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Six Content Marketing Myths—Busted

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B2B marketers consistently cite creating content that engages as a top challenge of content marketing. That is a genuine hurdle, but making it harder to overcome are the preconceptions that marketing team members likely bring to the effort.

Getting content marketing right is both more complex than its most fervent promoters claim... and easier than doubters fear. Carrying beliefs on either end of the spectrum into a content program will hamper its effectiveness.

The first step toward success? Getting real.

With that in mind, this article busts six content marketing myths that just keep hanging on, and it counters them with reality-based strategies that work.

Myth 1: It's easy! We'll just pull stuff out of our brains

Reality: Brain extraction is a painful process that often results in a mess

When we imagine that we will simply sit down (or, more typically, someone else will sit down) with the intent to create, and then meaningful and readable content will come pouring out, we are kidding ourselves.

The truth, as MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute research shows, is that you need a road map.

The following assets and practices will set you up to regularly produce great content:

  • A guiding strategy: What should you be talking about to highlight your expertise and support your business goals? What does your audience want and need? Your content sweet spot will be where the Venn diagram circles overlap.
  • An understanding of what good content is: It is useful, insightful, thought provoking, entertaining, or, optimally, all of those things.
  • The ability to shape ideas and communicate them: in ways (verbal or visual) that are compelling and relevant to the audience
  • Quality control: professional execution that delivers thoughtful copy and arresting visuals
  • An editorial calendar for all your content: It will help ensure that you're not stuck on deadline without a good idea and that you cover a mix of topics with timing that's appropriate for your business.

Myth 2: It's hard! We don't have anything to say

Reality: If you have expertise, you have something to say

If you had nothing of value to contribute to the marketplace, you wouldn't be in business, right? And rare is the potential customer who prefers to be blissfully ignorant about what they're buying, why it will make their life easier, or how to use it.

Everyone has information to share that other people want—insights into common problems, tips and how-tos, perspectives on industry trends or news, technical knowledge expressed in plain language, and so on. Common customer questions are great fodder for content marketing, as are best-practices you've developed or tested, observations from the field, and topics people often misunderstand.

Start thinking about your content along these lines, and you'll find you have more than enough to feed a program that spreads your knowledge, nurtures prospects, and increases understanding of your brand and mission.

Myth 3: Repurposing is a snap

Reality: Repurposing is often easier than creating from scratch, but it still requires time and skill

Technically, you could just copy report chapters into your blog, cut out sentences to form tweets, or customize content for disparate audiences by changing the title and doing a bit of search-and-replace work.

But effective repurposing requires some heavy lifting: shaping the content for the medium, the distribution channel, and the audience.

You should absolutely do it: Repurposing gives you maximum value for the time, money, and thought invested in creating the content. And it ensures that the content is accessible to the people you want to reach wherever they are and in whichever format they prefer. You'll just be better prepared—and more successful—if you approach repurposing with the knowledge that doing it well takes some effort.

Myth 4: Content marketing isn't effective in my field

Reality: It can work in any field if you do it right

The key to getting content marketing to work in any field is answering these questions:

  1. What does your target market care about? Do some research (rather than assuming you know), and be prepared to find out that it's not necessarily the things that matter to your company's internal teams.
  2. What is your market's level of knowledge? The answer will help you choose topics that tell them something new but aren't completely unfamiliar (and therefore indigestible).
  3. How and where do they gather information? Tailor your content to those preferences.

Once you have that down, it's just a matter of communicating effectively and getting in front of your audience. (OK, the word just should probably be in quotes, but still... you can do it!)

Pretty much anyone who signs a check is doing research (or reviewing research), and that means they're looking at content. You just have to meet them where they are. If your target audience won't read long articles (or even short ones), use videos. If they don't have regular access to computers (that's still true in some niches), get your knowledge into trade publications. If you know you'll lose them after three bullet points, go for relatively frequent and super-snappy content.

