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Why content marketing is not for you

I recently listened to an episode of the excellent FIR podcast (great for keeping in touch with marketing/tech news while commuting, I find), which featured Tom Foremski, a leading Silicon Valley writer/journalist. He is most famous for coining the phrase “every company is now a media company” – a sentiment which resonates in today’s social media obsessed world. But I would like to take issue with Tom. Every company should not be a media company. In fact, if any of the following statements are true of your company, you should not be investing in content marketing right now:

Reason #1: You don’t believe in it
The whole point of content marketing is that you position yourself as an expert in your field. And by sharing your content, you share your expertise. You show the world that you know what you are talking about and this will, in the long run, help you to close more sales. I’ve lost count of the number of supposed content marketing initiatives that end up either spouting product information or being so cagey about revealing any competitive advantage that it become bland, opinion-free and, ultimately, value free. If the content is poor, no one reads it. And if no one reads it, it doesn’t work.

Reason #2: Your boss doesn’t believe in it
Happily, the majority of people appreciate that content marketing is about a mindshift where we release information into the wild. We realise that we need to let go and talk openly to the industry – sharing information with customers, prospects AND competitors – in order to better position ourselves for an improved sales pipeline and a better reputation. But if your boss is still living in 2007, it is never going to work. The internal battle for hearts and minds – the job of getting buy-in from senior management – is one that has to be won before investment starts, or it is not going to give you a return. Too many obstacles. Too much work.

Reason #3: Your people don’t have time for it
While the principle of content marketing holds true even in small volumes (ie a few well-written blogs, for example, are usually better than none) there is a risk of being over-ambitious. Don’t underestimate the time cost and the difficulty of getting good content created in-house or you might end up with tumbleweeds bouncing around your LinkedIn group and a blog that was last updated 8 months ago. And that doesn’t look good.

Reason #4: You don’t have a strategy for it
There are two broad solutions to the problem above, and both involve setting out a formal strategy for content marketing. It goes without saying that no one should leap into anything without a little planning, but content marketing is one area that is perhaps less understood than more established marketing practices.  

One answer is to take a root and branch approach to internal education over content marketing, where you involve internal stakeholders to allow time and resource for content creation You train and educate internal experts to the point that they become conscientious, valuable and regular contributors to your company’s content marketing efforts. The other solution is look to bring in expertise from outside. The idea of an expertly (and independently) coordinated content resource feeding appropriate content into the various parts of the organization that needs is increasingly being accepted by large companies.

Do any of the above apply to you? Don’t get me wrong: these are not insurmountable and most organizations will face these problems and deal with them in the fullness of time. I’m a firm believer in content marketing – and if you’ve got this far, I can assume you are too. But the factors above are issues that will put a spanner in the wheel of any content marketing initiative – and dent your credibility if you are the one proposing it.

If it’s not right, don’t do it! But work to overcome these four key issues and the undoubted benefits of content marketing can be yours.