Content marketing in perspective: thanking Lee Odden and many others

Happy customer centric people - via Remy Bergsma

Happy customer centric people with Lee Odden- via Remy Bergsma

I’ve been following SES London the last few days and was glad to see that Lee Odden’s integrated, more customer-centric and qualitative view on content marketing, as he advocates it, really charmed the London attendees.

Last year we had an event with Lee Odden, Jamie Notter, Kristin Zhivago, Bryan Eisenberg, Olivier Blanchard, Jim Lenskold, AJ Huisman and more great speakers. The reason I “picked” them, despite their different backgrounds was that they have one thing in common: they are all smart customer-centric and no-nonsense thinkers and practitioners. And that’s what this blog post is all about.

The two major challenges in content marketing

There are two huge problems with content marketing right now and Lee mentioned them in London. By the way: you should also buy his book. It’s called Optimize, as you probably know, and talks about the integration of SEO, social media and content marketing. Not just for the sake of integration but for the sake of results and relevance.

So, what are these two huge problems we have with content marketing?

The consequences of success. Content marketing an incredible successful term but at the same time a huge umbrella term. That’s OK and I’m glad (really) for Joe Pulizzi that the number of searches on Google for the term has skyrocketed, his hard work pays off and content is no longer the forgotten stepchild of marketing. In the end, social media marketing is one huge umbrella term as well. Content marketing covers lots and lots of possible marketing and customer-facing goals. The success of the term content marketing, however, also has some catastrophic consequences: everyone starts using it for different tactics and, I don’t know about you, but I for one am fed up with seeing blog posts on really influential websites stating, for instance, that Twitter’s Vine is the future of content marketing. I love content far too much for that and have been using it in an integrated way for far too long to accept that. Content deserves more than this, we have all been working too hard (since long before the Internet existed) to fight for customer-centric content. More about this challenge here.

The misinterpretation and umbrella challenge. The second problem has everything to do with the fact that content marketing as a term is being used by so many different people with so many different backgrounds, as said, despite its’s clear definition and origins. But can YOU still define it in a world where everyone who takes pictures or writes or knows how to use Twitter’s Vine all of the sudden is a content marketer (note that I have nothing against taking pictures or writing, I do it myself)? However, the confusion is understandable. I know people with a sales or direct-response B2B marketing background who despise the term content marketing. Because for them, content is something entirely different than for a brand marketer, a publishing pro, a website copywriter or a customer service agent, for instance. But that doesn’t mean that content isn’t important for all of them, as long as it helps the customer and the business. In fact, we ARE content and stories (that’s for a later blog post).

Last week I shared my views on another blog about the integrated optimization of the digital customer journey (thanks Lee for having tweeted and shared it so much). The two above mentioned content marketing challenges, my never dying love for content and my total belief in results, integration, optimization, customer-centricity and great customer experiences, are exactly the reason why I started the blog you’re on now.

Say no to content marketing populism?

I’m glad that more and more of us are saying content marketing is not about quantity (great traffic is meaningless if it leads to nothing and how many businesses really optimized their websites, customer service checkout processes, forms, etc.?), that customer experiences are more important, etc. It’s the same for publishers as for B2B marketers as for social media practitioners, sales people and so on.

I’m grateful that Lee Odden has been sharing that message in London as you can read in this blog post by Paul Rogers on friend Bas van den Beld his State of Search blog and as Lee has written it down in his book.

Another person I would like to thank for his never ending efforts in optimizing what we do as marketers, using personas and fighting the silo mentality is Bryan Eisenberg, who in fact spoke at the same event with Lee but also at an event we did six months before that one, with that other champion of customer-centricity, Gerry McGovern, the king of website content.

What Joe Pulizzi has done and does is amazing. And I’m glad I could contribute a bit to it and to the recognition of GREAT (i.e. efficient) content after decades of focusing on tools, channels, whistles and bells in the online space. However, with this blog I hope to focus on content marketing from the only perspectives that – according to me, at least – matter: customer satisfaction, great experiences, positive impact on branding, sales and whatnot (depending on goal and context), and ultimately revenues.

I hope you agree with me and that we can start moving away from the eternal and populist ‘Six tips to get your content retweeted’ approach (can’t people who really need this kind of content find that by now?). Sure, it’s important to get retweets if you’re on Twitter for whatever good reason but that’s not what will help you convince the CxO to invest in relevant content for your customers/goals and, as long as we keep calling it all content marketing, it will not help us in serving our customer or readers eithers.

Thanks for reading and – hopefully – supporting by contributing. And thanks to people like Lee, Bryan, Gerry, Kristin, Joe and so many others for their work. This is my #FF to all of them and the many I forget.

PS: check out the presentation Lee Odden gave last year and except some videos soon.

Join us on June 10th in Antwerp, Belgium, for the Content Marketing Conference Europe. With confirmed speakers such as Jay Baer, Lee Odden, Mike Corak, Kelly Hungerford, Dado Van Peteghem, Tristan Lavender, Guido Everaert, Tom De Baere and Xaviera Ringeling (more to be announced), we'll take you across a learning experience leading to tangible insights and actionable inspiration, moderated by media expert Jo Caudron!

Content Marketing Conference Europe

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