Stop creating content. Please, just stop.

At its core, the idea is a good one. Create content that people would want and they will reward you with their attention and business. That sounds awesome! Let's crank up the content machine!

And that's what businesses did. Now we're starting to see the blowback.

"Content marketing doesn't work."


What went wrong?

In the rush to jump on the content marketing bandwagon, many businesses (and marketers) overlooked a subtlety. They saw the formula as:

Success = create content

When in reality, the formula is:

Success = create content that people would want

Small distinction. Huge difference. Let me elaborate with a story.

I come from a family that loves to fish. When I was a kid, guess where we would go on vacation. Yep, someplace where we could throw a line in the water. Now, I didn't mind fishing. I just didn't love it. So invariably, I would get bored. That's when I would tie on some ridiculous, big honking lure that was totally inappropriate for the type of fishing we were doing and proceed to thrash the water. Was I fishing? Technically, yes. Was I catching anything? Not a chance. I wasn't giving the fish anything that they remotely wanted. On top of that, all my thrashing was actually making it difficult for the other anglers to have any success. But, hey, I was fishing! Right?

Stop throwing useless crap out there.

Content marketing is exploding. The amount of content created daily numbers in the hundreds of millions. And the vast majority of it is – please excuse the language – crap.

A study cited in The Drum helps illustrate the problem. It stated that "…60% of the content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is “just clutter” that has little impact on consumers’ lives (or business results)."

How did we get here? The answer is simple. We have forgotten the golden rule of content marketing.

Stop selling and start helping.

It is that simple. Stop creating stuff because you need something to capture a lead. Or to fill a hole in your social media channels posting schedule. Stop it. Stop it now. This is why your content isn't working. Because it isn't really content. It's just fluff. Pablum. Noise. Or worse yet, it's gussied up sales literature masquerading as something useful.

Stop creating content. Start creating help.

Here's the secret. If you want to see what content marketing can do, start creating things that really help people. Things that help them learn something useful. Or improve how they do something. Make sure it makes sense coming from your brand. But most of all, make sure it's something that provides real value to their lives.

Sounds easy, right? It's not. It's not something you can just dash off. You have to get to know those you hope to help. You have to find something that makes sense with your brand and helps them solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. That takes some work. Then again, the good stuff always does.

But don't let all this scare you off. Helping is incredibly powerful. That's why content marketing holds incredible potential. So let's go do that. And if you're not interested in doing that, then do the rest of us a favor and stop creating content.