Friday, March 21, 2014

Content Marketing Is A Joke In The Real World

Over the last couple of weeks I have spent some time travelling along the Eastern coast region of the U.S. between Pennsylvania and Florida. I have clients and various business ventures all along that corridor, so I tend to make the trip up and down or down and up several times every year. This year I decided to take an informal poll of all the business people I came in contact with regarding the issue of Content Marketing as it relates to their business’ online existence.

Content Marketing Clown

Altogether, I discussed the topic with 100 different business owners or managers involved in a broad range of businesses. There were dentists, mechanics, lawyers, contractors, restaurateurs, accountants, florists, landscapers, optometrists, retailers, and more. All were people doing business in the real world who either have a presence for their business online or use some level of online tools to run the business.

I asked them all, “How’s business?” They universally reported that business is generally good. I doubt that any of them would tell me if they were about go under due to a lack of business, but from what I could see during my visits, none of them seemed to be in danger of that.

So I next asked, “Are you doing anything online to grow the business?” A full 20% said they don't have a website or do anything online, except pay bills, use email, and maybe read industry specific news related to their business. The other 80% said they have a website and/or a Facebook account and post something to either when they have a sale going on or when something new is available. Nothing really regular. Maybe once a month or, in some cases, only 2 or 3 times a year would they add something or change something in the information about their business.

For those who had no website or Facebook page I asked why they didn't have those things and they said they didn't see the need. They were already busy enough and were content with what they had. It was quite refreshing in a way to see that there are still some people out there who are not wrapped up in the goings on of the digital world.

For those who did have a website or social page, my next question was then, “Did you know that if you regularly add new, fresh and useful content to your website or social pages that it can increase your business’ exposure in the search engines and social networks?” About half said they had heard that before, but they didn't really know or understand what they needed to do. The other half said they were already satisfied with what their websites or Facebook pages did for the business and couldn't care less about the search engines. I must admit, that was also refreshing to hear.

I then gave a mini presentation that lasted all of about 60 seconds of what content marketing is, how it works, and gave examples of how each person could do it to promote their business. Keep in mind that I wasn't trying to sell them any kind of service. Most of these people were not clients of mine. They were just average folks running a business that I happened to come into contact with during my travels. My only intention was to have a little conversation, share a bit of information, and gauge their interest or opinion on the topic.

Some were generally interested and wanted to talk about it more. Most were happy to talk a bit about their business, but had no interest in devoting any more time to it than they already do to write or commission the writing of topics to regularly add to their website.

The optometrist I spoke to summed up the general consensus quite well. He said, “I already spend 50 - 60 hours a week looking at eyeballs and doing paperwork. I have no interest in being a journalist for an additional 10 - 20 hours per month writing stuff to bloat my website hoping that a search engine will care. Lot’s of other sites like WebMD already have everything anybody would ever want to hear about eyeballs and eyesight anyway.”

The landscaper I talked to said, “If I have to turn my website into an encyclopedia of landscaping to keep it relevant so people in my area can find me doing a search then that will be the day I ditch that thing and just start paying for regular ads that just include my phone number.”

The mechanic said, “That sounds dumb. Who has time to do that? I'm no writer and I don't have a bunch of extra money laying around to pay somebody to write for me. My website says everything it needs to say. This is who I am, this is what I do, this is where I'm located, and here’s how to contact me. Doing anything more than that is silly. I'm not trying to be some celebrity or guru. I fix cars. That’s it.”

The overall impression I got from the majority of real world business people I talked to is that having to do content marketing is a joke and a bad one at that. They just aren't interested and, in many cases, don't see the point. That leads me to believe the only real demand for it is coming from people looking to get paid to do content marketing.

I find it fascinating how every heavily liked, shared, or commented article or post that talks about content marketing, social media marketing, or search marketing is mostly liked, shared or commented on by other marketers. No real paying customers ever see most of these "tips" or "7 ways to do" whatever lists. It's all just basically a bunch of yes men clicking around and validating each other. Wake up people. The real world has no use for you or what you're promoting. What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?

Content marketing does work, but not like it used to. Now there is so much of it going on that a lot of it has little or no value. Even good content has a short shelf life these days. Who is going to want to pay you a decent rate to write something that will be swept from the search listings next week by some new flash in the pan writer? Anybody can go to Fiverr and get a decent 800 word article for about $10 now. Think about that.