Content marketing has been gaining traction for more than half a decade now. Most brands have at least dipped their toe in to the content marketing pool; others have embraced it fully and are enjoying great success. And then there’s everyone in between, some having a measure of success, and some struggling.
And some getting fed up, quitting, and proclaiming to the world that it’ll never work.
Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi recently wrote that he believes we’ve entered what the analysts at Gartner would call the Trough of Disillusionment, “the moment when all those who tried the shiny new thing realize it’s not so easy.” Yes, we’ve reached a time when marketing departments have launched content initiatives without quite having all their ducks in a row. Consequently, they’re struggling. We shouldn’t be surprised; like anything new, it isn’t going to go smoothly. Learning new ways of operating is not easy. Letting go of traditional methods doesn’t just happen without some struggle.
The upshot is that some brands are abandoning content marketing, deciding it doesn’t work. Perhaps it didn’t for them, but we’d argue that they simply didn’t approach it the right way, didn’t have proper expectations, or – most common – expected content marketing to be a silver bullet that would instantaneously transform their brand.
That was probably not the way to begin a content marketing initiative.
So, for brands that are stuck somewhere in the middle, struggling to keep their content marketing effort going or unsure of why it isn’t quite clicking, here are some possible sticking points that could land you in the very unpleasant Trough of Disillusionment:
You aren’t balancing art and science. There’s a tendency to try to apply math to content creation, or to focus on the technology and SEO pieces of the puzzle without considering the actual content. Paying attention to technology, making sure content is optimized for search engines, and collecting and analyzing data are important, but they are only half the equation. At some point, you need to create content that connects with human beings. You need to put aside the ones and zeros and focus on the prose. That means you need great writers, or artists or video producers. You need creative talent that understands the human part of the equation. Don’t over-engineer this.
You’re focusing on campaigns. Marketing has always focused on contained efforts – campaigns. It makes sense – you come up with an idea, execute the idea, then measure how it worked. But here’s the problem – campaigns end. When you embark on content marketing, you’re seeking to create a trust-based relationship with the audience. When you focus on campaigns, you’re acknowledging an intention to end that relationship. Why would you do that? Why would you create a relationship with a prospective customer… and then stop?
Organizations that launch content marketing initiatives must understand that they’re in this for the long haul.
The content isn’t useful to the audience. More specifically, it’s brand-focused rather than audience-focused. Again, the goal of content marketing is to build a trust-based relationship (we really can’t say that often enough). In this relationship, the brand is the one courting the customer and therefore the brand must make the first overture by offering something useful.
If you’re only trumpeting why you’re the best, it’s very likely that your audience (customers) will shut you down and turn elsewhere for the information they’re seeking.
The content is meh. If I can find something similar somewhere else, you aren’t breaking through. Don’t just do whatever everyone else is doing; find a new angle. Advance the story. Make it more human. Or something. News Flash: There’s a lot of content out there, and your audience can take its eyeballs (and its business!) just about anywhere in the world. That means that you have to give them a reason to choose you. So, you need to strive for spectacular content. That means you need the right people creating the content.
It means you need to dare to be great.
If all your brand ever does is stay in its lane, you’ll never pass the competition.
You have to swing for the fences.
Remember, the Trough of Disillusionment gives way to the “Slope of Enlightenment” – greater understanding, and then the Plateau of Productivity. It’d be a shame for your brand to treat the Trough of Disillusionment as an inescapable abyss. So don’t get discouraged; as long as you’re learning and improving, you’re moving forward.
Productivity – and success – is right around the corner.