Clearing Up A Little Content Marketing Confusion

I just read “4 Things That Can Go Wrong With Content Marketing,” a blog post shared on Twitter by Bo Woloshyn. While Bo didn’t write the blog, he shared it on Twitter, and I read it (as I do much of what he shares) because, well, @BoKnowsMarkting. But seriously, I’ve been following him via Twitter for several years and I respect his opinions.

The post, by CustomerThink blogger Anand Srinivasan, listed four strong opinions about Content Marketing.  While I strongly disagree with two of the author’s points (and I’ll clear up that content marketing confusion below), I have to admire the post, because as I’ve said before, great blog posts do several things:

1. They take a stand. Even in the face of controversy, if you can make your point and then back it up with statistics or sources, more power to
you, I say.

2. They make ya think. Even if it’s just about all the ways you disagree, that’s okay. Because usually all that thinking will lead to…

3. They provide great ideas for blog posts of your own. Which is the reason for this blog post.images

Mr. Srinivasan’s post did all three of these things.

But I digress.  The author begins his blog post by stating that not all content is made equal. “According to a survey conducted by Fleishman Hillard, marketing content like coupons and promotions fetch higher value among consumers compared to generic content pieces like expert advices and how to advice. In other words, customers like receiving direct promotions as compared to “high authority” pieces that work towards establishing authority and brand name.”

Confusion No 1. Those are two different types of content in two different parts of the funnel with two different goals.

Those coupons and promotions are (or they should be) Bottom of Funnel (BOF) content pieces meant to drive sales – they are intended for an audience of customers who are ready to make a purchase.

In contrast, “high authority” pieces that establish authority are meant for Top of Funnel (TOF), and their intent is (or should be) to establish credibility and trust with your audience.

Saying that customers prefer direct promotions over high authority pieces is like saying your audience prefers breakfast over dinner. It just depends on where they are in their buyer journey. If it’s 9am, most of them are going to say breakfast, right? They just haven’t gotten to dinner yet. They’ll get there, they just want to have breakfast and lunch first.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for Content and where it fits in the sales funnel:

imagesTop of Funnel Content = brand awareness. This is where you educate and entertain in order to build trust. eBooks, how to videos, blogs and infographics are all ideal – and don’t be afraid to use humor!

Middle of Funnel Content = Evaluation/Consideration. Your audience knows about you, now they need a better understanding of what you bring to the table. Establish credibility with product demos, case studies, testimonials and in-depth blog posts.

Bottom of Funnel Content = Purchase/Decision Time. This is where your qualified lead turns into a buyer. Free trials, custom estimates, and coupons are all valid at this stage in the buyer’s journey

Confusion No. 2. The author’s fourth point, Not Measuring the Right Metrics, is fair. It’s a common enough problem. He suggests that “The right way to measure the success of a content marketing campaign would be to track the number of leads you generate or the sales you bring over a long term period using a content marketing strategy.”

While I agree that measuring the right analytics is important, don’t be so quick to throw out those “vanity” metrics. We have to remember that it depends on the objectives of the content marketing campaign. What are you trying to achieve? Obviously the long term goal is always sales, but it’s important to look at shorter term goals as well, especially given that content marketing is not a quick fix. This is not traditional advertising. We’re building relationships. As Jay Baer says, “Eventually your content marketing must create action, not just attention.” True enough. But yes, you can absolutely measure likes, shares, new followers and downloads to help determine how well you’re doing in building audience base, and your position as a thought leader. The lesson here is that all metrics matter, and together, they paint a complete picture of how well your content is working to tell your brand story, build your credibility and, eventually, drive sales.

No confusion here: I agree that having a lead capture strategy is important. You have to define your measurements for success before you begin. I also agree that we should be tweaking the content strategy in real time just as you would handle A/B tests with an email marketing campaign. While it might not be cost effective to create two different infographics or two versions of an eBook, it’s simple enough to create a series of tweets and posts for social channels using various hashtags, statements and questions to see what garners the most interest and engagement.

Thanks to Bo for sharing this post, and to Anand, for getting my content marketing wheels turning. This, of course, is what content + social media marketing is all about!


About Beth M. Wood

Beth M. Wood is a marketing and writing professional. She's been working in the marketing industry since the early 90s, and feeding her shopping habit with copywriting gigs since 2004. On August 1, 2013, she made the jump to full-time freelance writer, marketer, and social media manager. Beth is highly adept at creating and managing integrated marketing programs that get brands noticed. She's also well known for creating and maintaing a strong brand voice across all channels. She is a word geek, a grammar snob and a boot camp junkie. Which means she believes in giving 100% to every project she takes on - large or small. She earned her BA in writing from Webster University and serves as Senior Content Strategist at Scorch.
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