I've wondered why so many companies, particularly tech firms, have such a hard time embracing inbound or content marketing, and why so many fail to successfully implement marketing automation.
I recently discovered the answer, by accident, from two sources that couldn't be more different.
The first source was a colleague who has achieved tremendous success with her marketing efforts, but she was lamenting her inability to reach the next level by producing greater amounts of consumable content (particularly articles and videos). The reason? The chief executive officer (CEO) is the expert, and since he doesn't have time to meet with her... she can't create the content.
The second source was the author of an article that a colleague forwarded to me. In the article, Joby Blume discusses why his company failed at marketing automation. Though the article is fascinating, one of Blume's replies to a reader's comment is even more revealing.
Blume essentially cites the same issue as my colleague: insufficient bandwidth to create content. And because the company serves a "highly niche" market, it couldn't rely on an outside agency to write content.
Ouch. That hurt... and not because I work at one of those agencies that writes content for other people. It hurt because it's an awful shame to hear that great companies with a lot to offer are holding back because they're afraid to relinquish control of their content expertise.
Here are three reasons expertise may be failing you in your marketing efforts, and steps you can take to reap all the benefits of content marketing.
1. The best players usually don't make the best coaches
The point guard on the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team recently hired a shooting coach to help him with his shot. The guy he hired had never played professional ball, and, as far as I know, he didn't do much in college, either.
However, he's one heck of a shooting coach, partly because he knows what it's like to lack the natural ability and gifts of the best players.
The same idea applies to content creation. Contrary to what you'd expect, the "people who know" in your company may not be the best sources for content. Despite being so good and so knowledgeable, the experts nevertheless likely lack the ability to teach what they know.
And, because great content often involves explaining the unexplainable to people who aren't as knowledgeable, your experts could be the main obstacle that keeps you from creating a steady stream of content.
An obvious solution to that problem is to ask people who are new to your company to write content, which would also help them learn more about your products and services. You'd certainly want to vet what they write, but at least you'd get some good content churned out.
2. You've got the sharpest arrow in the field, but you're missing the target
Experts in their niche are often too close to the product to understand the real reasons people buy it. Though you may assume people buy your product because of its superior technology, for example, they may be buying it because it's easier to use than competing products.
We all make assumptions about why people like us. You'd be surprised, though, by the answers you'd get if you ever took the time to ask those people. And the more enamored your people are with their own expertise, the less likely that they are in touch with the real reasons people buy from you.
The deafening silence of the vacuum chamber resulting from such assumptions and attitudes then naturally leads to the conclusion that your company has addressed all your customers' needs. Hence, a remark I've often heard: "We don't need any more content. It's all there in our FAQ section."
See, content creation isn't just you telling people what you think they need to know. Content is about engaging your prospects in a dialogue. Doing so creates the necessary emotional attachment that leads to gaining a lifelong customer.
Get your support staff to note the questions customers ask. For every question you should then produce several pieces of new content that directly address the needs of your customers and prospects.
3. Your Expert is a Klingon on a ship full of Ferengi
In my mind, here lies the crux of the problem: Your expert knows so much about your niche that he's become out of touch with those who don't have your level of expertise. That dilemma is called "the curse of knowledge" in the great book Made to Stick, and it's killed many a marketing program.
Worse, your top experts are convinced that they and their top engineers are the only people who can write intelligently about your niche. But because they lack the time to create content—and because they think it's absurd to expect anyone else to be able to do it—content isn't produced.
Your target market doesn't know as much about your niche as your experts do. That simple fact is the primary reason you should consider turning the job over to someone else—inside or outside of your company. Those who are closer to the knowledge level of your prospects may be in a better position to speak with them on their terms, in their language, and in a way that engages them in a dialogue.
Subject-matter experts don't create winning marketing campaigns, and they rarely write the most engaging content.
Instead of being the primary source of content, they need to become a catalyst for content. Their knowledge of your products and industry are fodder for the content-creation process, which should be spearheaded by people who are closer to the knowledge and experience levels of your prospects.
You content creators can be anyone from your three-weeks-on-the-job tech support person, your engineers, and even your customers. And, maybe, if you're brave enough... an outside agency.