Breaking 5 Bad Content Marketing Habits That Need To Be Stopped by Lisa Nirell via @FastCompany
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Breaking 5 Bad Content Marketing Habits That Need To Be Stopped

Because marketers have more in common with Walter White than they might realize.

As a marketing leader, how do you break the bad habit of providing ho-hum content and hosting events that look like your competitors’?

Let’s turn to television for some answers. For the past five seasons in the U.S., actor Bryan Cranston played Walter White, a hapless chemistry teacher turned megalomaniacal crystal methamphetamine maker in the TV series Breaking Bad. The show’s creators essentially invented a brand-new genre they call cowboy drama. The series is also unique because the protagonist turns antagonist.

This series exemplifies compelling, groundbreaking content, which Breaking Bad's Creator/Executive Producer-Writer-Director, Vince Gilligan, has masterminded. Millions voted with their remote controls.

Much as the series outlined grave consequences for Walter White’s errant behavior, marketing leaders will also experience negative (although less fatal) consequences for creating marginal content.

Thankfully for customers, B2B companies are slowly recognizing and breaking their bad content habits. We can find guidance from organizations such as the Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and a variety of marketing automation companies.

It’s important to identify these bad habits before we can eliminate them. These beliefs can ruin a content campaign, and they are especially counterproductive when they inform live events. Here are the most common myths I hear:

Source: Charles Gold

1. Marketing needs an internal "crack team" to create and disseminate the content. In reality, marketing cannot go it alone. That’s an inefficient use of marketing resources. Instead, turn to a plethora of sources, including product marketing, analysts, external experts and authors, customers, customer support, and sales. They can become part of your content ecosystem, as outlined in this graph:

2. Focus your marketing on a handful of tactics, and do those tactics well. This is no longer true. Thanks to agile marketing methods and "test and learn" models, marketer's can experiment, measure, and retool rather quickly. MarketingProf’s 2013 Content Marketing Trends study revealed that today’s B2B marketers average 12 marketing tactics. The top five most effective tactics used today are social media (other than blogs), articles, e-newsletters, blogs, and case studies. Companies that want to stand apart from the crowd should seriously consider short webcasts, executive breakfasts, e-books, screencasts (using tools such as Articulate’s Studio), and educational videos.

3. Webinars and other live streaming events should be broadcasts. This may have been the case five years ago. Today, they need to facilitate conversations. Kathy Meara, Content Manager for CA Technologies, has witnessed a shift in how professionals interact online during webcasts. "People talk more confidently when they are typing and can jump into the conversation." At times, Meara notices that some customers want to hijack the webinar agenda and critique the company’s products. That’s when she intervenes and introduces herself. This makes a big difference and guides them back into the conversation at hand.

4. Content needs to reflect your point of view. While provocative thought leadership pieces are essential to staking a claim in your market niche, they are not the only form of communicating. MarketingProf’s study also proved that today’s marketing leaders named "engaging our audiences" as their second biggest challenge with their content management strategy. Live polling, offering giveaways in exchange for input, contests, and surveys can allay these concerns. Companies such as ON24, one of my clients, provide an excellent platform with these features.

5. Content has a shelf life. This is also a myth. In today’s marketing environment, some of the best content can influence prospects for months, if not years. For example, ON24 publishes an annual Webinar Benchmarks Report. Findings derive from a database of more than 20,000 customer webcasts delivered within a 12-month period. Industry experts and customers often rely on the annual updates to design, launch, and measure the results from their own events.

These five old habits were meant to be broken. In my next post, I will share seven strategies for creating positive content chemistry.

Related Posts

"The Cure For Content-Creation Madness"
"Cash, Lies, And ROI: Are Your Marketing Budgets A Flight Risk?"
"Using Newsweek's Move To Digital To Inform Your 2013 Strategy"

[Image: Flickr user Dávid Sterbik]

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  • Akshita Ramamurthy

    Great post. Completely agree with the points you've made. Another bad habit is constantly talking about the author and not caring to provide actual value to audiences It really is high time brands got over that

  • Justin Belmont

    Hi, Lisa. Great article, especially the Walter White connection! I love tips 2 & 4 particularly. These are mistakes I see too often in content marketing.

    With regard to using a number of different tactics, or the lack thereof-- I find that this goes as far as brands sometimes restricting themselves only to social media, and then even becoming lazy with their efforts in this arena, posting infrequently and not making enough effort to really engage with their followers. And to really engage we need to step back from the perspective that all content is about us and our point of view, as you said. Too often companies make their content entirely about them, providing little value to the customer and treating them like little more of an opportunity for a targeted sell. If you use your content instead to provide a benefit for your followers-- whether this is information, laughter, free giveaways, or just a sounding board for their comments-- you will reap the benefits in brand evangelists and loyal purchasers.

    You also make a great point when you remind that with agile marketing and "test and learn" models, we can easily experiment and tinker with new tools to make the maximum possible impact.

    Although it may be tempting to focus on one or two strategies, it's crucial to have a number of different tools that you are using for your content marketing, and to ensure that you are using each of these media in a way that is particularly suited to it and to your audience there. With the ease of measurement and adaptability of new marketing methods there is no excuse for failing to do this.

  • John S Curran

    These are great "old rules" to break away from, indeed. I would add one rule as an overarching theme for everyone's content marketing strategy and that would be "Content Marketing is another advertising channel".

    I see a lot of bloggers and businesses still creating content that is thinly veiled advertising, and it is apparent very quickly. Even for clients that have completely bought into the concept of creating useful content are still not creating it with the intent to engage and not advertise.

    The goal is to demonstrate how your company and brand are knowledgable about your chosen sector and that you have created a helpful community of like minded people who may end up being your long term fans and customers.

    It is this extra step in the process that is still causing some issue with people undertaking content marketing strategies for the first time. What do you think? Do you find that the concept of not interrupting the relationship you are building with your community a difficult one to overcome with clients just starting out?

    John Curran

  • lisanirell

    John, the comment about content marketing as an ad channel sometimes surfaces. In my experience, this is a limiting belief that we can eliminate as marketing leaders.

    The highest performing CMOs in my community know how to design and publish helpful, informative, provocative content. If you want some examples, you can download my latest (complimentary) webinar here:

    Building OFFLINE communities of like minded customers and evangelists is equally important to online content and communities. Many of my clients will simply not download a white paper, yet they will attend a private, content-rich breakfast meeting.
    Building a strong community is a content strategy in itself, and it takes time (sometimes years) to reach "nirvana." But it's worth the time and energy.
    Hope that helps!