Updated: Mar 24
Marketing is not the game it was ten years ago. We don’t interrupt, we educate. We don’t hawk our wares, we offer valuable insights. We open our customers’ eyes to challenges and opportunities, and provide guidance, when they want it, to help them make the best decision for their business. Even if that means losing their business.
Sounds noble, doesn’t it? We marketers weren’t born to bamboozle. We want to be authentic and provide value just like everybody else. So sign me up, content marketing guru. Sign me up.
But, let’s be honest. Are we really on a divine quest to provide buyers with useful and valuable information? Or are we just trying to get their email addresses? Because in the harsh light of reality—or fluorescent light of our cubes—we’re all still being judged by leads, conversions, and a return on our marketing dollar. We’re still being asked to sell.
So, how can we marketers truly be authentic when our not-so-secret mission really is, now and forever, about making a buck? Before I tell you how to be authentic, let me tell you why you should be.
Thought Leadership and Content Offers
White papers, e-guides, and webinars. The stuff of thought leaders! If we truly were about sharing insights, this content would be ungated, right? But most of us still wall-up this content behind calls to action (CTAs), landing pages, and web forms to generate leads and build our email lists. That’s okay; let’s just be honest about it. And while we’re being honest...
If conversions are the goal, what’s more important? A truly insightful paper or an enticing call to action? A great subject line and email may be all you need to reach your objective? So, why work so hard on to ensure that the white paper or webinar provides high-value information your prospects can’t get anywhere else? Because they may not come back for more. They may feel that you just wasted their time or that you don’t really understand their issues.
It’s easy to call it a win when prospects fill out your landing pages in droves, but you must remain authentic to your content mission every step of the way. That means providing useful, relevant, quality content. Always. Or risk having your prospects associate your brand with disappointment and unmet expectations.
Solutions Overviews and Data Sheets
Good old sales collateral. You may not consider it content marketing, but it is content, and it is marketing. And even though it’s the place where you finally get to talk about your company and your products, you still need to stay focused on the informational needs of your buyers.
Does a solution overview really help your prospect with their purchasing decision when it’s loaded with chest-beating hyperbole? Does a prospect deeper into their buyer’s journey really want to read paragraphs of industry trends, challenges, and “business outcomes” when all they really want is to compare product specs on a data sheet?
Stay true to the needs of your reader – and not your loudest product marketing manager. That means cut the crap. Streamline your middle- and bottom-of-funnel content, and help your customers quickly find the information they’re looking for.
Proving ROI and other Lies
You’ve heard the phrase, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” That’s because anyone can fudge numbers or cherry-pick data to make them look good. ROI [return on investment] calculators that are less than honest may help close some deals in the short term. But how will that customer feel about you after they bought your solution and don’t get even close to the results they were promised? Will they buy again or go to your competitor?
Marketers today are under enormous pressure to prove ROI, even as they grapple to stay up to speed with the never-ending stream of new digital marketing tools and techniques. So, it’s easy to understand why some would default to a check-the-box mentality as long as the metrics looked good. But you can’t fake authenticity, and that’s what this long game called content marketing is all about. Authenticity and quality follow-through.
How do you remain authentic to your buyers when that goal seems at odds with getting more leads or talking up your latest product? By insisting on being your customer’s best advocate at every single touchpoint.
They say that brands have to think like publishers. Well, publishers are in the business of selling, too. They sell advertising space by building a large, devoted readership (eyeballs for their advertisers). They do that by unwaveringly catering to the information needs and desires of their target audience.
Yes, marketing has changed. Marketers today are in the enviable position of truly being authentic in their work. Early in my career, I used to say of my marketing communications degree: “I got a B.S. in B.S.” And for most of my career, there was more than a hint of truth to that. But today, content marketing and the rise of the empowered buyer is not just giving marketers permission to be authentic in their work. It’s given us a mandate.
Let’s not squander it.