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How Content Marketing Success is Blocked by Antiquated Beliefs

book cover-business of beliefAs content marketing becomes an increasingly important means of propelling our businesses forward, I’m finding that many marketers are still struggling with the operational issues associated with the discipline. In almost every meeting I attend these days, I’ve come to find that a few antiquated ideas about content are still ringing true:

  1. Content marketing is still considered to be separate from “real marketing.”
  2. Marketing and measurement are still solely thought of as ways to increase transactions, rather than as mechanisms for creating deeper relationships with consumers.
  3. Businesses still view content as an attribute of marketing, rather than as a distinct discipline that offers value in and of itself. 

CMOs are confident… that they are confused 

Last year, Accenture Interactive produced a report titled, Turbulence for the CMO. In the introduction to this report, the authors characterize chaotic change as:

… the new normal for chief marketing officers… CMOs are struggling to keep pace with competing business demands, proliferating channels and partners, and a disconnect between the talent they have and the capabilities they need. 

The study found that a full 70 percent of these CMOs feel like they are on the clock to deliver results, generally believing they have less than five years to completely change their operating model. Accenture also found that despite the enormous investments in technology and outsourced services, four out of 10 CMOs still say they are not at all prepared to meet their objectives.

Another study conducted by Aquent and the American Marketing Association substantiates these findings. In their 2013 Marketing Salary Survey, more than 50 percent of marketers said they were not at all equipped to handle new trends in marketing technology. And a similar number of them (53 percent) don’t feel like they have the right people on board to deliver results. But then, somewhat ironically, almost 70 percent in the Aquent study said that they were “very confident” that creating these customer-centric experiences would and could “positively impact the organization.”

Change begins with belief 

I contend that fundamentally changing some of these long-held beliefs is the essential first step that content practitioners within enterprise organizations need to take in order for content marketing to gain acceptance as a viable, successful approach. And in the interest of getting the ball rolling, I’d like to introduce you to the author of the fantastic book, The Business of Belief: Thomas Asacker.

Tom is an expert in leadership and the ways real businesses can facilitate broad change within an organization. So I took this challenge directly to him as something we could try and sort out together. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation:

Robert: In your book, you talk about the difficulty that businesses have in changing their ways. It’s something that we see as well — where the content marketing process is one that everyone can agree should be there, but it’s so hard to actually change the existing ways of doing things. Why do you think change is so hard?

Tom: I think it’s a human nature problem. We’ve created these metaphors and understandings about how human beings are, and how their minds work and what brains do, etc. And, I mean, the whole idea that the brain is anything like a computer is wrong. Brains change continuously. It would be like a program that rewrites itself all day long, you know? We also have to change the belief as well.

I saw this in action recently. I consulted with a company and, as I left, everybody said that they understood. Then, the results were devastatingly poor. The CEO was sitting next to me at this table at this meeting a year later and I said, “Could you tell me? What did I do wrong the last time I was out here?” The response I got blew my mind. He said, “Tom, you didn’t do anything wrong. It was great information. But you have to understand, when you left here, everybody had to go back to their jobs.

So like a computer, they understood what I said and they agreed, but that did not drive their actions. People do what they do because they desire to do it. And that’s it.

Robert: That plays an important role in content marketing, too. We too often feel like we just have to deliver facts to customers. When in fact, in addition to that we have to change beliefs, as well.

Tom: That’s the key. It’s a blending. We’ve got this situation now where we separate these things. We’ve got this group called “brand” over here, and this group over here called “marketing,” and this group called “product subject matter experts” over here, and “customer service” over here. But today’s brand is all of that. It has to be a blend in order to be successful.

The bridge of belief

Robert: So, what do you think the answer is? How do businesses actually change and create this blend? Do we have to take the CEOs and CMOs out behind the woodshed?

Tom: Well, where I’ve seen success is where there’s been some outside force — whether it’s an agency or consultant or someone who has figured out how to push a particular leader. It could literally be a brand manager. They lead them down, if you will, that bridge of belief, making them comfortable the whole time until they release something that’s powerful.

And then, the interesting thing is that once they get this notoriety for this creative endeavor, then the rest of the organization, they use that as an example for everyone else, saying, “See, we can do it.

Robert: And that’s the promise right? Because when I see enterprises being truly successful with content marketing, [it’s when] the marketing group has stopped acting like a media company, and they’ve actually become a media company.

Tom: There you go. The businesses that are willing to invest the time and the money and create the structures to elevate their content game will win. I’ve said all the time to people, “If everybody is writing a book, or a blog, then you should do whatever the next thing is that’s harder than writing a book to engage people.”

Becoming a media company

As I wrapped my conversation with Tom (and I’ve subsequently been chatting with businesses all across the spectrum about this challenge), I’ve been really focused on this last part. If the last few years of content marketing has been focused on how we can actually build the business case to use content as a means to engage, help, inform, and change beliefs in customers, then the next few years should be dedicated to learning how to actually create a strategic, repeatable process to do just that. 

Want more insight from Robert Rose on how to take your organization’s content marketing to the next level of success? Sign up for a free trial of our new Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Access over 35 courses, created by experts from Google, Mashable, SAP, and more.