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Date posted: March 27, 2014

Misconceptions have a way of becoming cozy, making their way into even the most assiduous minds. Case in point: Bertrand Russell notes in The Impact of Science on Society, “Aristotle believed that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives’ mouths.” Looks like someone was distracted instead of reading his Plato.

With increasing numbers of marketing experts wedding content marketing to their strategic efforts, the anecdote is well worth remembering. Fortunately, there are some among us not afraid to look into the maw of the latest marketing prima donna to see if what’s there matches what we think is there. After all, misconceptions can lead to the demise of the best and brightest.

In an Entrepreneur article, Eric Siu, CEO of the San Francisco-based digital marketing agency Single Grain, identifies four big misconceptions companies have about content marketing:

They see content marketing as a checklist of tasks.
If there were a simple formula to content marketing success, everyone would be successful. But there’s much more involved than writing so many blog posts weekly, posting X times per day to Twitter and releasing so many videos to YouTube every month. Siu notes that the industry’s reliance on list posts may be partially to blame, but believes “a much larger problem is the expectation many business owners and marketers hold that content marketing is something you can do once and be done with.”

They take an “if you build it, they will come” approach.
Creating great content is only the first step in a good content marketing campaign. Your content can only go on to be successful if it’s paired with an equally great promotional strategy.

They fail to produce content for all steps in the sales process.
Whenever you create new content, ask yourself, “How does this content piece support my sales funnel?” If you can’t come up with a clear answer, head back to the drawing board.

They limit content marketing to an advertising initiative.
Naturally, your marketing department will play a lead role in your content marketing campaigns. But restricting your campaign initiatives to these few employees can cause you to miss out on the benefits of taking a more organization-wide approach. Do you know what one of your best sources of content inspiration can be? Your customer service employees. All day, every day, these workers are engaging directly with customers, providing answers to the questions that must be resolved before prospects are converted.

In a follow up to Siu’s article, Justin Maas, vice president of client relations at online marketing firm fishbat, adds his take on the current misconceptions in content marketing:

Searching for a content marketing ‘formula’.
“A simple formula of content marketing does not exist. Content marketing is about seeing what works, seeing what doesn’t work, and constantly altering the strategy,” says Maas.

Not promoting content.
Here Mass echoes Liu’s second point: “While great content is important, if it is not promoted, it is a wasted effort. Promotion can vary from business to business, but some successful ways are via social media, email lists, or promotions in brick and mortar stores,” he explains.

Producing content merely to produce content.
“Every post, every blog, every picture should have a purpose. If the purpose is simply to get likes or to fill in today’s schedule, it is not good content. While the content might get a few likes, it will not help generate revenue or brand awareness in any way,” says Maas.

Only producing content to advertise.
“Taking tip No. 3 into consideration, content marketing can still be fun as long as it has a purpose. Content that educates followers and promotes their engagement is a great way to promote a brand and create a following,” Mass explains.

In the end, it’s good to look back to Socrates, who would no doubt tell us the unexamined content marketing is not worth doing. Consider well what you’re doing before you do it; be wary of conceptions that haven’t been proved.

Date posted: March 24, 2014

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

—    Groucho Marx

When a post has manifesto as its subject, it only seems fitting to lead with something from Marx. (We’ve always preferred Groucho to Karl.) The great moustache’s “flexibility” can well apply to content marketing, where each practitioner has his or her take on what drives their work.

One of more interesting perspectives we’ve seen on driving creative content recently appeared in a post on Search Engine Watch, where Salma Jafri posits a ten point manifesto on content marketing. “It is a declaration of the policies and aims that I work with and those that define the context under which I make all marketing decisions,” she says.

Her points are worth revisiting:

Love What You Create
If you don’t start with what appeals to you personally, and what you would love to read and re-read (or watch or listen to), how could you possibly convince someone else to give your creation a shot?

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
A lot has been done by smart people the world over. Use what they’ve done and build upon it. Existing content within your own company can be re-used, it can be upcycled, it can be integrated, and it can be weaved into different formats. Milk your existing content for all it’s worth because you’ve put great effort into it and it would be a shame for more people not to see it. Also, curate other peoples’ content but add value to it by offering up an additional opinion or an insight or perspective.

Make Incremental Changes
Sailors do this all time. When a ship starts to veer off course, they never make one drastic course-correct. Doing so could tip the ship over… You are the captain of your content ship. Believe that small changes in the right direction can have a much bigger impact than a few huge overhauls.

Always Apply the 80/20 Rule
Not every new tool is going to increase your productivity. Try new things and give them a reasonable time frame of success. Doing so will help you find what works (the 20 percent) and use it consistently to maximize returns (the 80 percent).

Celebrate the Wins, Don’t Rue the Losses
Since content marketing is a long-term game; it’s easy to sometimes lose focus, get disheartened and give up when instant results don’t roll in. But if your strategy is solid, you’ll be able to stay the course and gain momentum with the small wins.

Your Strategy Will Save You
Spend inordinate amounts of time creating, recreating, and refining your content strategy. Drill down and define your goals and the customers you love to work with.

Transparency Wins Every Time
No matter the situation you encounter, whether it’s a harsh comment on a blog or a crisis over on social media, strive to be honest, explain the facts, define your position and take responsibility.

Strive to Test, Experiment, Then Test Again
Because you won’t magically know what works and what doesn’t for your business model. Sometimes testing might mean taking one step forward and two steps back. So be it.

Have Fun, Dammit!
Don’t create boring content. The world does not need another “why my product is so great” blog.

Don’t Obsess Over Your Niche
Yes it’s good to be focused and attract a niche following. Yes SEO is great and being relevant is obviously important. All of that matters. But it is secondary. The primary focus is to be interesting. People need to actually want to read your content. Your words need to show your personality. Your stories need to be informative, helpful, funny, etc. or stand out in other meaningful ways. Without that primary interest, there’s no long-term sustainability.

That’s a list that would take some topping, but Groucho would advise against the effort: “Years ago, I tried to top everybody, but I don’t anymore. I realized it was killing conversation. When you’re always trying for a topper you aren’t really listening. It ruins communication.”

One might well distill that into the 11th point.