Content Marketers are Unicorns and Other Content Marketing Myths

Published: February 22, 2017  by 

Unicorn with pink background

After working with clients and teams creating and promoting content (that’s the core of content marketing, right?) for nearly 40,000 billable hours, we’ve noticed there are still many misconceptions about content marketing.

Good content marketers are unicorns.

Isn’t content marketing just blogging?

People will naturally find my content if it’s really good.

These are just a few misconceptions our team has seen along the way that often cause confusion and unrealistic expectations. There is so much more that goes into content marketing than what you may see in the final product.

Here’s a list of common content marketing “myth-conceptions” and why they’re false:

General Content Marketing Myths

Myth #1: Content Marketing is a fad

Wonderful Story of the Tin Can
An example of Native Advertising from 1907.

Actually, content marketing has been around for a long time; it’s just gone by different names. Advertising, storytelling, branding, or just plain ol’ marketing.

The Furrow is often attributed as the first piece of modern Content Marketing, started in 1895 by John Deere. Its goal was to educate farmers on farming technology  — not to sell directly.

This example, The Wonderful Story of the Tin Can, represents a form of content marketing in what we’d call Native Advertising today. The National Canners Association was helping to ease the fears and possible uncertainty of using food found in tin cans. “The tin can unquestionably is the safest, most practical and scientific food container that human skill and ingenuity have been able to devise for the benefit of mankind.” Wow! I’m sold. Bring on the canned turnip greens!

Myth #2: Content Marketing is just blogging

You may remember the days when Live Journal (1999), Xanga (1999), andTypePad (2003) were popular for personal blogging. Those were the days when blogs were truly online journals and places to share thoughts and ideas. I confess that even I had a Xanga blog in the early ’00s when I first began experimenting with blogging.

Content Marketing ModelBut content marketing is much more than written blogs. A blog is just a container from which to publish a myriad of options of content formats and usually includes mixed formats, combining written, visual, and interactive components.

Content Marketing involves a deep level of strategy, research, and promotion plan with a brand’s business goals in mind. Today we use a mixture of content creation, outreach, SEO, social media, and email to create and promote our content.

Myth #3: Content Marketers are unicorns

If content marketers use the combined skills of content, search, outreach, social media, email, and other digital skills, then they must be unicorns and hard to find out in the wild, right?

I used to think so myself, but since I’ve built a team of 12 content marketers in a small market like Oklahoma, I know there is a way to find and to train others into becoming great content marketers. A few years ago it was hard to find someone with all the skills needed, but today, more and more college grads and applicants have experience with Adobe Creative Suite, Google Analytics, website development, and publishing on digital platforms.

I also believe that what we now call content marketers are really just well-rounded full-stack digital marketers. Maybe it’s time we start to call them such?

Myth #4: My business is too small for Content Marketing to work

Google Analytics Screenshot for small businessThis is 100% not true. Small businesses and startups are perfect for content marketing, especially when you realize that content marketing is really helping others and building trust.

You have to be helpful before the sale and when a need exists. If you can do that in an informative and entertaining manner, then you’ll build a competitive advantage over larger, more established companies.

The example to the left shows a small, local client’s top 10 articles for one month. They were able to generate 1,527 sessions to their website and 12 hours of people reading their content in one month. Think those people will consider this client an expert? Yep. Think they might even contact them for help? Yep again.

Myth #5: Content Marketing is a “set it and forget it” strategy

In a 2016 report on Content Marketing, 44% of B2B marketers said they discuss their content marketing program daily or weekly, with an additional 16% discussing it once a month.

At BigWing, we’ve found that the most successful clients are those who interact, respond, and allow access to in-house experts. The clients who are slow to communicate, don’t interact, and shield their in-house team from our agency generally have less impressive results.

If you are willing to invest your money into a content marketing campaign, be willing to invest time as well to get the results you want. Otherwise, all parties will end up frustrated with little to show.

Myth #6: Content Marketing is a quick solution for immediate sales

Content marketing is the long game. It’s an investment into your brand and into your overall sales cycle. If you aren’t willing to invest 6 months to a year, then don’t start. There are a few short-term ‘wins’ we can implement sooner that could result in quicker results, but we really start to see the content marketing engine kick into high gear after the 1-year mark. At the 2-3 year mark is when it starts to really take off.

Google Analytics traffic increase over 3 years content marketing client
3-year view of all traffic for a content marketing client (monthly view).

Why?

It takes time to understand your brand, business needs, clients, and the competition. It also takes time to build authority and an audience. In the first months of content marketing, we are doing a lot of research and planning for the campaign. Then we are testing our personas with live content and pivoting to find the best distribution channels.

Think turtle, not rabbit, when considering a content marketing campaign. Just remember who wins the race at the end.

Myth #7: More content is better!

Content marketing isn’t an arms race on who can make the most content.  Focus on quality over quantity. Focus more on being helpful and interesting than on producing large amounts of bland vanilla content.

Focus on targeted content delivered to your target audience, on the correct platforms and at the correct times.

No, really — how much content do I need to produce? O.K. I hear you – solid guidance on this subject is hard to find.

You need a steady pace of content for your audience, and testing different levels is acceptable and should be done.  There is also a balance of how much you can produce with how much you can promote and how much your audience can consume.

Here is a good rule of thumb: If you don’t have the time or budget to properly promote a piece of content, then don’t produce it. –Tweet This!

Myth #8: My audience will naturally find our awesome content

All content creators think their content is the best. If it’s the best, then you’ll naturally generate an audience, right?

Wrong.

Your content isn’t the field of dreams. You have to help it get found by your audience. Proper SEO can assist with road signs to content, but there is much more you can do.

The secret to content marketing is in the creation of it. You’ve got to bake in the marketing.

Baking in the marketing means you have to include others in the process. Including in-house experts and other industry experts is a good beginning. You should also include data, photos, and quotes from others in the creation.

Here is a groundbreaking concept for many content marketers: pick up the phone and talk to these people before or while you are creating the content. Do NOT wait until your content is complete to begin outreach.

The best outreach happens during content production, not after publication.- Tweet This!

Social media is also a means to help others find content. (see Myth #9)

Myth #9: I can publish my content on social and it will be seen

Social media is increasingly pay-to-play. If you don’t put money behind content, a large portion of your organic audience will never see it.

Having a promotion budget for content has become more and more of a necessity to push it to the right audience.

Myth #10 Content Marketing cannot be measured

This is tricky for many brands. It can be measured, but it largely depends on how your marketing plumbing is set up.

Does your CRM talk to your email? Do you have proper tagging in place? If you get leads from the phone, do you have phone tracking and is it tied into your analytics?

Yes, it can be done. Though to measure the full reach of content marketing and all of your digital marketing efforts, it will require time to implement properly.

We can measure the success of campaigns without all the aforementioned tools; just realize that your plumbing has leaks and isn’t 100% accurate.

That being said, we have a few ways to measure the success of content marketing:

One good measure of content is the time spent on content or time on page in Google Analytics (see example in Myth #4). This is the time spent engaging with content and is really branding. Achieving 12 hours of branding through content marketing is relatively affordable compared to the cost of branding time through traditional media.

Social engagement is another good measure. How was it received online and was it good enough for people to share with others? We use tools like BuzzSumo to measure the social success of content.

cup of jo blog top shared content from buzzSumo
Top shared content from A Cup of Jo over past year.

As an added bonus, BuzzSumo now tracks links to content through its partnership with MajesticSEO. Links to content is another success metric to use.

Leads and conversions are the holy grail of content marketing. At the end of the day, does content marketing lead to real business? In reality, it often doesn’t lead directly to 1x conversions, but plays a part in the decision-making process of a prospect.

We often see that our blogs, infographics, and case studies are a step in the journey before a prospect submits their contact information or downloads that whitepaper. This is why it’s important to use attribution models that give partial credit to social media and online content.

Ultimately, the goals of the campaign will determine what mix of metrics are used to measure its success.

Myth #11 Content Marketing doesn’t work with B2B

Have you ever downloaded a guide or whitepaper from an online tool provider and then 6 months down the road have a need for such a tool? Then, mysteriously, you contact that online tool provider for a demo before you contact others. You are not alone.

They built trust and established themselves as an authority before you had a need.

Building authority and distributing it is easy with LinkedIn Pulse; which is essentially their blog platform. Did you know the last three LinkedIn Pulse articles can be displayed near the top of your profile? For each executive and in-house expert at your company, create three articles that demonstrate their expertise in your industry. Then distribute this content through the LinkedIn network.

Case studies are a must to show expertise and experience in B2B marketing. They contribute to the decision-making process before someone invests in an expensive product or service. A good case study takes time but is well worth the effort.

Building leads and nurturing prospects can be done automatically through tools like Hubspot and Marketo. After a guide or offer is downloaded the user can be added to a customizable journey to receive other offers or content via email until they fall out of the funnel or complete your desired task.

88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing as part of their marketing strategy — are you?

Myth #12 Content Marketing can’t solve my business problems/needs

When approaching a new digital marketing campaign, it is important to understand the real business needs.

A few common business problems/needs with which content marketing can assist:

  • General brand awareness: “People don’t know who we are.”
  • Finding leads: “I need more prospects to talk to.”
  • Nurturing leads: “Prospects don’t convert or their conversation rate is low.”
  • Educating prospects and clients: “We waste time educating prospects and clients on the phone and in person.”
  • Finding talent or supporting the recruitment process: “I can’t find the right people to hire” or “We aren’t attracting the right kind of people.”
  • Promoting a new product or service: “I need to launch a new product successfully.”

At BigWing, we are using content marketing to help attract those who identify with our values and culture. In fact, future employees are one of our personas we create content for in our editorial calendar.

When going through our application process, potential BigWingers are exposed to a few key pieces of content related to values and culture. A few examples of the type of content we create to attract new employees:

Does it work? Yep. When we publish this type of content or re-promote older recruiting content, resumes come in with those who have already self-identified with our values and culture. This saves everyone time–both job seeker and the hiring manager.

 

This Content Marketing stuff works.

If you’ve read all these misconceptions about content marketing, you must be doing it already (hey, join us!) or trying to figure out how to better market your business.

This stuff works. We do it for real businesses. We can help your business succeed as well.

Let us know how we can help.

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