TrackMaven made a worrying discovery: taken together, companies were producing 78% more content – but on average this was getting 60% less customer engagement.
It’s not hard to guess why. In the rush to create “content” and start reaping the rewards, many companies started pushing out sub-par stuff without any real content marketing strategy behind it. They offered content that was obviously self-serving, or was really just badly masked traditional marketing materials. And as audiences get more fed up with this kind of content and more cynical about what they’re reading, you have to work harder and harder to catch – and keep – their attention. In fact, Gartner warned as much when they published their Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing report. Inflated expectations in content marketing had passed their peak, said the authors – we’re now heading for a period of disillusionment.
It’s hard to refute this. Going forward, this challenge is going to grow and grow. This Content Marketing Institute’s survey found a sharp drop in the number of respondents who feel their content marketing efforts are effective. In fact, CMI’s Joe Puluzzi has been pretty outspoken about the pitfalls that badly-equipped companies are likely to face, saying that “now is when we will witness the greatest content marketing failures of all time.”
So what’s a business to do? Clearly, giving up on content marketing altogether would be a huge mistake – it still outperforms other forms of marketing by a country marketing. But equally clearly, those that survive and thrive will have to dramatically up their game.
Content marketing is a top way to connect your target market, but only if you genuinely set out to connect and not just to sell. People hate feeling that they’re being taken for fools more than just about anything else, so if you say you’re offering a free eBook that will help them tackle a problem in their industry and you actually release 10,000 words of advertising copy for your product or service, they are not going to be very impressed with you or your brand.
The important thing is to start with what your clients need, rather than what you want from them. Try to see things through their eyes and figure out what information, advice or resources they’d be most grateful for, in their field, at this moment in time. That’s what you should be delivering. It sounds simple, but far too many companies trip over themselves at this stage.
Simply jumping on the bandwagon and overloading people with content that’s not particularly well thought-out or that doesn’t offer clear value will do your brand more harm than good. You need to make sure you’re producing enough to keep up momentum, without ever sacrificing on quality. You need a clear, well-conceived strategy that guides people logically along a customer journey. You need to build trust and reputation. And ultimately, you need to keep interrogating your output, assessing whether it’s good enough, and making improvements all the time to stay ahead of the game.
Want more great advice on supercharging your content marketing strategy? Download the B2B Content Creation Masterclass below.