It would appear that our buzzword du jour is “content marketing.”
You might have noticed that they talk about it a lot here on Copyblogger.
(If you haven’t noticed that, you’re either new or you don’t pay attention very well.)
At a gathering in Boston recently, I threw out this one: “Content marketing is weaponized storytelling.”
It got a lot of retweets. And now, weeks later, I don’t really know if I even agree with that.
But I do believe that content marketing is a lot more like sales than it is that dubious (and yet somewhat important) word “branding.”
Here’s what I mean by that.
Content marketing is sales-minded storytelling
You can see how that doesn’t come of the tongue as easily as “content marketing is weaponized storytelling,” but it’s more accurate. If you’re writing what you intend to be “content marketing,” you had better be helping your market make a decision of some kind.
Now, where people might disagree is that I say that every piece of content marketing should advance the business agenda. But let me be clear, as evidently rhetoric in this case matters a great deal.
Your site/email newsletter/podcast/whatever should consist of something like this:
- Some posts that are just friendly and storytelling.
- Some posts that are gentle pushes towards a next action or an ask.
- Some posts that are pure selly-sell, as I like to call it. Apparently over here they call that an offer.
- Some (but very few) totally off-topic posts.
This would be true of a blog, an email list, or whatever. I believe that the real goal of content marketing is to advance your business. If it’s not, then it’s not content marketing. It’s writing.
Writing is a wonderful and glorious job
I know lots of writers. They pour my latte at Starbucks.
Do you know how much money I’ve received for my New York Times bestselling book, Trust Agents? I think a little over $30,000 at this point. Mind you, half of the money goes to Julien Smith, the co-author. But that’s it. Since 2009.
Writing isn’t the money-maker. Business is.
Turning that writing into speeches and consulting and plenty of great work is how I made my business, at least for the last few years. But that’s not the business model of too many people, is it?
It seems to be one that a lot of people want. I mean, there’s a great project called Entreproducer I’ve heard about that hints at that. But for most of us, I’d offer that it’s not the primary business model.
Content marketing is about business
It’s not about being pushy. It’s not about slamming people with endless pitches and sales efforts.
But if you say you’re creating content with the intent of marketing, then you must be marketing something, and it must be a piece of material (no matter the format) that pushes ahead a business goal.
This is where it’s tricky. Because the business goal just might be entertainment. The business goal of my writing a guest post on Copyblogger is to get you to consider signing up for my awesome free newsletter.
Based on this great post (okay, decent post), you’re supposed to now think, “Wow, I really like what Chris had to say. I think I’ll give his newsletter a try.”
Did I charge you any money? No. Did I tell you about my product or service in the body of this post? No. What I did was start what I hope to be a relationship with you and I’ve invited you to get my awesome newsletter. That’s me content marketing.
Do you feel dirty? No. (You might already be dirty, but that’s awesome, and yet, not my fault.)
Sales and marketing are not evil
I want to sell something to you. You want to sell something to me. Everyone wants to sell something to everyone.
It might not be for money. It might not be for commerce. But selling is a basic transaction within humanity. We are the only species that do this. You never see a donkey negotiating with their parents about what’s for dinner.
You can write and that’s wonderful. You can choose not to create content that has the intent of selling and that’s fine. My take, and it’s quite succinct, is that if you’re going to call something “content marketing,” you’d be better served by marketing something.
Huge businesses can afford “brand awareness.” You? Probably not. You have work to do. Just like me.
And with that, I will bow, leave the stage (Thanks, Brian!), and invite you to hang out with me on my nifty weekly free newsletter that comes out every Sunday morning, just in time for coffee. I mentioned that it’s awesome, right?
About the Author: Chris Brogan is CEO of Owner Media Group. His latest project is Online Course Maker and a book about the topic covered in this blog post.