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Not long ago, content marketing was all about launching a website, posting on blogs, and circulating emails to new and existing customers. No longer.

Today, it's a critical, multifaceted discipline in which organizations rely on technology and nimble content approaches to deliver and repurpose everything from copy and images to video and podcasts across multiple channels and audiences.

Indeed, most organizations now see content marketing as one of the most invaluable tools in their belts for driving brand awareness and sales leads.

With so many brands now competing around customer experience and personalization, that's even more true, which is why content marketing budgets continue to rise and the reason many marketers believe they are becoming pretty sophisticated at it.

But are they really?

No doubt, plenty of savvy marketers are driving creative content marketing campaigns that the industry would view as successful. In fact, nearly 85% of technology marketers surveyed recently by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs say they've used content marketing effectively in the previous year to create brand awareness, and 80% say they have used it to create sales leads.

Yet it's highly likely that because of various inefficiencies, those campaigns were less successful than they could have been. Scrutiny would most likely turn up weaknesses borne from misconceptions—or myths—that ultimately lessened the impact of those content marketing efforts.

Here are the five most common content marketing myths to overcome.

Myth 1: Personalization means creating unique content—faster—for each channel

In 2017, Xfinity, the cable company, kicked off a novel content marketing concept: It reached out to satellite TV customers during storms, when their services might have been disrupted. The "Bad Weather" initiative involved little more than a targeted banner ad, but it reportedly exceeded benchmarks for driving orders by 9%, achieved a 17% higher clickthrough rate, and improved online conversations by more than 32%.

This small example helps illustrate a point: You can tailor outreach to the specific needs of a particular audience without sending a flood of marketing their way.

While high content velocity—delivering strategically positioned materials quickly and at scale—is an important part of any marketing campaign, you can still accomplish that through bite-sized deliverables—snackables, little pieces of text or video. In fact, though 81% of technology content marketers still try to engage audiences with long-form content, such as in-depth articles and guides, almost half also now employ video "snippets" pointing back to their websites, the CMI/MarketingProfs survey found.

What's more, more organizations today are starting to automate this targeted outreach using emerging technologie,s such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning (ML), with the goal of delivering individualized experiences.

Myth 2: Personalization at scale is difficult

One of the other big myths around content marketing is this notion that you must completely overhaul your strategy to personalize communications and experiences for large audiences. You don't.

Tackling personalization at scale—all in one giant step—can be difficult for many brands, but there are ways to overcome such challenges. For instance (continuing with the idea of going small), if companies have good data and analytics to advise the customer experiences they're seeking to provide, then it's possible to "atomize" or repurpose slices of the broader library of content you've created for specific purposes. It's not unlike how advertisers debut minute-long commercials during the Super Bowl, but whittle them down to more palatable and affordable 30- or 15-second portions for future airing.

Marketers rarely suffer from a lack of content. That's not the problem, really. The challenge is just getting their arms around what they have, figuring out how best to slice-and-dice it for specific audiences, and then disseminating it most efficiently. This process doesn't have to be complex, but it does need to be strategic and thoughtful.

Myth 3: Proving content marketing ROI is tough

Creators often prefer to live in the art of what they do rather than the science. They work hard to put together the most compelling images or words, and then frequently judge success based on how many people look at their good work. Counting "eyeballs" on their work, they reason, should indicate its success or failure.

But that's a myth as well. The truth is that someone could look at something, sometimes multiple times, because they clicked the wrong button repeatedly or couldn't believe how bad it was or maybe even had some odd fascination with what they were viewing.

To truly determine ROI for a content marketing campaign, you need hard data. Performance metrics like engagement rate, clickthrough rate, bounce rate, and average time on page can certainly play into that and contribute to your financial metrics. And a content management system (CMS) tied to an analytics solution can help you understand audience behavior and automate content optimization to meet consumer demand.

However, a good campaign also needs to consider user-generated content (UCG), such as social interactions, blog posts, shared images, and forum discussions. That data can positively help marketers augment their strategic plans by providing authentic views from trusted sources—their end users. UGC can also improve campaign velocity and provide deeper, multichannel connections with audiences.

AARP, for example, actively solicits feedback from its members through social media, email, and even postal mail. It then uses that information to guide how it crafts its publications. As a result, most of the nonprofit organization's members regularly read its journals.

Myth 4: Only large companies can succeed at content marketing

Large brands can obviously tap into a ton of financial and human resources to execute content marketing plans. They have some of the best brains in the business, and they can even afford to hire a professional to manage their content strategy, something smaller companies can't even begin to think about.

One thing they don't tend to have, though, is agility. The bigger the company, the slower it tends to move. At least that's been the tradition for hundreds of years. And this is how—by being more nimble—small brands can step up and outflank the competition.

The key is to not try to do it all yourself. Small and midsize business owners and operators don't have the time or money to spend on such pursuits. Instead, it's best to start with a high-performing CMS that can speed the process of producing and pushing the right marketing content to the right audiences at the right time. These tools can alleviate the burden on marketing teams by allowing them to quickly create and reuse content. ML and analytics capabilities, meanwhile, help recommend ways to make that content more personalized using data you've been able to collect internally and from third parties.

Large companies can tear a page from the small-brand playbook as well by adopting creative, low-cost marketing strategies for acquiring and retaining customers. This was an approach called growth hacking, popularized about a decade ago, and it's been effective for many startup marketers.

Myth 5: Market leaders are the thought leaders

Every junior public relations or marketing professional at some point utters the phrase "thought leadership." The thinking goes that if you're able to achieve the status of thought leader, you've somehow elevated your brand to a level of credibility and respect that should automatically gain the attention.

That is true in the sense that corporate brands able to stand for something—like a Nordstrom or Zappos in customer service, or an Apple, Microsoft, or SAP in technology—can be considered thought leaders in their markets. And it's also true with respect to the growing number of personal brands, such as a Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, or Kim Kardashian.

But that extends to lesser-known but more authentic social media micro-influencers and nano-influencers going by pseudonyms such as itslivb (101,000 Instagram followers) and sweatandtell (34,200 Instagram followers).

In fact, you don't have to be a leader in any kind of market to be a thought leader. Today, you can even be nominated for that status by simply walking into a grocery store and getting invited to sign up to become an influencer in exchange for a generous store discount.

Being a thought leader today isn't necessarily about being around a long time or achieving some level of wisdom others can't match. It's more about having a unique and interesting point of view and then sharing your insights on a consistent basis, using content marketing tools to reach audiences across various channels.

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Many more content marketing myths affect an organization's ability to deliver more personalized customer experiences. These myths can be a huge drain on a brand's success. Luckily, tools and technology exist to help overcome almost any hurdle they present.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Kevin Lindsay

Kevin Lindsay is director of product marketing at Adobe.

LinkedIn: Kevin Lindsay

Twitter: @kevlindsay