There’s No Magic Bullet in Marketing
As marketers (nay, as PEOPLE), we’re constantly dealing in magic bullets.
We promise them to customers and readers: endless listicles and how-tos promising success in a few steps (with the help of our products, of course). We peddle ever-growing volumes of concise, scannable, and — if we’re being honest — bland guides, each tied with a neat little bow for our audiences.
We seek out these magic bullets for our own work, too. We’re constantly clamoring for tips and tricks, best practices, quick-hit lists: instruction manuals to help us creep up our numbers, drive more people to our site, convince more people to convert.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever Googled something like this: Ideal blog post length. Best blog headers. How long should my podcast be? Best time to post on Twitter. On LinkedIn. On Instagram.
And why shouldn’t we? We spend so much time compiling editorial calendars, creating content, and devising marketing campaigns that we want to make sure we maximize our efforts. If there’s a simpler path to ensure more bang for our proverbial buck, then why wouldn’t we take it?
But here’s the issue with these how-tos, these lists, these tips and tricks and best practices: they don’t apply to us if our content isn’t good in the first place. If bad content is your baseline, you can ignore all the advice you encounter. It doesn’t matter how long your headline is if no one wants to read your piece. It doesn’t matter when you post on Twitter if no one wants to share what you’ve said.
Too often, marketers religiously adhere to best practices (We need to publish at least two blog posts per week! We need to post at least four times per day on Twitter! We should NEVER post branded content on LinkedIn over the weekend!) while rushing the actual content creation process. It makes sense: if your company’s marketing plan necessitates near-constant content, you’re practically forced to cut corners. If you’re certain (or, perhaps more realistically, your boss is adamant) that you need X blog posts and Y social media posts every week in order to maintain your following, but you haven’t allowed yourself the time for good ideas to marinate, then it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up publishing content that feels stale. Formulaic. Mediocre. Like so many marketers before you, you’ll fall into the quantity over quality trap, and your blog posts and podcasts and videos will end up looking vaguely like every other marketer’s.
What impact will that eventually have on the audience you’re working so hard to grow and maintain?
I’ve been thinking about this tweet a lot recently:
“Our show isnt growing.”
Make the content better.
“How about IGTV?”
Make the content better.
“Sure but our social presence is–”
Make the content better.
“OK but what if we–”
made the content better? Good plan.
THE challenge is saying what matters to people, consistently
— Marketing Showrunners (@MShowrunners) January 6, 2020
The impact of “best practices” is marginal compared to the impact of consistently excellent, thought-provoking pieces of writing or audio or video. Then why do we spend so much more time thinking about these secondary things instead of focusing on the main task: making the content the best it can possibly be in the first place? If the best thing we can do for our marketing is improve our content, then why don’t we make that the overt priority of our marketing plans? Good content should be the plan — full stop. Instead, it becomes another thing to check off the ever-growing list of to-dos for marketing departments. We think the job is done when we have an asset — any asset — in hand. But in truth, it’s so much easier to make a well-built rocket fly than it is to force a shoddy missile into orbit.
But building that best-in-class rocket? That’s really hard. For content marketers, the thought that better content can improve almost any marketing initiative and better reach almost any marketing goal is at once exciting, gratifying, and completely terrifying. It means your work matters — oh, boy, does it matter. But it also means that your work is never done, and it can never go on autopilot. It means you need to constantly do the hard work of creating. As soon as something works, you need to figure out the next workable thing.
If the ultimate goal of your content is to provide an experience that compels your audience to engage with you, come back to you, and ultimately buy from you (and, indeed, keep buying from you), then it needs to consistently entice readers, listeners, and viewers to stick around. There’s no magic bullet for the hard work that requires.
It would be so much easier if you could just…figure out the best time to post on LinkedIn.
But there’s a lovely paradox here. Right now, marketers over-focus on finding the magic bullets that optimize promotion. They concentrate on the best tactical ways to share assets that, hastily or not thoughtfully constructed, are ultimately expendable. If, instead, marketers refuse to make their assets expendable and instead commit to making consistently excellent standalone pieces of content, then the assets end up doing the promotion for themselves. Creating better content that truly resonates with your given audience triggers organic promotion from the audience itself. Investing in better content means investing in growth, as a more passionate, dedicated group of readers, viewers, and listeners naturally promote the content they love — without even being asked.
Marketers today have too much they can focus on: too many goals, too many KPIs, too many channels on which to promote. All of that associated frenzy to get as many eyeballs as possible on a piece of content can end up diluting the value of the content — and, ironically, yielding less-than-impressive results.
Instead, narrow your focus to the content itself. Eliminate the noise that precludes you from focusing on giving your most valued audience what they actually want: their favorite content, so you can become their favorite brand. There’s no easy-to-follow recipe to get there, but in the end, making quality content your overarching priority might end up being the magic bullet you’ve been seeking.
A somewhat accidental marketer, I’m first and foremost a writer. I’ve spent a decade working with global brands to craft on-target content and streamline complex ideas into clear (and even…exciting?!) language. Now, I get to spend every day immersed in content and strategy here, as Managing Editor of Marketing Showrunners, at my company, Molly Donovan Content & Communications. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community of eager next-generation marketers and marketing showrunners.
Reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org