The trouble with content marketing

Here is an article I originally wrote four years ago in 2015. I’m republishing it here as I feel the essence of this piece is still very much relevant today as it was back then. The article is presented in its entirety, with no edit whatsoever.


Here’s a reality check with marketing, and especially, digital marketing. It’s not great. In fact, it often downright sucks.

This includes content marketing, the catch-all term associated with strategizing, creating, refining, disseminating, and tracking content for marketing purposes. Content marketing is both a reality today and an overused, exhaustively overhyped buzzword, particularly among the SaaS vendors, investors, consultants, and anyone out there peddling their purported skills and expertise.

Many like to think of content marketing as the “new” age of marketing, replacing the longstanding practice of pushing product promotions into traditional broadcast and print media to try and increase mindshare. Today, while the new digitally-based media makes it possible to track marketing success a lot more definitively, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to create quality, highly relevant content that aligns closely to the core missions of the company.

The unfortunate reality today with digital marketing and content marketing, at least as I see it, is that we’re way too much focused on distributing and tracking our messaging, and not nearly focused enough on crafting the messaging itself.

It’s really a damn shame, because the whole point of marketing to is communicate your company’s products and services in the most clear, direct, and compelling manner to your customers. Both prospective and existing customers are equally important and must be treated distinctly.

The honest truth is that crafting really good content is not easy. You need professionals dedicated and skilled in all manners of copywriting and design. You also must have managers and subject matter experts working hand-in-hand with the content creators. And above all, any stakeholder should have at least an elementary mental correlation with the what the company seeks to endeavor as a result of the marketing.

The years of obsession over SEO, marketing automation software and methodology, and metrics seem to be taking their toll on trivializing what matters the most – a well-defined strategy for customer communication, and the ability to carry that through to creating the necessary collateral that meets the essential requirements.

Also problematic is this widespread belief that we need to constantly flood our channels with our content, no matter how relevant or worthy it may truly be. Some of this is part of the trend today of trying to hyperscale, manufacture virality, and ultimately project an image to VCs that yes, your company is on this wildly incredible growth spurt and is worthy of a substantial investment at an astronomical valuation.

And before you come out swinging with defensive commentary, take note that Buffer has admitted that the way they (and many others) have been approaching social marketing isn’t working. Social media is widely considered one of the main pillars of content marketing.

Here’s what it comes down to, in my opinion. Marketing is a profession, a line of business, a distinct corporate discipline. We need to do more to garner the respect it deserves, and not limit ourselves to short-term gratitude from hastily produced content that isn’t really genuine. We have to be more conscientious that we’re doing in content marketing and digital marketing today is denigrating ourselves, the companies we work for, our customers, and yes, marketing itself as a profession.

Let’s just try and do something better for ourselves: pay more attention to our content.