Content Marketing

Why You Need to Turn Your Content Marketing Upside Down

content marketing upside downAll companies now find themselves in two industries: the business they are actually in, and the publishing business. The death of the information intermediary is upon us, and companies need to tell their own story with speed and aplomb.

But let’s not go overboard. Yes, you’re in the publishing business, but only as a means to an end. You should be using content as a way to generate new sales or maintain current customers. You do not benefit directly from content creation because you’re not in the eyeball accumulation ad advertising industry. You benefit from content creation indirectly.

This is widely misunderstood. The rise of content marketing has unfortunately spawned a side effect, which is content creation for content creation’s sake. It’s a colossal waste of company resources, and may become pervasive enough to trigger a widespread backlash against the proposition of content marketing.

Creating content that does not cause action is a fool’s errand, period. And that too often is the case.

It’s About Action, Not Eyeballs

My advice – as I discussed at last week’s outstanding Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland – is to identify what specific behavior(s) you want your content consumers to take post consumption, and build content that creates predilection toward those actions.

Essentially, you should be turning your content creation process upside down. Worry less about what content you can create and which stories you can tell, and worry more about how you want to turn content consumption into leads, sales, and advocacy. Once you have a handle on that optimal behavior funnel, THEN create content that makes that funnel a reality.

Work backwards to make your content marketing program a driver of revenue, not just page views.

  • NickyKriel

    Refreshing change from the normal “content is king” thought. Jay, you are right, there is no point creating content if it isn’t doing something for your business. Although, some times it takes a while to see the dividends of content creation.

  • MarketingXD

    I understand your general point, but a practical example would really help with implementing it.Please could you use this blog post as an example of content? What *specific* behavior(s) do you want readers to take post consumption and how does this blog post make that funnel a reality?Could contrast it with a different blog post, not written in the way you advocate, and say how that one would be worse at causing the specific behaviours?

    • JayBaer

      @MarketingXD Lots of different case studies of things like that here on Convince & Convert. Poke around a bit in this section using the Content Marketing tag. But I’ll work on a specific example post around this point, too.

  • PJProductivity

    Begin with the end in mind. I’ve heard that somewhere before… Well said, Jay. As to MarketingXD’s question, I think it depends wholly on your business and your/its needs. If you want them to sign up for your newsletter, then figure out what your newsletter provides that they need, and use your content to illustrate the need for it. If you want them to call for a free consulting/coaching session, then how about a case study of another client (with permission, of course)?

    • JayBaer

      @PJProductivity Yes exactly!

  • webfadds

    Hi — Good meeting you in Cleveland #cmworld, and while I agree with Nicky that Content is NOT king — instead it’s Connection, MarketingXD raises a good point — what “Connection” funnel are you driving for in this post? I think you are right that most “Content Marketers” now understand that Marketing=Publishing, but they do not yet understand how Publishing must = Sales. Looking forward to more details. -Scott

  • PJProductivity

    I have to disagree with webfadds – publishing /= sales. (Neither does marketing.) Two separate things. One leads to the other, ideally, but this is where a lot of new marketers get confused, I think, particularly with social media … “I’m not getting any clients from my Twitter use, it must not work.” That’s the wrong way to approach it, and I think the same can be said of content marketing. It’s about demonstrating skill and authority, establishing trust, and creating primacy in your niche/market. All of which helps sales.

    • webfadds

      I think you are right about the “=” sign, PJP… a good amended formula might be Marketing = Publishing, and Publishing = Connections (that lead to sales). But I in turn would disagree with you that looking for conversions from your Twitter feed, which is easy to do, is the wrong way to look at it. How else can you monitor for ROI? Demonstrating skill and building authority is great, but mean nothing to your business unless in the end, they lead to sales.

  • copyblogger

    Preach it brother Jay.

  • seanmpower

    “Creating content that does not cause action is a fool’s errand, period. And that too often is the case.”

    Totally disagree. Sometimes creating content can be created for content’s sake, even if it doesn’t lead to new sales. Online product manuals, how-to videos, fact sheets, and information brochures all exemplify content to which no call to action needs to be attached.

    The statement should read: “Creating content that does not add value to your customers, existing or prospective, is a fool’s errand, period.” And that’s not often the case.

