Yes, content marketing can work. And yes, most CMOs are utterly clueless about that.

Take a look at the graphic above. It’s from research done by Marketo and Moz called “Inbound vs. Outbound: Consumer Perspectives On Marketing Effectiveness.” The research is also summarized in this Marketo post. If you’re unclear upfront, we’re talking about “inbound” (content-driven) marketing vs. “outbound” (ad/PR-driven) marketing and trying to see what actual consumers value. To do a bit of ‘level-set’ here, the basic issues tend to be:

Let’s see what some of this research says, shall we?

Go look at the chart again, above. Actually, we’ll re-paste it here to make things easier:

You want to find areas with big red (significantly more likely to buy) or brown (slightly more likely), and you want to avoid large chunks of green (significantly less likely) and blue (slightly less likely). If you follow that rubric, the most effective channels seem to be:

  • Customer reviews
  • Doing an online search
  • Online articles

This is all somewhat logical, because:

The least effective channels, in turn, would be:

  • Press releases
  • Social media posts from a company
  • E-mail marketing

That’s a little bit less logical, because press releases have been a traditional way to get attention for generations (people have a hard time abandoning the traditional), social media is supposed to be this massively powerful thing, and everyone raves about e-mail marketing.

Ah, but here’s the rub:

  • Social media only works if it’s social, and most companies don’t get that
  • When people in marketing rave about e-mail marketing, it’s usually based on margin; e-mail marketing can be very effective if done right, but the way many companies do it, it just turns people off eventually

This is admittedly just one study, but where do we net out?

Let’s use Marketo’s wording first, then try to analyze a bit:

Although traditional advertising and other forms of outbound marketing tend to have shorter sales cycles and faster ROI, consumers simply aren’t as responsive as they used to be to these tactics.

That’s ‘the nut graf’ or essence of this whole discussion. Because of shorter sales cycles and faster ROI, higher-ranking marketing executives — who only really stay in their jobs a few years, if we’re being honest — want to focus on those things. Most executive-type jobs are about pleasing your boss, and pleasing him/her quickly, so that you don’t have to worry about being kicked down the chain.

That’s where the issue with ‘content’ or ‘inbound’ marketing efforts comes up. To do that right requires a focus on relationships before revenue, and many companies don’t want to make that sacrifice. I had a job recently where the company blogged once a week. I had free time (“bandwidth” is the corporate term, I think) and offered to help them blog more. It never went anywhere; no one really cared. Why? It wasn’t a priority for anyone because it wasn’t immediate revenue. It’s that simple. Money talks, everything else walks.

So what we can learn here:

What else would you add about adoption of content marketing and long-playing it?

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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