The greatest myth in content marketing (and how to debunk it)

One of the greatest myths in B2B content marketing can be illustrated as follows:

– Hey, let’s write a whitepaper about [insert topic].
– Yeah, fantastic idea, let’s do that!
– And why don’t we ask Jenny to turn the key findings into an infographic!
– Yeah, cool! Let’s do that too!

4 weeks later
– Hey Chris, we’ve got this whitepaper here. And an infographic. Can you put it online, and then post it on social? Linkedin, Twitter, and what else have we got?
– Instagram? Our competitors do Instagram!
– Sure. Let’s create some stunning visuals and post it on Instagram.

6 weeks later
-“So guys, this paper that cost us 18k here, how many leads have we gotten out of it?”
– “…”

The greatest myth in content marketing can be summarized as follows: “if we build it (once), they will come.” In other words: when we create an awesome piece of content, throw it online and do some content promotion, we will automatically generate a number of qualified leads that are ready to sail through our sales funnel.

The thinking, I presume, goes something like this: people will find or stumble across our content. Some will exchange their email address for a download. Some will then consume our content in one fell swoop and a number of these people, let’s say 2 or 3%, will be in the market there and then for our product or service. And they will buy from us. All in a week or so because: why not?

In reality, it almost never ever happens this way.

I’m not even talking about the quality of your content – something that I tackle in this blogpost. I’m talking about the way in which people interact with content in general.

It usually takes a number of touches with your brand, before people decide you’re relevant enough, or unique enough, or trustworthy enough (and usually all three) to make a first conversion. Those touchpoints can be anything: social shares, guest blogs, mentions on review sites or user forums, online demo’s, retargeted ads, Youtube video’s, real life conversations, … the list is endless.

In this classic Whiteboard Friday video from 2014 (!), Rand Fishkin from SeoMoz debunks this giant myth and explains how the practice really works. I cannot stress enough how important his message is, and I encourage everyone with a stake in content marketing to watch. this. video. right. after. you. finished. this. blogpost.

As Fishkin goes on to explain: if you’re well organized on the analytics side of things, you know exactly how many interactions it takes before people make a first conversion. The SeoMoz crew knows that people visit their site 7.5 times on average before they sign up for the software trial, which is the straight road to becoming a customer.

This is not done with one single piece of content. This is achieved through a clever content marketing approach, consisting of several great content deliverables, a well-researched content activation plan and a solid SEO strategy (to name just a few of the basics).

Fishkin’s video is important, not just because it counters a persistent myth about how content marketing works. It is crucial also because it touches upon the main reason why content marketing fails. In 2015 already, the Content Marketing Institute pointed out that “content marketing doesn’t usually fail because of content quality. The main reason is because it’s inconsistent or it stops.”

Content marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Running like Woody Woodpecker for 500 meters and then giving up because you’re out of gas, is not going to get you anywhere. The rewards of content marketing are manifold, but you’ll need planning, patience and persistence. And you’ll have to convince your C-suite that’s exactly what it will take before you can start reaping those rewards.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash