In a recent article at LinkedIn, Joe Pulizzi, the Founder and Executive Director of the Content Marketing Institute, observed that most of the marketing content produced by companies is “flat out awful.” He wrote, “In many cases, the content is self-serving, not useful and, maybe the worst, pointless.”
Pulizzi argues that companies produce bad content for three reasons.
- The vast majority of companies do not have a formal content strategy.
- The content marketing efforts at most companies lack focus. Many marketers feel compelled to develop content around all of the products and services they offer. The result is often content that is too broad (and too shallow) to be effective.
- In many companies, no one is accountable for the overall content marketing program.
I agree that the lack of strategy, focus, and/or accountability can result in “awful” marketing content. I also believe, however, that there’s a more fundamental problem contributing to the continuing use of bad content.
We now know that most effective B2B marketing content is primarily educational and non-promotional. The goal of content marketing is to provide potential buyers information that is insightful, useful, and valuable, and thereby demonstrate your company’s expertise, credibility, and trustworthiness.
The problem is, this approach runs counter to the basic paradigm of marketing that’s existed for decades. For years, we’ve been trained to think that the best way to sell more stuff is to effectively promote our brand and our products or services. In the traditional paradigm of marketing, content is primarily about us – our company or our products or services.
Shifting from promotional content to content that’s primarily educational and non-promotional is a difficult and counterintuitive change to make for most marketers.
In his new book, Ctrl Alt Delete, Mitch Joel provides an example that illustrates just how entrenched the traditional marketing mindset still is. Joel writes:
“Last year, I was in a business meeting when the idea for an iPhone app came up. It was a smart idea (you know, the kind of idea that you wish you had thought of). The chief marketing officer smiled during the presentation, put his hand up to ask a question, removed the glasses from his eyes and placed them on his notebook, folded his hands, leaned forward, and said, ‘It’s genius. . . but can we put our four key brand messages in there as well, because if we don’t force people to look at them, what’s the point of this app?'”
Companies are still producing “awful” content primarily because many marketers can’t resist the urge to “always be promoting.” Strategy, focus, and accountability are all important to building an effective content marketing program, but the starting point is adopting a different mindset about what constitutes good content and what role content plays in the marketing function.