Content Marketing Success Begins With Belief

As content marketing becomes an increasingly important means of propelling our businesses forward, I find that many marketers are still struggling with operational issues. In almost every meeting I attend, I've come to find that a few antiquated ideas are still ringing true. They are as follows:

  1. Content marketing is still considered to be separate from "real marketing."
  2. Marketing and measurement are still thought of as ways to increase transactions, as opposed to creating deeper relationships with consumers.
  3. Businesses still view content as an attribute of marketing, rather than a distinct discipline that offers value.

Last year, Accenture produced a report titled, "Turbulence for the CMO." The introduction to the report states, "CMOs are struggling to keep pace with competing business demands, proliferating channels and partners, and a disconnect between the talent they have and the capabilities they need." The study found that despite the enormous investments in technology and outsourced services, 40% of CMOs still say they are not at all prepared to meet their objectives.

A study conducted by Aquent and the American Marketing Association (AMA) substantiates these findings. In the "2013 Marketing Salary Survey," more than 50% of marketers said they were not at all equipped to handle new trends in marketing technology; 53% don't feel as if they have the right people to deliver results.

I contend that fundamentally changing some of these long-held beliefs is the essential first step that content practitioners within enterprise organizations need to take in order for content marketing to gain acceptance as a viable, successful approach. In the interest of evolving the conversation, I took the question to Thomas Asacker, author of The Business of Belief.

I asked Asacker about the difficulty we, at the Content Marking Institute (CMI), see businesses encounter trying to change how they use content to drive marketing results. Everyone can see the value, but the difficulty seems to be in actually changing the existing methods of doing things.

Asacker says he thought it was "a human nature problem." We both laughed, recognizing this was something we both saw frequently in our consulting and advisory work with companies of all sizes. He told me about sitting, a year after consulting with a company, with a client CEO who was lamenting the poor results. Asacker asked the CEO, "What did I do wrong the last time I was out here?" The CEO said, "You didn't do anything wrong. It was great information. But you have to understand, when you left here, everybody had to go back to their jobs."

The employees understood what Asacker said and had agreed, but understanding didn't drive the change. I told him that it reminded me of the classic Homer Simpson quote (from The Simpsons) when he tells his daughter Lisa, "Oh, honey, just because I understand doesn't mean I care."

So how do businesses actually change and create the actions that will drive new approaches such as content marketing? As Asacker and I stared at each other, he said, "Where I've seen success is where there's been some outside force-just someone who has figured out how to push a particular leader. It could be a brand manager. They lead them down, if you will, that bridge of belief, making them comfortable the whole time until they release something that's powerful." Once someone gets notoriety for a creative endeavor, the rest of the organization uses that as an example for everyone else.

As I wrapped my conversation with Asacker (I've continued to chat with leaders across the spectrum about this challenge), I've been really focused on this last part. Because when I see enterprises being truly successful with content marketing, it's when the marketing group has stopped acting similar to a media company; they've actually become a media company. If the last few years of content marketing have been focused on how we can build the business case to use content as a means to engage, help, and inform customers, then the next few years should be dedicated to learning how to create a strategic, repeatable process to do just that.

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