Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. You may think this post is meant to teach you about content marketing (it will) and how it differs from traditional marketing, (it also will). However, like all good content marketers, I have a deeper, more insidious goal.
Sales. Or, in this case, conversions and metrics. (He’s confessed his crime! Cue ominous music!)
You see, all marketing, no matter how helpful, aims to manipulate you, the consumer, into completing a desired behavior. It’s not always a sale, at least not immediately. Maybe you need to join an email list to receive a free whitepaper titled “Seven Easy Ways to Unfuck Your Social Media in 2017.” Perhaps an article about winterizing your car points you to a maintenance appointment scheduling tool. Maybe it’s more simple, like a billboard telling you that Real Americans own guns, and you are a real American – aren’t you?
They all prey on your emotions. Gratitude. Convenience. Fear. Content marketing seeks to fulfill a need, relieve a customer’s pain, and build trust. Once that value is added, the customer is more likely to proceed through the desires course of action that’s baked directly into helpful content itself. (Want to learn more about nurturing desired customer behaviors? CLICK HERE.)
You just tried to click the nonexistent hyperlink, didn’t you? That’s what those of us in marketing departments call a nurture track. We’re like game designers, but not like open-world games, more like those old rail-shooters in arcades that led you down a singular path toward a singular conclusion. There’s only one way out of the value-added expert blog maze, and it’s by giving us your email.
Once we marketers have that, it is game over. You may be resistant, you may have an iron will, but we have A-B testing, multiple email campaigns, free resources (whitepapers, eBooks, on-demand seminars, free ideation sessions, and more), and Customer Relationship Management software to tweak our strategy until we get you in a way that you can’t resist. It’s psychology applied in the most evil way possible – pure, unabashed capitalism.
So how can you combat content marketing? You already wade through a flood of words and images online every day, probably before you get out of bed. (Depending on your market segmentation, location, and preferred OS, we have specialized content aimed directly at your cell phone, laptop, preferred websites, and more.)
The answer is to use the lump three feet above your ass and actually read. Don’t just consume media, digest it. Be an active consumer – it’s information, not half-stale popcorn at the movie theater. If you accept everything as true without asking the question “who gains?” you’re going to end up with a lot of useless subscriptions and stuff that you don’t need. It’s hard in a world where the house always wins, but the general rule for being a better consumer is to follow the duck rule: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.
If it looks like it’s trying to sell me something, hits a few content marketing keywords in the first paragraph (look back at my opening – you’ll see what I’m talking about), and talks about extensive helpful content for paying members – it’s content marketing.