Content marketing is all the rage these days, with new buzz words being created left and right. “Outbound” marketers are out, “inbound” marketers are in, and our friends at Hubspot—the evangelicals of this new trend—completed a very successful IPO in 2014. It’s generally a good thing, moving from interrupting people with in-your-face direct marketing, to engaging them in hopefully meaningful conversations where they truly want to learn more about you and your services.
Truth be told, I’m no expert at content marketing, and there are very few people over 40 who can claim to be. It’s a new field, and we’re learning. What’s interesting is that getting good content requires people who know what they are talking about on a subject (often seasoned people), who can communicate in a very different writing style and can distribute with an incredibly nimble use of technology and social media techniques. In our business, that means getting a financial specialist who likes long white papers to collaborate with a peppy, punchy writer and a headphone-wearing hipster who can make things come alive online!
It will take the right people, the right tools and a lot of practice to make “inbound” what drives our marketing machine, but we’re committed. While we are on that path, I’ve been researching my competition, and I’ve found some serious marketing bloopers that serve as caution for those of us on this journey:
Blooper #1: Content and offer mismatch
During the financial market volatility last fall, a firm had a great banner ad that said, “Do you want to know if you should sell stocks now? Get our free e-book.” I was thinking, “Kudos to their marketing team for being ready to act fast on this!” Before waving it in front of my own team as a missed opportunity, I filled out the offer request form with my e-mail address and received the free material. Lo and behold the content had nothing to do with market volatility or the current situation! It was a total bait and switch, and now they had my e-mail. Ugh.
Blooper #2: Hiding a wolf in sheep’s clothing
This must be a common temptation, because it’s happened to me several times in my market research. After one inbound touch, like taking a quiz or asking for a report, my e-mail and contact info were sent to old-fashioned, outbound sales people who are just starving for people to annoy. In one case, the phone caller wouldn’t quit and made the grave mistake of asking to speak to my husband, “since I didn’t seem to understand.” The more common situation is that I am immediately getting an e-mail that says something like, “Gail, we’re so happy you want to talk to us – will next Thursday work for you?” I never said I was ready to talk; I just wanted to read their research! Show some respect!
Blooper #3: Making offers that don’t deliver
This is every marketer’s nightmare – a form, report or video that somehow won’t load for your prospect, leaving them very frustrated. Just today I had a two-for-one experience with an offer for a research report on consumer trends that was a 37-page Adobe document that even our tech team couldn’t download. While I was dealing with my frustration, I got the very familiar, presumptuous e-mail about meeting with the sales person. I still don’t have the report, but I will be sharing my feedback with the firm to help them understand this prospect’s experience: Not good!
So, what are we supposed to do?
I’m just falling back on common sense here, but my worry is that bad marketing like these ploys will not only hurt the offending company, but all of our efforts. The underlying assumption is that we’re supposed to care about providing relevant, remarkable, “shareable” content to people to start a conversation that leads to a relationship. Faking offers to get names, bombarding innocent inquirers, jumping the gun to drive for the sale or ignoring the quality of what we deliver are bad practices.
The way I see it, content marketing takes some faith, and there is etiquette involved. I may be a tough focus group of one, but I know what feels right and what feels wrong, and if you put yourself in the prospect’s shoes you will too. The good news is that many of the purchasing decisions I make today have been influenced by excellent examples of content marketing efforts. It’s do-able. The bloopers just reinforce that this is a new practice area where some firms will win while others stumble.
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