”.

So, what’s up with content in marketing?

To start with, let’s shift the semantics away from ‘content’ into ’stories’ and ‘value’:

‘what is the value in your brand and/or idea?’ Also remember that it’s definitely not about the product or service itself. It’s about why the product or service makes someone’s life better.

Second, this is definitely not about ads, flyers, white papers, catalogs or articles. Not even trade shows.

This is about producing stories. Real, relevant stuff that will resonate with the reader and that eventually will lead them towards buying things from you. The word ‘eventually’ is extremely important and I am emphasizing this: stories should be designed as the bridge between commerce and consumer (it’s the same whether you’re talking b2b or b2c) ‘what is this stuff and why do I need it?’ and the only way for the consumer to figure this out is 1. talking to their friends and 2. doing research.

  • When you talk to your friends or do research, stories matter.
  • When you talk to your friends or do research, content just seems like an add-on that the someone is pushing at you so you’ll buy.

‘Eventually’ is also important because this process takes time. Decisions take time. The old-school types are hanging on to conventional revenue plays and abandoning content/story marketing because the ROI is not showing up immediately. That’s stupid. Relationships take time. When done right, they lead to revenue and last forever.

So in the end, modern marketing is all about the art of storytelling and fostering a deep, human connection with your clients. It is the essential difference between boring and soulless content old-school companies continue to create and truly, honestly engaging, nurturing, stimulating your clients with content they want to hear and share — that’s how they will buy from you, and will continue to buy from you forever.

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