Good content marketing is not about content. It’s not about viral videos, in-depth e-books, or clever tweets. Content marketing is about relationships. It’s introducing yourself to people, engaging with them, and building a foundation. The sale comes much later. But your job is always to work on your relationships. And here’s the catch: The content you create can help you grow those relationships—or destroy them. Unfortunately, you might be doing the latter.

Building relationships through content

A good relationship is built on trust and mutual respect. But for marketers to earn the respect, they need to first demonstrate that respect to the people they’re trying to reach. Content is the vehicle to do this. But it’s tricky.

Your readers face content shock the minute they log on to the Internet or turn on the TV. It’s everywhere, and they’ve spent too long being assaulted by it. Because of this, people have less attention, less time, and less tolerance for, well, bullshit. This is where a lot of marketers run into trouble. Their content isn’t respectful of their reader.

Engaging with any sort of content makes your reader give up something. It may be their time, their energy, or their attention. (You can relate to this because you’re a consumer, too.) We’re more aware of this than ever, so we all need to be more intentional about the things we choose to consume.

When someone engages with your content, they are trusting that the content will be worth their time. If you want to build strong relationships, it’s your responsibility to make sure that’s true—that your content provides a valuable experience. When you do this, you demonstrate that you care about and respect your reader, that all you want is to make their life easier.

It makes sense, but content marketing is facing the content crisis. Marketers are either completely missing opportunities to provide that value through content, or they’re abusing their relationships through bad content. Oftentimes they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

What is bad content?

It sounds dramatic, but life is too short for bad content—yet it’s everywhere. Bad content is the stuff that wastes your readers’ time, leaves them feeling frustrated, imposed upon, or unsatisfied. Don’t know what that looks like? It comes in a lot of different forms.

  • It’s a “hot take” on a subject they’ve seen a hundred times already.
  • It’s something so complicated they have to look up definitions or read another article just to understand what you’re saying.
  • It’s a misleading post with a clickbait title that doesn’t actually answer the question they have.
  • It’s a never-ending infographic full of regurgitated facts.
  • It’s a video that takes 3 minutes to even start to get to the damn point.
  • It’s an e-book that is so text heavy and poorly designed they lose interest after page one.
  • It’s a cluttered website that makes them hunt for what they want.
  • It’s a blog post that starts selling products three lines in.

In essence, bad content doesn’t give them what they need or want. And it can have serious consequences.

Sure, it may not seem like a big deal that one person left your blog. But collectively, these negative interactions are a symptom of disrespect for your reader and their time. As we all know, time is the only thing you can’t buy back.

The Key to Creating Good Content Marketing

Whether it’s an infographic, interactive, or simple tweet, every piece of communication should help build your relationship with people. So how do you ensure that you’re doing that effectively? That they will always leave feeling fulfilled? It all comes down to how well you know the people you’re speaking to.

A successful piece of content relies on everything from the subject you choose, to the language you use, to the format you present it in. When you’re trying to manufacture an enjoyable experience, you want to make sure it’s tailored to your people.

To do this, you need to know the people you’re trying to reach—better than they know themselves. You need to know the problems they face, the information they seek, and the experiences they crave. How to do this? Spend time talking, emailing, and engaging them. When you get inside their head, you can stay one step ahead of them, constantly serving them the content they didn’t even know they needed.

One of the most useful ways to make sure the content you create is interesting and relevant is to create personas, then vet all of your content ideas through them. (Try our exercise to build your personas in less than an hour.)

To truly win at content marketing, all you need to do is give them something that is worth their time—every single time.

For more tips on marketing, learn about the strategy we used to increase our leads 78% in 6 months, find out what 7 traits will make you a better marketer, and learn how to create content that provides true value to your audience. As always, if you need help with your own strategy, we’d love to chat.