Write blog posts. Make YouTube videos. Advertise. Repeat. These are the lessons that have been drilled into my mind throughout university and on-the-job experience.
Academics would likely respond with something to the extent of “because eventually consumers will like your content and eventually trust you; buying your products and services”.
For the marketers reading this blog post and thinking “brand awareness”, stay tuned.
Over the last 5 years of working as a quantitative marketer, I haven’t really seen content marketing pay off.
That is, the amount of time, energy, and resources companies spend to create buzzworthy content often doesn’t earn the buzz and awareness they hope.
In my own findings and experiments, the big things content achieves are (1) developing reputation and (2) easing preconceived assumptions about a person, brand, or organization.
I can sum this up really easily. If you post about the gym 10+ times per week, you are labelled a gym person. If you post about video games 10+ times per week, you are labelled a gamer.
Being labelled can have its benefits, but it can also bite.
Example: Personal Brands vs Corporate Brands
Personal brands carry a lot of risk. First of all, they’re hard to scale. Second, your reputation directly affects your revenue streams. Lastly, peoples’ interests change over time.
I’ve worn many hats over the years. Originally I was Colin the student. Next, I was Colin the YouTuber. Then a paddleboarder. Then an entrepreneur. Then a consultant. The list goes on.
This is why I advise people to create corporate brands and to integrate themselves as part of the company (not solely their personal brand).
Right now I’m on a big Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) kick, but if I started posting content about D&D 10+ times per week, my existing Marketing Qualified audience is going to be confused.
A better strategy is to create multiple brands like Proctor & Gamble. Some brands sell products that are completely different from others, but they’re all owned by the same company. This type of corporate structure allows entrepreneurs to explore new industries and try their hand at new interests (without sacrificing their revenue).
Circling back to content, the world has spun into a giant cluster of “me too” providers. Businesses will find out what blog posts are driving traffic for their competitors, create the same content (skyscraper technique), and spew out more of the same advice.
Content can work, but it needs to have a unique and satisfying fit with the customer journey. Otherwise, we’re just doing more of the same (and that’s no way to compete in the market).
And look, I’m guilty of it too. I’ve been blogging and trying to look polished, but the truth is blogging is not generating a significant amount of revenue for me. It’s more or less a checkbox for considering clients coming to my site.
So what’s a better approach?
Learn the customer journey and develop content to assist it.
If you’re currently operating on a blog post quota, stop. If you’re following tactics like the skyscraper method or flipping blog posts into ebooks, stop.
Gather your team and take a step back. What is your content’s role in the organization? How does it propel people towards sales points? What sort of content are other people making and deep down, how do you really feel about the content? Is it dry? Boring? Typical jargon?
Turn it on its head and take a different approach.
But what about using content for brand awareness?
That’s really up to you to decide. If you’re in the professional services industry, events are likely your ticket to growth. If you’re in the festival space, promotional content will probably serve you well.
Activities like blogging can help you position yourself as a professional in your industry. For me that was marketing and entrepreneurship. Blogging helped me tap into some supporting audiences who later introduced me and referred me to other people who hired me on a contract.
But these engagements were far apart. I don’t get referrals everyday and it would be risky to weigh my entire business operations on the hope I get those referrals. Again, it comes down to your industry.
The part that sucks about blogging
A lot of businesses blog, but they care more about how many blog posts they publish rather than the quality of them (average session duration, not the writing quality).
A really disappointing moment for me blogging over the past few years was that people weren’t implementing the advice and techniques I was writing about.
For a long time, I made it my mission to improve Average Session Duration (an indicator people are reading the content). I was able to get it up and even more so, had people emailing me.
I thought I achieved the content marketing dream – random strangers emailing me to talk about the articles I wrote.
I replied back to a few of them “did you implement it?”. The answer was no.
Despite my efforts to consistently create content, check grammar and spelling, optimize formats, and improve the readability of my posts, I was not actually solving peoples’ problem.
This was a really disappointing moment that took me into a rabbit hole research and comparison to other blogs. I had to walk away from my website for 2 weeks to find my roots again and get me back on track.
Well why not go the opposite route and just focus on social posts instead of full-blown content?
I thought about it, but seeing others who do it in the field, feel it fails even further to solve peoples’ problems.
At best, I create a social post with the keyword or phrase that triggers someone to wonder. Once they wonder, they’re off to Google, YouTube, Reddit, etc. At that point, I consider them gone.
My opinions on this content method stem from 2 observations: (1) attention is extremely short and (2) huge amounts of mobile traffic.
If you don’t reach audiences at the right time, with the messaging, without offering the complete product/service to which you’re writing about, it’s very likely that the person won’t prioritize it, click on it, or engagement with you or your business.
The only other side to justifying this activity is impressions. If you’re able to create content and be seen in the newsfeed of Facebook or LinkedIn, you’re essentially doing branding activities.
In this case, clicks might not matter. All that matters is that you leave an impression on someone, categorize yourself in their mind as to what you do, and hopefully (one day) connect with them in a way that earns you a speaking event.
Conclusion: Make Content that Fits with the Customer Journey
This is my 2 cents on content marketing as someone who has explored YouTube and blogging in the name of marketing, promotions, and sales.
A good content marketing strategy essentially comes down to creating the right pieces of content for the right people, when it’s applicable to their needs.
I encourage readers to start with the very end of the customer journey (where they become a customer) and work backwards; identifying key customer moments.
I suggest this approach because everyone else seems to tell business owners to educate their audiences. This has led to the surplus of content already circulating online.
Don’t be a “me too” content creator.