The dangers of content marketing

Boring PresentationLast night I attended a very disappointing marketing roundtable at my MBA alma mater. These roundtables are typically what I define as “content marketing” – that is, a service provider comes in and gives some intellectual property away for free in the hopes that you will be interested enough to pay for more. I encounter more and more of this – free online newsletters, webinars, conferences, or even blogs <gulp>.

Sometimes content marketing works, and typically this is because the service provider is a research firm that is in the business of generating compelling content – or if they aren’t in research they have made a strong investment and generated some good content that they aren’t afraid to give away. Gartner is a good example of a research firm that realizes the importance of these events and invests heavily in them – their CRM conference last year was very good.

The problem is that 90% of the content marketing I have participated in doesn’t work because the content just isn’t compelling, and it leaves me feeling frustrated because my time was wasted.

Take last night – the presenter (who shall remain nameless) was there to present on creativity and how important it is in the work place. He was not well prepared or rehearsed, his content was common sensical and poorly designed from a visual standpoint, and at one point when he ran a video it was almost over by the time he figured out how to turn the volume up and the lights down (he hadn’t tested it beforehand). Ok, so there are a lot of things wrong there, but even if he had presented flawlessly the content would have killed him. It just didn’t get me thinking in new directions at all.

Content marketing sounds great to providers, but the problem is that when they actually get into it they play it too close to the vest. They get afraid that they are tipping their hand too much (or maybe they are afraid that their potential customers will realize how shallow the pool actually is). As a result they give presentations that just waste people’s time, and make them less apt to buy, not more.

Be careful when you are considering content marketing, put your best stuff out there, and don’t be afraid to test it and pull the plug if the content isn’t where it needs to be yet. It may be the only chance you get with that audience.

[Photo Credit: Michael Brockmeyer – the look on that woman’s face is priceless]

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