Over at Marketing Pilgrim, our good friend Joe Hall is trying to sell readers on a dangerous marketing myth, arguing that Content Marketing is B#$*!t. He believes that if you’re selling an amazing product, you don’t need to worry about content or actually trying to get the word out. Your product will simply “sell itself”. Isn’t that adorable?! He even uses his grandmother and the Kitchen-Aid mixer her husband bought for her in the 1940s as an example.
Dude, unfair! How am I supposed to argue with Joe Hall’s dear old grandmother?
I can’t. I guess I’ll just focus on Joe.
Joe’s too smart of a guy to be all wrong. I agree with him that the core of any business should focus on producing a great product, NOT producing a great marketing campaign. In fact, in 2009 I wrote that A Great Product Needs No Advertising.
But you know what? I was wrong then and Joe’s wrong now.
Before we fight about it, what is “content marketing” anyway?
The folks at Copyblogger worked up a great definition for content marketing. So instead of rewriting the wheel, I’ll poach theirs.
According to them, Content Marketing means:
Creating and freely sharing informative content as a means of converting prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers… Repeated and regular exposure builds a relevant relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion, rather than a “one-shot” all-or-nothing sales approach.
Perhaps said simpler, it’s about attracting customers by giving them something they want before selling them on something they need. Whether that’s a video, a blog post, a tutorial, or a personal story about how your product changed someone’s life, its content designed with a marketing purpose.
Will all that content marketing stuff replace the satisfaction or pure joy a customer will receive from a truly awesome product? No. Not at all. If that’s your goal, do everyone a favor and get out of a business now. And that’s what I was hinting at in my post from 2009. But where I was wrong back then and where Joe is wrong now is implying that the great product is ALL you need to be successful.
Your great product (much like your great unique content) DIES without your ability to promote and market it. A good product doesn’t erase the need for promotion – it increases the odds someone else (your audience) will help do that promotion for you.
In Joe’s original post he argues that the reason “some” [I guess he couldn’t find a more vague measurement ;) ] of Apple’s audience is obsessed with their products isn’t because of content marketing, but because of the awesomeness of Apple products.
I’m no Apple evangelist (I like my Dell and my BlackBerry), but that’s fine. I’m fairly certain that “some” people don’t notice the content marketing and simply buy because it’s Apple. But (a) something had to exist to get them to that point and (b) does that mean Apple doesn’t use content marketing to sell its products?
- What about the massive Apple launch events that take place every time Apple has another product announcement or when former Apple CEO Steve Jobs offered a keynote?
- Or as Keenan Steel says in the comments of Joe’s post at Marketing Pilgrim, what about Apple’s 36 million+ YouTube views? Or any of the other content they put out – the blog posts, the site copy, the media passes they give out so people can liveblog their events?
These are all examples of how Apple successfully uses content marketing.
As the Web becomes a more dominant force in helping businesses grow and attract customers, the idea of content marketing only becomes more important. Content marketing is what allows you to be found in a sea of noisy competitors and to build a relationship with customers that you’ll be able to profit off later.
To say that we don’t need that step is essentially telling business owners that great products market themselves.
Need examples of how that’s NOT true:
- Take a look at all the small businesses in your area that sell amazing products but go out of business in less than six months because no one ever knew they existed.
- Think of all the local restaurants you don’t hear about until they’re closing their doors due to lack of business.
You don’t make people give a damn simply by showing up. You need to give them a reason to care.
Sure, everything starts with having a great core product or service. You’re not going to find anyone who disagrees with Joe there, but it’s arrogant to think that’s the only step in the marketing process. It’s arrogant to think that all you need to do is Be Awesome and people will flock to you.
If that was the case, you wouldn’t need marketing or SEO or PR at all. We could all just rely on the Good Idea Faeries to do the work for us. Until then, we need to lay the groundwork ourselves.
For someone to buy from you, they need to:
- Know you exist.
- Know how to find you.
- Trust your brand.
- Have an understanding of how your product or service will enrich their live or business.
- Know of other people who have successfully interacted with you.
You do that via content marketing.
Content marketing is that bridge that opens up that relationship with your customer. Content marketing flavors like webinars, videos, long-form content, How To guides, etc, are vital to your marketing mix because they allow someone to connect the dots from their need to your product. They make people give a damn about your brand. Without them, you’re locking your awesome service in the basement for no one to ever find it.
A great product may absolutely dazzle your audience once you put it on stage for them to see and fall in love with it. But let’s not forget, content marketing is how you build the stage.