Myth 5: We'll give away the store

Reality: If others could do what you do, they'd be your competitors—not your customers

Professional services firms often worry that if they share their knowledge in any substantive way, potential customers will just do it themselves. But consider this: Typical do-it-yourselfers have no budget for the work, don't see quality as a top priority, or aren't ready to hire someone—or all three. They're not real prospects (at least right now), so you lose nothing by helping them out, and you gain a few karma points. Plus, once they're past the DIY stage, you'll be on their radar.

Real prospects do their research before making a decision, and they want to know how you think. After all, they'll be paying for your expertise and insight. Which brings up a larger point: How-tos probably are not the only type of content you should produce.

Plenty of other types of content provide value and showcase your expertise, including...

  • Insights into customers' business problems
  • Perspectives on trends or news in your industry or in customers' fields
  • Answers to common customer questions
  • Discussions of best-practices you've developed or tested
  • Articles demystifying challenging technical topics

Myth 6: Sales pitches qualify as content marketing

Reality: You can't build a following by hawking your products and services over and over again

Even your mother doesn't want to hear that from you. Great content informs, intrigues, and leads people to your products and services. Great content is not about your products and services—at least not solely or directly.

You can talk about why your target market needs the type of thing you sell and how they can assess potential benefits. You can do all that without mentioning your product or service at all; and, in most cases, you should keep product mentions to a minimum.

The goal of content marketing is to attract attention, demonstrate expertise, build relationships, and develop a leadership position. Do that, and people will come to you when they need what you have to offer—and then they'll be ready to hear your pitch.

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Sandra Stewart is a principal at Thinkshift Communications, which provides content marketing, messaging, and other strategic marketing services to cleantech and sustainable businesses.

LinkedIn: Sandra Stewart

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  • by Joe Wozny Tue Feb 17, 2015 via web

    Sandra, Nice to see you supporting the concept of a roadmap for digital. Concentric, the company I work for, feels so strongly about their use that we trademarked our digital roadmap processes. I also write about creating and executing from a digital roadmap in my book, The Digital Dollar; Sustainable Strategies for Online Success.

    I noticed in your article you did not mention measurement. I suggest this is a very important roadmap step.

    There's also an interesting reference book on the topic of B2B "selling/marketing" called the BuyerSphere Project ... as sponsored by Google and others. What was interesting in the book is that the idea that B2B vendors should understand the risk and complexity of what they are selling (in terms of how their target client sees it) and adjust their expectations of digital lead generation and hence their content strategies. Be interested to hear your thoughts on this in relation to what you have written.

  • by Tim Coffey Tue Feb 17, 2015 via web

    Great insights for maintaining a content strategy. It is critical to do this thinking upfront in order to have any chance at sustaining your content marketing. The web rewards value. IF you provide valuable information, then people will respect and recommend you. If not, you are just ignored.

  • by Sonya Carmichael Jones Wed Feb 18, 2015 via web

    Yes! to the creation of an editorial calendar. And double yes to the mindfulness that should go into repurposing. I mean to not have a plan in place for additional uses of your content is a waste.

    Do you think there should be a marketing plan for your marketing content? I do (I can hear the groans).

    Content marketing isn't new, but it keeps evolving. I love how content marketing has made marketing in general more people oriented, more about building and sustaining relationships.

  • by John Bottom Fri Feb 20, 2015 via web

    Sandra - it's all so true. There are two clear parts to your myth busting: ie the myths of how content marketing works and the myths of how easy it is to actually do it. I'm hoping most people understand that content marketing works - the second part is crucial if you want to create something more than me-too content. It's about putting in time, effort and skill! No substitute for those...

  • by Sara Mon Feb 23, 2015 via web

    I like how you distinguish that content marketing is not pitching your product. It's also not just about writing. If writing isn't what you do, you can get your message out there other ways. Social Triggers, Derek Halpern does video along with his blog posts - very effective.
    Buzz Blogger, Kim Roach does (used to) 10 Minute Marketing Podcast another very good option as far as content marketing. It is quick and offers answers to questions in quick spurts great for walks or car rides.

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