Why content marketing probably won’t work for you

I myself love content marketing. I love the concept of content as a bridge between commerce (what someone is trying to sell) and consumer (the person you’re targeting to buy it), and it makes total sense to me. The problem is: in the last five years, consultants have been pitching it like crazy. This has created a couple of different problems:

That’s a series of five pretty legitimate content marketing problems. Here’s a new one I just discovered.

Content Marketing Problem: The Temple Of Busy

Here’s the idea behind “Temple of Busy:”

  • I’m so slammed and I have absolutely no time for anything else, especially real human interaction

It’s pretty simple, and it’s practiced in most offices around the world. The reason is also pretty simple: we confuse quantity of work (stuff on your plate) with quality of work (actually doing what your job should do), and in turn we confuse ‘quantity of work’ with ‘value back to the organization.’

In reality, ‘quantity of work’ has nothing to do with organizational value — all it means is that you can’t clearly prioritize what’s important and you’re always rushing around screeching about the next new thing. That’s not effective.

This is the same way people often confuse ‘price’ and ‘value,’ by the way. Price is a number. Value often can’t be expressed as a number. For example: the price of an iPhone is $500 or whatever. The value of it might be much higher or lower, depending on what you think of the features and what those features in turn do for your life.

OK, so back to the content marketing problem.

Most people who write content (blogs, white papers, EBooks, etc.) for an organization tend to come from these camps:

  • Work in marketing
  • Freelance/contract writer
  • History as a journalist/editor/etc.

Could be a mix of 1, 2, or all 3. That probably accounts for 90 percent of people generating content.

Now let’s say you work for an organization that makes widgets, OK? Because you work there, you probably know a few things about the widgets. Hopefully you can explain their value and tell a story about the widgets. Man, you’d dream, right?

But because you generate the content about the widgets doesn’t mean you’re the expert in every aspect of the widget.

There might be someone in-house who can better speak to:

  • Product features
  • Pricing structure
  • Operational effectiveness of said widget
  • Sales questions that people tend to ask

(You’d hope your sales team would have people meeting that last bullet.)

So for you — as the content creator — to successfully produce content on the widget, you need access to those experts. You need a slice of their time. You need 1-2 questions answered or a couple of bullet points, so that you can figure out how to position the content.

But they’re super busy. Meetings. E-Mails. Stand-ups. ROI. KPIs. Deliverables.

So if you can’t get at the expert, what happens?

Your content can be generic and not speak to the right value.

That’s a content marketing problem.

Fixing the content marketing problem of The Temple of Busy

Here’s where you start:

If you have a million dollars, that’s awesome. But if you have a million and you get hit by a bus tomorrow, that’s less awesome and you can do less with the million. Hence (a simplified version), time > money.

People want to save time, especially people who believe themselves to be extremely busy.

So when you deal with experts or product specialists or higher-ups in terms of getting information for your content marketing, pitch it like this:

  • This will take about 10 minutes max
  • You can give me a few bullet points
  • You can check over everything before it heads out the door

This creates a whole second-tier problem around ‘maximizers’ (only perfection can exit the building) vs. ‘satisficers’ (yep, that’s good enough), but we won’t get too far down that rabbit hole right now.

You’re saving people time, and thus you’re getting access. Now, here comes the second content marketing problem:

  • Experts and specialists tend to speak in a very specific, often buzzword-heavy way about what they know

How do you fix that?

You channel your inner Content Marketing Superhero and turn it into something consumable by a wider audience, or — better yet — a targeted audience of people who would care about this content.

If your widget is related to cars and you’re writing for an audience of widget purchasers related to museum installations, that’s great in terms of how broad your content is. It’s awful in terms of helping your sales team hit targets, which is ostensibly the goal of marketing.

Content Marketing Problems: Conclusion

There are a bunch. Some are outlined at the very top of this post. One, about the Temple of Busy? It’s outlined throughout the middle section. If you do content marketing right, though — which means:

— then it’s actually pretty powerful. But it does require a little bit of thought on the front-end planning side.


My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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