Tag Archives: Technology PR

Why Content Marketing sucks (#2 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

As mindless jargon goes Content Marketing is right up there. To ‘market’ anything, from salt to silicon chips, requires informational content in addition to the goods themselves. Whether that’s a brandmark or, that holy grail of Content Marketing, the pseudo-scientific but not peer-reviewed Whitepaper. The idea is to reassure buyers that branded goods are of high enough quality to justify the additional premium buyers are expected to pay.

Technical buyers are different from salt or pepper shoppers. They want to know exactly WHY a solution will work for them by understanding HOW it works first. The Whitepaper and its ‘live’ equivalent the Webinar were until recently effective, if time-consuming, tactics to educate buyers about the HOW. They build credibility, helping convince IT buyers that a particular technology could work for them.

Content Marketing is reassuring, WhitePapers downloads and Webinar registrations (or even attendees) are measurable. Today though, the vast Whitepaper ‘farms’ hosted on technology publications’s websites give buyers an experience as confusing as Borat in a US Supermarket. Image

If buyers like the HOW from the Content Marketing, they could next learn WHY a solution might work well for their company. Traditionally they did this in three ways;

     1. Asking peers (if they were not competitors)
2. Consulting technology analysts (if you had deep pockets)
3. Reading ‘Success Stories’ from companies like yours who had implemented
the technology in the media.

This last means of checking, although prone to intervention by Positive Marketing and others seeking to push their clients’ successes, did at least have one guarantee of independence; the technology writer. The editorial process claimed to debunk as much ‘PR spin’ as possible and help readers understand if the claims made by vendors were true.

Now though, with B2B technology journalism in decline and advertising revenues moving online, Content Marketing has ‘worked around’ this journalistic scrutiny. In fact it has co-opted the very journalists who used to ‘look after’ the interests of their readers. Inboxes are full of ‘Last chance to Register’invitations and ‘Latest Technology News and Expert Advice’ apparently sent directly from the editors of publications. Although on checking with them, it turns out most know nothing about these email blasts, which are in fact sent by the advertising teams.

Short term, this is a problem for the press. Where once credible writers used investigative skills and strict editorial guidelines to provide a valuable service to their readers, now they pimp unscrutinised Whitepapers and Webinars at readers whose inboxes are now overflowing with very similar offers direct from marketing pros. Where once they could be relied upon to check the truth of the claims made by brands, now they are sending out un-edited propaganda in their own names, making them, well, samey and undermining their role.

Medium term it is the brands themselves who suffer, with pay-to-play Content Marketing now just seen as a form of brand advertising (never popular with technical buyers). The sheer volume of webinars and Whitepapers as a tactic also means they are having diminishing returns. Undifferentiated marketing makes for a lower brand premium over time.

Longer term, Content Marketing, as we know it today is doomed. As always with marketing, differentiation, authenticity and innovation will win out. Content Marketing is just too samey, too generic and plain lazy a tactic to keep the attention of discerning buyers. If you can’t tell your story these days in a better fashion, perhaps with the help of animation, video or an Infographic, you risk appealing only to IT folks of a previous era, one before smartphones, respected opinionated bloggers and ‘Try before you buy’ freemium software – all of which change the decision-making process.

The future will be much more Social, which implies briefer content, more fleetingly sampled, but delivered in increasingly integrated marketing campaigns, where content is less formulaic. We are building some of those campaigns right now and would be happy to explain more, so feel free to get in contact. Feel free to check out our previous post in the ‘Marketing Tactics that Suck’ series and check back for some ideas which do not suck.

CeBIT versus Woodstock – tradeshows revisited

This year’s CeBIT was a shadow of its former self, according to a presenter and agency owner who has escorted clients there for over a decade. Meanwhile, another senior marketing executive I spoke to claimed exhibiting at the show was a success for her company because “CeBIT is not for leads”. This ‘bigger picture’ thought was supported by an insightful comment from HP marketing vet Peter Chargin, who raised the importance of knowledge gathered on the ground by attendees. Good point I missed and it made me think.

So if conferences are not for leads, but for brand presence and education, has the world changed?

Some claim, with a lot of validity, that the ‘live’ experience of shows and learning is what the trade show is really about. This is certainly true for the army of press and bloggers who descend on trade shows, they learn a lot. But actual sales need more than awareness, they need persuasion. This is why Salesforce and Siebel are used for telemarketing more often than campaign management – people buy from people not emails. Even PR management tools like Response Source and Vocus just help good old human interaction, they should facilitate handcrafted emails and calls from persuasive PR professionals (like Positive). Use them as spam tools and they are counter-productive.

So then why the downer on conferences if they tick so many boxes? Physical interaction – tick, educating while selling -tick, potential new customer awareness – tick. What does not work is the economics. Why pay for booth space, why not just do speaking slots?

I think I have a better idea, or rather my bright friends at Brighttalk.com, had one. To be honest though, the Brightvocalists did not realise it at first, until, in a truly Twitter-like way, they remodelled their business plan. From a sort of online AGM tool they came up with virtual conferences. So now you have all the knowledge sharing you could need, full control over how your brand is conveyed and even some ‘accidental’ leads as it is promoted to the firm’s half million users. Whether or not, the ‘webcasting reinvented’ users Brighttalk claims all love your content, that’s a lot of potential bag-fillers passing your virtual booth – for free.

We need yet more innovation. Half day physical conferences, impromptu conferences (Twestivals not Flashcrowds, for safety reasons) and much much more online innovation (Brighttalk, Webex etc.). Music festivals people spend days at, but industry conferences? Can anyone honestly say the ‘Good Old Days’ of CeBIT were really like being at Woodstock?

Let’s discuss your opinions by emailing pmaher@positivemarketing.org and to learn more about how we can help check out www.positivemarketing.org