Why our content sucks

WRITTEN BY DAN SALVA

Company leaders continually rank content marketing as one of the most important initiatives for the organization. At the same time, they rank creating quality content as one of the most difficult things to achieve.

It's no surprise then that consumers consistently rank the vast majority of content out there as crap. And there is a lot out there. It's increasing, too. So is creating content a waste of time?

Before you answer too quickly, consider this. These same consumers will tell you they love content. In fact, according to Accenture, "…more than 70 percent of our consumer survey participants reported feeling open to more content, especially if it was tailored to their tastes."

It's not that content is a  waste of time. People want great content and reward companies for providing it. What the data is showing us is that, the majority of the time, we're just not doing it right.

What content is not

Here's the problem with that vast majority of less-than-desirable content out there. It's not really content.

I heard a story recently. You've probably have heard one like it. The head of sales reads some stats about what content marketing can do. He goes to the marketing specialist and has him whip up a sales sheet. He then has the social media manager create some tweets and posts letting everyone know that they have a new sales sheet. He then directs them to unleash it upon the world. You know what happens next. Crickets.

Here is the harsh truth. Nobody wants your sales sheet. Us prospects are trying to figure out how to solve a problem or make a decision about the best solution for our lives. We don't want to be sold to. Even when we are to the point of buying, we're looking for a consultation and not the "hard sell". I'm not telling you anything that your best sales people don't already know.

We prospects know there is good, objective help out there on the interwebs somewhere. We just need to wade through  the crap to find it. So don't think you can gussy up a sales pitch and call it content. It will just become more of that crap that we're trying to wade through.

We need a content plan

So how do we do this content thing right? We create a user-focused content plan. That's done by answering three questions:

  1. Who am I helping?
  2. When am I helping them?
  3. What do they need?

You'll notice we're not asking things like, "What do I want to sell them?" This is very much user centric. It's not about what we want. Rather, it is about what our prospects want. We must understand who they are as well as their needs, desires, and behaviors. Once we grasp that, we can create content that is valuable to them. And we can deliver it at the time when they need it most.

So how do we answer those questions? I'll cover that in the next post. Until then, put yourself in your user's shoes. Or boots. Or Birkenstocks. And tromp around a bit. It will help prepare you for creating a kick-ass content plan.

 

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.