Putting content marketing on time out for a moment

time out

Are you in the content marketing business, or are you in the content creation business? Is there a difference?

Let’s take a time out, breathe a deep breath, and consider a more holistic idea of content marketing in a digital world.

Last week I saw this provocative and interesting blog post title: “The Top 100 Blog Posts About Content Marketing in 2015.”

Really cool, right? It had a lot of great stuff listed but when I dug into the post, something strange popped out at me. Let’s see if you detect it, too. Here’s a sample of topics from the blog posts listed:

  • Before You Hit Publish, Here Are 10 Things To Do With Your Blog Content
  • How to Start a Business Blog: Seven Essentials for Success
  • How to Craft Headlines That Draw People to Your Content
  • 10 Ideas to Inspire Your Next Blog Post
  • 29 Free Online Design Tools for Creating Stunning Visual Content for the Web
  • A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Blog Titles

Do you notice anything weird about these blog post titles? I did. This is a “best of” list about content marketing, yet these posts have very little to do with marketing.

In fact, about 90 percent of the blog posts on the list are best practices for creating a piece of content and have little to do with the business of marketing at all. I’m not picking on the post or the writer. I am simply using this example to make a point about a larger issue: I sense that many people are confusing the act of creating content with the profession of marketing.

Isn’t it time we think more boldly about what we do and what is possible? Is this the best we can do? Shouldn’t we be reaching higher in this field?

Blogging is not the same as marketing

Screenshot 2016-01-10 21.02.59Marketing is the strategic act of creating demand and acquiring customers. Today, content is certainly a key component in this activity for many companies, so “content marketing” is a legitimate and vital point for exploration.

On a “best of” list about content marketing, here are a few of the topics I would have expected to see:

  • Content’s evolving role in the buyer’s journey
  • Trends in content marketing automation
  • New methods to promote and distribute content
  • Strategies to deal with the Facebook’s new publishing strategy
  • The impact of big data on content and customer acquisition strategy
  • Measuring content marketing in a way that is meaningful to your business
  • The changing relationship between SEO and content
  • Content as an imperative in personal and organizational branding
  • Strategic perspectives on engagement with our content and community management

In some way, all of these topics are essential to either creating demand, acquiring/keeping customers, or both. Aren’t these the topics we need to be covering to move our industry forward on the web?

Reality check

Are you really in the business of marketing … or are you in the business of creating content? There’s a difference. Shouldn’t the idea of “content marketing” be something much broader than writing a good headline or finding a new way to illustrate your blog post?

I’m not saying there is no value in these more tactical content creation posts. There is, and they’re fun to read. But is it time to take the conversation up a notch? If posts on better headlines and pretty illustrations truly represents the best we have on content marketing writing for a year, it suggests there is a wide open space for some new thought leaders to emerge. Something to think about. Maybe that new thought leader is you.

Top photo courtesy Flickr CC and Mark

Second photo courtesy Flickr CC and Mike Licht

All posts

  • Hey Mark, Great post. I urge my Blog School students to start thinking the way their customers think at varying stages of the buying journey. What’s your customer’s thought process when she needs help but doesn’t know she needs your product or service? How can you use Facebook to market with content with the understanding that users don’t like to leave Facebook to go to a website (esp. on Mobile)? Etc. (Oh and thanks for the list of great blog topics for me…kidding!) B

  • Go for it. We need those blog topics!

  • Hey Mark,

    Agree. A 100%. I think there’s it’s hurting Marketing as a matter of fact. Brands acting like publishers (whether it’s a blog or something else) is not enough. That’s not Content Marketing. It’s just Publishing. I think that’s the issue here.

    Marketing is also so much more than just communications (where content marketing fits in) and I personally think it’s a shame that Marketing has basically become a synonym for advertising and publishing basically.

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with you once again :=)

  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    Spewing content to fill up space, with written words or recorded sound, turns us into channels other people just want to turn off. Like infomercials. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and about how to produce fluff-free content to serve only to people who are hungry for it. Marketing is serving the right content, to the right people, at the right time. And before that can happen, it’s the initial content getting them to opt in. Spewing isn’t marketing, imo.

  • I saw a link to the post you’re referring to Mark. I clicked over and immediately felt the same response. You just put it all into works for me here. I only reacted by clicking away and shaking my head. IT IS time to take it up a notch (or ten). It’s exhausting sometimes to do things right. But in the end, it’s the value you contribute…not the words you write. (Did I just make a rhyme there?). Awesome post, thank you.

  • If people judge the competency of the field by the quality of the blog posts I see we have little credibility indeed. It’s time to take it up a notch.

  • Well said. Go for it!!

  • Thanks so much for taking your time to comment! I appreciate you!

  • Trenay Bynum

    Yes, you’re right. Spending all this time on one tactic is probably not grabbing the right customers. My guess is the original list came from a company marketing to marketers to get marketers to buy services to help us market our … um … content rather than our goods/services. If they flood the Internet with a lot of ‘how to write content articles,’ perhaps the thought is that we’ll find it so confusing that we’ll pay bloggers to do it for us.

  • A viable theory but the I don’t think the problem is about one company or one blog post. Content marketers in general are thinking too small.

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  • Frederic Gonzalo

    The same could be said about social media marketing, when more often than not, blog posts cover social media, not marketing. Marketing has become a catch-all word. To some, it’s a trivial synonym for advertising. *ugh*
    For others, marketing is just communications and tactics. Either way, the thing missing in most cases is strategy. Goals. Key performance indicators. In other words, the “why”… (as Simon Sinek would say)

    I agree. Blog posts that feature lists, “best of” to write a good title and so on, that’s fine for content creation. But it has little or nothing to do with content marketing per se. It’s a constant battle, ain’t it?

    Cheers Mark, and have a great weekend!
    FG

  • Thank you for adding your wisdom sir.

  • Spot on @Ma@markwilliamschaefer:disqus: the keyword that’s missing in a lot of these how-to guides is ROI. Content for content’s sake is not content marketing.

    We’ve been focusing ourselves on ROI from the beginning (we focus on SMBs and they have no other choice: it’s ROI or RIP as we put it) and I can offer several explanations for that:
    – because marketers are not historically trained to create content,

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  • Sheila

    We need to rethink who we are marketing to. The first list of titles seems to be geared toward people who are learning how to market for their clients. The second list (yours) is geared more toward helping the client understand why content is good, and it’s more on track with how I have been thinking about my blog content. I’m not trying to teach anyone about content or social media, I want them to hire me to do it – so, I’m going to write about how blogging or social media will help my clients. Your title “Content’s evolving role in the buyer’s journey” is exactly what I had in mind. My client needs to know why they need content, then they need to create it or hire someone to create it for them. Great post – thank you!

  • Sheila

    We need to rethink who we are marketing to. The first list of titles seems to be geared toward people who are learning how to market for their clients. The second list (yours) is geared more toward helping the client understand why content is good, and it’s more on track with how I have been thinking about my blog content. I’m not trying to teach anyone about content or social media, I want them to hire me to do it – so, I’m going to write about how blogging or social media will help my clients. Your title “Content’s evolving role in the buyer’s journey” is exactly what I had in mind. My client needs to know why they need content, then they need to create it or hire someone to create it for them. Great post – thank you!

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