3 Content Marketing Myths and Tips for Keeping It Real

Unless you’ve been asleep for the past 10 years, you’re probably aware of a little thing called content marketing. (Today, it’s really just called marketing).

Rather than asking buyers to get married on the first date and pushing product at unqualified prospects, marketer use content marketing to woo buyers and nurture our relationships with them over time. To do this, we use content – lots and lots of content.

This shift in mindset has given rise to an army of B2B marketers who now “think like digital publishers.” “Content Marketer” has become the job title du jour. The result has been a proliferation of content to entice, educate and influence buyers. Along the way, a few sacred cows have emerged about the nature and promise of content marketing – these are the white lies marketers tell themselves. Here are a few myths marketers need to dispel if they want to really reach prospects with their content.

3 Content Marketing Myths Dispelled

No. 1: People Read
This one isn’t an out-and-out myth: People do read, but most read very selectively. Sure, they mean to read. They have every intention of spending quality time with all that great content you’re creating, but mostly they skim. They seek quick wins by scanning your content for the compelling nugget that will solve a particular problem or make life easier: This is what convinced them to click or fill out that form in the first place.

Pro tip: Got an awesome takeaway you want your buyer to read? Don’t bury it on the last page. Make sure you think about layout and format to make your content highly skim-able or “snackable” so that the key points are easy for your readers to find at a glance. Think about carving up your content to create bite-sized callouts and invest in tools to help you create more compelling, visual and interactive content experiences. Also consider the content journey you want your buyer to follow as they self-educate.

In a recent survey from Demand Gen Report, when asked how vendors could improve the quality of their content, 97 percent of respondents recommended that marketers package related content together. This is about understanding your buyer and giving him/her more content options per hard-won click.

No. 2: Content Creation Matters More Than Distribution
Sure, I guess you could argue that if you don’t create content, you’ll have nothing to distribute, but let’s assume you’re doing the right thing and creating lots of really amazing content. And yes, you’re a smart marketer and you’re getting all that good SEO juice to make yourself findable. But it’s a fallacy that content marketing and outbound (or “interruption marketing” as HubSpot lovingly coined it) aren’t one and the same. Want to guarantee that only a limited number of people see your content? Then don’t have a holistic content creation and distribution plan that includes promoting your content via social media and other channels, which should include at least some amount of push marketing.

Pro tip: Great content helps you generate net new leads, activate latent demand and identify and accelerate sales-ready prospects – and it does all this way more efficiently and affordably than other types of marketing such as advertising and events. An omni-channel content distribution strategy that matches your goals and the preferences of your buyers is essential to any good content marketing plan. There is no silver bullet – you should aim to distribute your content over the widest set of channels that make sense – display, retargeting, paid search, social and tried-and-true email. Pairing your great content with the right channels means more eyeballs and more opportunities to engage with your audience.

No. 3: Downloading = Reading
If someone downloaded your stuff, they must have read it, right? This is the biggest conceit in marketing. Until recently, marketers have had to rely on proxies for real engagement – a click, conversion, form fill, social share or download is merely a hypothesis: It won’t tell you if anyone actually read or watched your content. With so much content out there, buyers have a lot of choices, but one thing they don’t have is a lot of time. The average buyer is busier and more distracted than ever. Your marketing automation platform views every click and conversion the same, but they aren’t. If Bob spent a half hour poring over your new eBook, and Sally downloaded it but gave it nary a glance, would you say those two clicks are created equal?

Pro tip: Respect the moment.Marketers need to treat those rare moments of engagement when they have their buyer’s attention as a precious commodity. Great, you got your buyer to click on something, but then what? Can you get them to actually read your brilliant piece of content, and will you even know if they did? Marketers don’t have to rely on hope any more. New content engagement tools shed light on how much (or how little) content your prospects engage with and track what they’re reading and watching and for how long.

Welcome to the new era of content engagement
Content marketing isn’t all about any one thing… it’s about many things, and doing it well requires marketers to do a lot of things right. Great content should entice, engage, educate, and advance your prospect through their buying journey. It must be easy to find and easy to read; it must be personalized; and it must be useful and relevant (sales pitches and product spec sheets alone likely won’t cut it).

The goal of content marketing isn’t to create content, it’s to create educated buyers who are ready to have an intelligent conversation with your sales rep. Keeping in mind the three myths described above will help you do that. It’s the job of all revenue-focused marketers – not just “content marketers” – to find new and more creative ways to use content to reach buyers and propel profitable action.

This post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog on August 20, 2015.