Friday, November 1

Marketing Content: If You Write It, They Will Not Come

Art by Jenna Becker
Some people will likely tell me that my headline is all wrong. Maybe they're right. Why would anyone want to read an article about why content marketing doesn't work? And if they did want to read an article about that, then why wouldn't they pick something pithier like "10 Common Reasons Why Content Marketing Isn’t Working for You?" These are two very good questions.

The truth is that content marketing does work. It works extremely well. And the dividends content marketing pays will likely benefit your business far longer than you'll enjoy contributing to it.

What won't work, outside of the ten tips Neil Patel points out, is producing content for nobody. Yet, that is what most content marketing campaign startups attempt to do. They provide content before anybody is listening and then step back and act surprised, especially if it's really great content.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, nobody cares. 

Most people have heard the philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. The problem, as posed by Scientific American, was: If a tree were to fall on an uninhabited island, would there be any sound? The exercise usually leads people to speculate that sound is reliant on something's ability to pick up its vibrations.

In other words, if a speaker delivers an amazing speech ten times to an empty room, no one will know what they spoke about. And while we wouldn't expect any measurable results from an audience that doesn't exist, that wouldn't make the speech any less amazing. It simply means the ratio of ten speeches over zero listens is still zero responses.

If both of the above sentiments are true, then it stands to reason that content marking works the same way. If nobody is around to consume the content or even knows you produce content or even knows who you are, then chances are even the best content will go nowhere because nobody cares. Or, more precisely, nobody is around to care.

The simple truth about content marketing is you need an audience. 

In the last decade or so, I've worked on hundreds of content marketing campaigns (including some that were covered by CNN and the New York Times) and I've come to the conclusion that having an audience in place (or not) is the number one reason content marketing campaigns succeed or fail. The problem most small business owners or startups have is that they don't want to invest in the objective to build an audience before the objective to have an audience read and respond to produced content.

It doesn't even matter what industry or market. An author hoping to market a self-published book, an entrepreneur who wanted to start a Kickstarter campaign, a Shark Tank startup that wanted to launch a new niche social network. All of them were advised to share short content and curate topic-related content, but all of them resisted because they don't believe building an audience leads to direct conversions. News flash. Producing content for no one doesn't lead to conversations either.

If you or your small business is hoping to have a successful content marketing campaign six months from now, the time to start building an audience or a community is right now. That way, in six months or three months or however long you have, there will be people waiting to respond to the content, listen to your speech, or hear a tree fall in the woods. Goodnight and good luck.
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