Why You May Not Be Finding a Pot of Gold at the End of the Content Marketing Rainbow

March 17, 2016

Editor's Note: This post was contributed by Katherine Lisciani, Founder of Millennovation Media and a Digital Marketing Strategist and Content Curator.

It’s no secret: brands are investing more time, talent, and money in content marketing than ever before. Almost three-quarters of the most effective B2B marketers plan to produce more content this year than they did in 2015, according to this study by the Content Marketing Institute. If that’s not enough to give you pause, 81 percent of the least effective B2B marketers also plan to produce more content this year.

Even with all of this content creation, 55 percent of B2B marketers say they’re unsure if a content marketing program has ever been successful or unsuccessful within their company, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s research. So this leads us to a question phrased in an appropriate way for March 17: Is content marketing a rainbow that leads to a pot of gold, or is content marketing fool’s gold?

If there’s a rainbow leading to a pot of gold, we’ve been told in many St. Patrick’s Day tales that there’s a wily leprechaun guarding this cache of precious metal. You’ve heard the story: a traveler nears the end of a rainbow looking for that rumored pot of gold, when he encounters a leprechaun. The devious leprechaun then leverages the traveler’s lust for that pot of gold to send him on a wild goose chase. Ultimately, the traveler finds no gold but heads back to town with a desire to drown his sorrows in a pint at the pub.

So are we, as content marketers, like the unsuspecting treasure hunter in the tale of the leprechaun? In our haste to find the pot of gold (followers, engagement, revenue) at the end of the content marketing rainbow, are we encountering not one but several devious “leprechauns” that are frustrating our efforts to generate real content marketing gold? Here are some distracting leprechauns we may be encountering (and how to be rid of them):

Leprechaun No. 1: Ignoring what content our audience wants

The foundation to any successful marketing plan should always lie in who your audience is, what are their needs, and how your company and content fulfill that need. The worst thing we can do with content is to ignore what our audience wants and values.  Far too many content marketers give in to the easy path of talking about their products and services. New LinkedIn research, which appears in “Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey,” shows that buyers want knowledge from their vendors. Two of the top three factors determining a buyer’s willingness to engage with a vendor involve knowledge: “is a subject matter expert/thought leader” and “provides valuable consultation, education and tools.”

The solution: Give buyers the content they crave: Content that is helpful and educational and builds their knowledge base. Don’t give in to the temptation to be overly promotional about your own products.

Leprechaun No. 2: Lack of a clear content marketing strategy

The Content Marketing Institute found that only 30 percent of marketers have a documented content strategy. Having a documented strategy is important because it leads to more effective content marketing. Overall, the Content Marketing Institute study found that 30 percent of content marketers said they were effective with the tactic. But that number increased to 48 percent when the marketer had a documented strategy.

Solution: Develop a documented content marketing strategy. That’s easy to say, harder to do. Your content marketing strategy should first and foremost begin by defining the role of content in your business. Ask what unfulfilled need does your target audience have? Then, how can your company meet this need with a content solution?

Leprechaun No. 3: We focus too much on generating any kind of content and not enough on generating great content

Businesses, brands, and consumers alike are publishers, there's an increasing amount of content out there. Here’s an undeniable truth: a significant amount of the content being published across the digital landscape could be better. There’s no sense in wasting valuable hours, manpower, and budget to produce more content that won't break through and that doesn’t meet the needs of your target audience, which may be getting ready to push the mute button on your brand.

The Solution: When your content marketing efforts don’t seem to be producing the desired results you want, first and foremost, put down the pencil for a moment – and use that moment to think. Think about what kind of content will help and delight your prospects and customers. That can also mean experimenting with unique ideas and content formats.

The bottom line is, when done properly, content marketing may not lead to a literal pot of gold. But for businesses that help their audiences, have a documented strategy, and create consistently strong content, their content marketing programs will help drive followers, engagement, and ultimately revenue. 

For more insight into how to create excellent and useful content your audience desires, download The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to Content Marketing today!

Photo: Tracy Hunter