Why Content Marketing Fails [Sales]

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Marketing teams are failing to execute content marketing. Marketing teams embrace the concept of Content Marketing.  However, they are struggling to execute. To assess or build your content marketing capabilities, review the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook. Turn to the Marketing Strategy section and flip to the Content Strategy and Planning phase on page 270.

The Root Cause?  Marketing teams refuse to write.

CMOs do not require their team to develop writing as a core capability.  There are simply too many touch-points in marketing that require great content and the team must be able to write to tell the story.  The result is content that doesn’t make a person stop and think differently.  Success in content marketing requires CMOs to inspire their team to write.

Examining why Content Marketing Fails Inside the Marketing Team

Let’s begin with the definition of Content Marketing.   The definition can be broken down into three components according to Joe Pulizzi (author of Epic Content Marketing).

  1. Process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content
  2. Content that attracts, acquires and engages a target audience
  3. Accomplishes the objective of driving profitable customer action
Marketing teams thrash around with content marketing.  They do so because they refuse to tackle the creation in point #1 above.  The rest is meaningless without the creation of compelling content.

Unfortunately Marketing Managers see writing as someone else’s job.  They want to manage it and do not want to do it.  Why?  Because that’s how they have always approached developing campaigns.

Marketing Managers focus on the big picture of the creative brief.  They orchestrate the development through others.  Content Marketing requires this old thinking to be reversed.

Why Ad Agencies Aren’t the Answer to Content Marketing

Attempting to execute content marketing through an agency copywriter is like pushing a rope.  Agency copywriters require significant source content and guidance.  CMOs know that investing time with the agency is required for solid work.

The long-term problem is the ever-present instability of team resource at agencies.  Creative resources come on and off the account like stray cats.  Furthermore agencies are notoriously awful at retaining knowledge.

The burden is often on the client to bring new agency team members up to speed.  Effective content marketing can’t be done with this level of instability.

Niche Content Marketing Agencies are rarely the Answer

CMOs are finding that outsourced content marketing to a specialist firm too often doesn’t work.  There are examples where outsourcing works perfectly.   Success stories are rare compared to the cases where outsourced content marketing fails.

When outsourcing to a niche agency the hardest work is still waiting for you.  Figuring out what to write and the source content is most difficult, and to get great content from a content agency requires you to spoon feed the agency team. What feels like a short-cut to success doesn’t solve the root problem.

For success, a content marketing outsource firm requires;

  • Significant time invested to give them direction and context
  • Onboarding similar to the intensiveness of a new employee
  • Stability of Content Agency resources (Agencies have higher turnover than corporations)
  • Continued budget to fuel the effort
Building Content Marketing as a Capability is the Answer

Marketing teams try everything except the most obvious.  Marketing teams refuse to write their own content.  Seasoned marketing staffs consider writing beneath them.  They see it as an entry level task or someone else’s job. This is in sharp contrast to this response from the CMO of IBM who responded to this question:

The Chief Marketing Officer of IBM was asked; “What’s the top skill that marketing organizations need to master to be successful?”   Response:  “Writing skills.”

CMOs often see content marketing as a new vertical skill.  They see it no different than adding SEO, SEM or social marketing capabilities.  Content Marketing is completely different.

Today’s marketing is content driven to engage the buyer earlier than ever.  Writing is a ‘horizontal’ skill required across the marketing team.  CMOs expect every member of their team to have strategic thinking capabilities.  No exception.   The capability of writing content is no different.

Writing is an essential foundation for success in today’s content-driven market.  Marketing has a bigger role than ever to play engaging early stage buyers.  Buyers fend off sales people until they are deep in the evaluation process.  Content Marketing fills the gap between what buyers want and brands produce.

While the CMO must require the full team to write content, it does make sense in a modern B2B marketing team to be supported by a staff writer.  This writer works best with a journalism background and they have insider access to subject matter experts.  The staff writer tackles the largest assignments and learns the business in ways the outsource agencies often don’t.

How to Get Started 

Build the capability internally on your team.  Marketing Managers have to write content.  This is your long-term, sustainable path to success.   Change the mindset that ‘someone else’ writes content.

  • Set clear expectations that strong writing is required throughout the ranks of the marketing team.
  • Schedule a dedicated time to discuss expectations with your team.
  • Recognize those with strong writing skills and tie the performance to results.
The toughest part about content marketing is sourcing content.  Turn to the following sources for net new content:

  • Capture rich interviews and then adapt to other forms of content
  • Existing content that can be adapted
  • Subject matter expert interviews
  • Association and industry news
Marketing leaders know the value of investing in creative briefs to execute campaigns.   In contrast there is limited planning, if any, for content marketing.  

Invest time in content planning and understand the mental shift required to convert leads.  Leverage a Content Marketing Brief that includes unique approaches to the following;

  • Story direction
  • Buyer Process Map tracking
  • Mindset shift insight
Perform a Content Audit to identify the quantity and quality of existing content.  Once inventoried the audit is used to map the content to the buying stage.  This tool also serves as a progress indicator to direct content authoring.  Carefully sequence the development of content to fill the biggest gaps.

Compelling content can be leveraged to increase the impact of your efforts.  Capitalize on the Content Marketing Adaption Guide to identify how to multiply content. 

Marketing VP’s and CMO’s must lead your team in transitioning to Content Marketing.  Set an expectation that you expect your team to write content.  Give them the tools to succeed. Inspect their progress and reward success with recognition.

For those serious about creating a B2B content marketing capability, consider spending some time with me on this subject.  Come see me in Dallas at The Studio, SBI’s executive briefing center. A visit to The Studio can help you tackle your content marketing plan and you can see firsthand how SBI creates content from the view as a guest. SBI Media is comprised of a television show, podcast, magazine, and blog and they are the most read, viewed, and listened to thought leadership channels in the field of B2B sales and marketing.

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