Back in 1996, when we were still paying by the hour for America Online, Bill Gates declared to the world in a famous essay that, “Content is king.” He foresaw that as our connection speeds improved, content would become the “killer app” of the web, creating a “marketplace of experiences, ideas, and products.”
Related: Finding Employee Brand Evangelists
While Gates' vision was largely correct, and he succeeded in positioning his company to create and acquire valuable content assets, he also failed. Twenty years later, Microsoft still has no significant content business that stands out.
Nor is Microsoft the only company that’s made mistakes with content marketing. Here are some of the most common reasons why companies are failing to leverage content.
1. Companies fail to inspire 'brand evangelists.'
"Brand evangelist" is a fancy phrase for a rabid fan who engages your brand, shares your story and willingly intermingles his or her own story with your brand. Evangelists are valuable to your marketing effort because they effectively take your message and amplify it. They fall in love with your company. They tell the world.
So, can you boast that any of your own customers are brand evangelists? And, if so, what are you doing about it? How are you taking advantage of the marketing riches they're handing you?
Take John Adams, for example -- no, not the nation's second president, but the guy who's been pounding a drum at Cleveland Indians’ home games since 1973. That fact probably makes him the greatest Indians fan alive. And, not surprisingly, the team’s marketing department has been working with Adams for years to publicize and spread his story, through featured content on the Indians website, and radio and newspaper interviews. Adams is an inspiration to other fans – and the team fosters his loyalty and influence.
Yet the team’s content promotion overall has failed. Its promoters haven't invited other fans to take part and also become part of the brand, by submitting videos or images showing how they support the team. They could have infinitely multiplied their number of brand evangelists by now --- but they haven't.
If you’re running a successful business, you’re bound to enjoy this kind of customer love and loyalty at some point. So, it's a catastrophic failure when you don't do anything with it -- because those people are willing to promote your brand for free! That love and loyalty is an inspiration to others. It builds trust in your brand.
There are many ways to leverage fan loyalty. A tool like Connector not only grabs the attention of influencers, but also highlights fans you feature in your content. So, get those fans/users involved and make them part of your content promotion.
2. Companies don't see the value of content promotion.
Pixar movies are nothing short of successes, as 27 Academy Awards can confirm. Yet, the president of Pixar Animation Studios, Ed Catmull, wrote in his memoir that, “Early on, all of our movies suck. It’s the nature of things: In order to create, you must internalize and almost become the project for a while, and that near-fusing with the project is an essential part of its emergence.”
This is in stark contrast with Gates’ perspective. Where Gates saw a marketplace of ideas, Catmull sees a personal journey with much more value. Companies that find the most success with content promotion approach their content that same way. They are passionate about delivering value to their audience, and they spend long hours producing content good enough to make an impact.
This is why so many other businesses fail with content marketing. They treat it like a strategy, instead of the most effective way to deliver value. It’s a ploy instead of a craft. Companies that think like Catmull don’t just want people to show up: they want to share something profoundly important with the world.
3. Companies fail by focusing on the ROI, not the content.
The worst thing you can do for yourself is to approach content marketing and promotion with a marketer mindset. Instead of having a clear mission, companies are focusing on consumer insight and on what will form the strongest connection to deliver the best return on investment.
Metrics aren’t a strategy, though. A marketer approaches a strategy with the primary objectives of awareness, sales and advocacy. A publisher is on a completely different level, with one goal in mind: building a meaningful relationship with the customer/audience.
There’s no question that content publishing can help you hit objectives, but trying to measure out every ounce of ROI will guarantee that you miss the mark completely. Let’s slot-in a couple of examples.
- Red Bull uses publishing on its website to expand the meaning and mission behind its brand of energy drinks.
- The Lebron James video produced by Nike has inspired millions.
- Wine store owner Gary Vaynerchuk built a successful business and became a social media legend by producing videos that helped people enjoy wine.
Can you put a number on any of these efforts to accurately measure return? Nope. But does anyone really question whether those efforts have been worthwhile? Only those companies that have yet to understand the value of content marketing do.
Have you found content marketing to be a successful part of your marketing strategy? Let me know in the comments below: