Content Marketing isn’t Your Silver Bullet

by on December 17, 2012

Content Marketing is not going to solve all your companies problems, in fact it may add to them.

“Everybody’s doing it, so I need to jump on that”

Content Marketing – Google Trends

In most online marketing channels, there are usually a small number of leaders who set trends and then a massive amount of people who follow suit. There is nothing wrong with this, it’s how online marketing tends to work. Transparency about what’s working is one of the best marketing tactics a leader can have to grow their own brand (this recent post by Justin Briggs is an excellent example - 33 Links & How to Get Them).

The problem is, as more people in your market segment follow suit, the more difficult this becomes. Simon Sinek uses the law of diffusion (in his excellent TedTalk) to describe the tipping point a brand needs to reach if they are to scale their business:

Think about this law in terms of different marketing channels. For example, there is no doubt it was a lot easier to grow a successful website on the back off a good SEO strategy a number of years back. For those in the early adopter stage, being one of the first to adopt an SEO strategy in their market would make it very difficult for a competitor to try catch them by following that same SEO strategy today.

Being First Counts …. A Lot

If you apply the same logic to Content Marketing, being first (or one of the first), to adopt a content strategy will result in a lot benefits for your business (if executed well). Those sites who are first will start to receive the love of Google and subscribers who may currently not be having their needs met. Being first also means the quality of your initial content doesn’t need to match the standards of those who will follow. This is summed up well by Mark Schaefer in his comment on Marcus Sheridan’s post – A Rant on Why I Disagree with Blogging & Content Marketing Experts:

the true key to content marketing success is to be first and to be overwhelming. Hurts to say that but it’s true. Quality does not necessarily matter. As you stated, your pool website won the Google battle because you were first and overwhelming, not necessarily any good. Furthermore, if a competitor came along that did provide better content, it probably wouldn;t matter because the game is already over due to sheer volume.

I would throw out Mashable as an example here (lots of people would say I am wrong). It would be very difficult to build a competitor to Mashable now. They have overwhelmed their space with quantity, in my opinion, at the expense of quality at times. Personally I am not sure who Mashable’s target audience is anymore.

So Quality Matters a Lot?

It would be stupid for anyone to say that quality doesn’t matter. In John Doherty’s post  - Do The Work, or Quit Blogging, he says”

 There is nothing worse, though, than someone who writes because they feel like they should write, and not because they want to write.

I don’t disagree with this, although there isn’t always a choice. A lot of SMB owners may not have the resources to hire an internal resource or subject matter expert, so just make a start themselves. In a lot of cases, just making a start in a market that hasn’t been over saturated with content may be good enough. Coming back to Marcus Sheridan, he made his name by massively growing his company RiverPools using inbound/content marketing tactics.

Marcus Sheridan – Riverpoolsandspas

In Marcus’s own words:

And speaking of “serving garbage on a plate,” just look at the first blog articles on my swimming pool site—River Pools. Without question, I served up garbage almost 3 times a week for the first few months of blogging.

In this case, quality may not have been key to the success Marcus had, it was more important to be an early adopter and iterate over time (getting better at producing quality). Would a competitor have that same type of success if they started on a similar path today, it’s highly doubtful they would.

Oh, I am Late, What can I do?

Not everyone can or will be an early adopter. New brands are created everyday in market segments that already have competitors who are killing it at content marketing. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make content marketing part of their strategy. It means they will need to work harder to make it work for their own brand. Examples of this may be:

- Do a lot of analysis to figure out what content gaps there may be in the market (that are currently not being fulfilled by a competitor)

- Do less content, but really focus on quality. Add unique elements that aren’t being used in competitors content

- If you have the budget, do something really creative to get you on people’s radars. This You vs. John Paulson campaign is a really great example

- Have a better product that allows you to create awesome customer success stories

- Of course, focusing in on a couple of high value keywords that will help spread the word about your content is also going to be a big contributing factor to a new brands success

In my opinion, if you are late to the party, it’s going to cost you more money to build a successful content marketing strategy. One of the best investments you can make is to hire a subject matter expert to write for your brand. Many of the competitors you are facing may be outsourcing this to SEO/Content agencies. In Paul Boags post (which rightly got slammed by a lot of SEOs) titled, The Inconvenient Truth About SEO, he made a couple of good points, including:

If you haven’t already, consider hiring an employee dedicated to creating content for your website.

I don’t agree with his next sentence on getting rid of your SEO agency to fund this, as he clearly has misunderstood what an SEO agency actually does, but I certainly agree with spending budget on internal content creators.

Content Marketing is not going to solve all your companies problems, in fact it may add to them.

Coming back to the first sentence, content marketing can be an extremely powerful tactic for any brand to adopt as part of a overall marketing strategy. But how easy it is to generate success with this is going to depend a lot on timing. You need to be really clear about what the goals of your content marketing strategy are, and if you have the resources to meet these. You need to be aware of what your competitors are already doing with content and how you can improve upon it. If you are in a market that is relatively thin on content, then just getting started may be enough for you to see positive results. If you are in a market that is already being well serviced, you will need to work a lot harder to stand out.

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  • Doug Kessler

    Great post, Kieran.
    There aren’t so many quick wins in content marketing any more.
    Now it’s a long game. I do think quality trumps quantity in the new battle – but you need to get over the critical mass threshold.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Doug, do you think there are no quick wins in content anymore because most market segments are now quite competitive e.g. there are very few segments without companies adopting content marketing as part of their strategy. I think if you were an early adopter, it was a lot easier to reach that critical mass. It’s going to take a lot more quality to do that now.

  • http://www.yourseo.com/ Yourseo.com

    Informative post.I think quality is really matter whether it is content ,link etc.  Your opinion is more or less just like main. Thanks!
     

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