The awful truth about content marketing

July 13th, 2013 by Bob Bly

Is content marketing – the marketing methodology that entails disseminating free special reports, white papers, e-books, blog posts, and other useful content to potential customers – overrated?

Sales expert Robert Minskoff seems to think so.

“Go ahead and blog, tweet, and post,” says Minskoff. “But be very aware that there is still a large segment of the buying population that places very little importance on that type of content.”

So what does work in getting the order? “Selling is a human interaction,” Robert says. “Be human.”

I am the first to stand up and say content marketing – which in the good old days, we simply called “free information offers” – can work well.

After all, I have been an active practitioner of content marketing since the early 1980s.

But content marketing has its limits.

Offering free content is great for generating inquiries – people love to get free stuff.

It also educates the consumer on how to buy your type of product.

For instance, say you offer a free report “7 Things to Look for When Hiring a Roofer.”

Naturally, your roofing service precisely meets all 7 requirements spelled out in the report.

So after reading the report, homeowners will be more likely to hire you than your competitors who do not precisely match the requirements you listed.

However, if all you do is give away free content, you are not going to close many sales.

Content marketers need to remember that we are in the business of selling, not giving away free stuff.

The prospect is there not merely to be educated. You also have to sell him on why he should buy your product vs. other alternatives – including doing nothing. And that’s not content marketing. That’s copywriting.

To close the sale, at some point the prospect must receive a communication containing copy that (1) highlights your product’s unique advantages over the competition, (2) overcomes his objections, and (3) proves that your product is a superior solution to his problems.

You may also need professional salespeople who know how to establish relationships with prospects, diagnose their needs, and convince them your company is the best equipped to meet those needs.

Not to be mean-spirited, but I think part of the reason so many marketers jumped on the content marketing bandwagon so readily is that writing content is a lot easier – and less  threatening – than either writing copy that sells or selling in person.

It’s a relatively easy and pleasant task to write a short blog post on a thought, idea, tip, or factoid that caught your fancy. Or put that information in your e-zine.

It’s quite another to convince a terrific prospect to retain your firm when he is objecting that your price is too high – or he thinks your competitor is just as good as you are.

That kind of situation causes your average content marketer to run for the hills – but copywriters and salespeople alike relish such selling challenges. It’s what we’re paid for.

The bottom line: content marketing is fine as far as it goes. But nothing really happens until somebody sells something.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 13th, 2013 at 2:23 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 responses about “The awful truth about content marketing”

  1. Keith said:

    Sales is sales, a human interaction. You are absolutely right.
    i find blogging and content marketing shortens the buying cycle. My clients when they contact me for the first time have already decided to hire me. I can do all the educating up front and on my own schedule. That’s a sweet deal.

  2. Susan said:

    Content marketing and blogging are powerful tools. They don’t close the sale, but they do create website traffic and credibility.

    In terms of bringing in sales, they merely play supporting roles.

  3. Yasin Aydin said:

    I’d say a good content marketer knows that sales is the outcome not the objective.

    Sales from value based content, rather than value from sales based content.

    There’s nothing easy about creating content for a content marketing campaign. Yes it’s extremely easy to write rubbish content but writing content that motivates a purchase without any sales letter techniques is a lot harder than getting a sale from sales letters.

    The reason that content marketing is very popular right now is because consumers as a whole have had enough of sales based marketing. It’s disingenuous to say it’s because it’ easier.

    I think copywriters have a lot to learn from content marketers and content marketers have a lot to learn from copywriters.

  4. Is ‘content marketing’ just another buzzword of the times? No matter what… said:

    [...] The awful truth about content marketing – blog – direct marketing blog Is content marketing – the marketing methodology that entails disseminating free special reports, white papers, e-books, blog posts, and other useful content to potential customers – overrated? Sales expert Robert Minskoff seems to think so. “Go ahead and blog, tweet, and post,” says Minskoff. [...]

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  6. Marie-Claire Ross said:

    Great article and it’s true. I started a blog almost four years ago and have also provided heaps of free downloads. I’ve amassed a good sized database, but really, really hard to convert. Recently, tried to sell a product to my readers, but I think they’re shocked, it’s not for free! I’m not going to do anymore white papers, but create more saleable products. They’ve got to buy at some stage!

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  9. Robert Minskoff said:

    Thanks for quoting me in your article.

  10. Jon P said:

    Your observation is dependent on the situation—the product being sold and the audience for that product. It does not apply as a generality. Yes, an order has to be taken eventually, but I’ve bought many things that involved no human interaction. The caveat is that they almost always involved a human voice. As in, writing or audio/visual content that spoke to my fears and dreams and provided the WIIFM I needed.

    If you were to tell the people at HubSpot that content marketing is overrated, they’d laugh deeply and at great length on their way to the bank. They are not an isolated case.

    This is not to denigrate good salespeople or suggest they’re any less vital than they ever were. But in some cases, content may be that foot in the door a salesperson needs to close a deal.

  11. pawan kumar jha said:

    Excellent post! I have my own set of belief about blogging, that it generates traffic on your website. The point that one shouldn’t sell contents free of cost is logically absorbing to me. It makes sense. Copy writing is serious business that needs persistence to be master at it.

  12. Identifying And Writing Content That Will Engage Your Audience | Lander Blog said:

    [...] response copywriters. He’s also a very accomplished and successful content marketer. He contends that content marketing needs to do more than just educate; he says it needs to also persuade the [...]

  13. Marketing Plans 2014: Mobile, CRO and Content Marketing | Lander Blog said:

    […] Legendary copywriter Bob Bly, one of the world’s most successful content marketers, agrees. […]

  14. Mark Andrews said:

    Conversely, would you like to know the hard hitting truth Bob about long form sales letters and the fact copywriting has essentially had it’s day?

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