    • copyblogger

      @seanmpower But all of those types of content support the ultimate action you want taken. It’s not truly “content for content’s sake” because it’s part of the larger story you’re telling prospects.

    • JayBaer

      @seanmpower I would suggest that you absolutely could and should have CTA in how-to videos, fact sheet, brochures and more. Cross-sell. Up-sell. Referral. Sharing. Lots of ways to drive behavior in those archetypes without being pushy or cheesy.

  • Neicolec

    Such a good point. Thanks, Jay! I wrote a similar post quite a while back on markwschaefer’s blog, suggesting that you analyze your sales funnel to determine where content, social media, and your website should be working for you and how. ( I’m so glad you mention the potential backlash, because it’s something that has me really worried. Companies are producing a lot of content and, most importantly, promoting it and distributing it in shot-gun, broadcast ways, that don’t get relevant information to people.

    Studies have shown that people are more amenable to online advertising and email if it’s relevant. The same is true for content. We need better content and better ways to promote it to the people to whom it is relevant, only.

    • JayBaer

      @Neicolec Great post! I can see the day coming….”we tried content marketing, but it didn’t work for us.”

  • acSellerant

    I agree. Content marketing just for the sake of it is a waste. Any marketing just for the sake of it is a waste. What’s the goal and how do we get there? In B2B that might mean six months of lead nurturing before a sale is made, but you need to know where you’re going and why. All the rest is just tools, a means to an end.

    • JayBaer

      @acSellerant I’m glad you mentioned the time angle. Indeed, content that’s going to convert instantly is really the exception, not the rule.

  • CarlThress

    “Identify what specific behavior(s) you want your content consumers to take post consumption, and build content that creates predilection toward those actions.”

    Good reminder, Jay, to start with the “why” before sitting down to create content. Spewing out content for content’s sake can quickly relegate your message to just “so much noise” in an already loud and overcrowded space.

    Ask yourself who your audience for this content will be. Customers, prospects, investors, potential investors, employees, industry peers, or some combination? Then, what action(s) do you want that audience to take? For customers, the action might be to continue buying from you or to refer others to your brand; for prospects, it might be to begin to think of you as someone who knows what you’re talking about and can provide them with solutions that really meet their needs.

    Will your audience find value in this content? Will it reinforce your message and reflect well on your brand? Will it ultimately (or immediately, as the case may be) lead to new connections, new sales, new partnerships, or new opportunities to grow your company and expand your reach?

    The specific questions you ask will vary, depending on the piece of content you’re looking to create. The important thing is to ask those questions *before* you invest time on content that serves no real purpose.

    • JayBaer

      @CarlThress Yes Carl. It’s really the same questions we used to ask in the Web strategy process back in the day.

      • CarlThress

        @JayBaer Ah yes, I remember those days. Guess some things (e.g. good strategy) never change.

  • robkeating

    Jay, some good points here. Content does play an important role in marketing a business and there needs to be a well thought out strategy behind what is put out there by a company. Some just go for the scatter gun approach and think that more is best but as Don Crowther says every piece of content you put out there is a reflection of your company. So at the end of the day you need to put good stuff out there and the content you create needs to achieve your objectives.

    • JayBaer

      @robkeating Right Rob. Many people (rightfully) cite Hubspot as an example of a company that does content marketing well. Their CEO even co-authored the book “Inbound Marketing.” What you’ll notice when you look at their content efforts is that it’s almost never about Hubspot, but about the larger topic of inbound marketing. Yet, their content is set up to drive interest, leads, and sales.

  • willdavis

    Great post Jay – far too many people jump right into creating as much content as they can without thinking about what that content should do. You nailed it in your session at Content Marketing World. And thanks for coming by and commenting on my post that referenced some of these points too:


    • JayBaer

      @willdavis My pleasure Will. I liked your post a lot. Good stuff.

  • NickSweeney

    I’m a bit conflicted, Jay. On the one hand, yes, creating content for content’s sake is a fool’s errand, and your company’s blog should not turn into your diary. But on the other hand, if you “turn content marketing” on its head, doesn’t it just all become sales speak? Blogs should answer the “why” behind what a company does. It should give credence and credibility to the company’s place in the industry and help it establish itself. To simply use it as a sales device I think, is even more of a fool’s errand than writing a blog on how you feel about XYZ.After all, people can spot inauthenticity a mile away. To use your blog as just one more billboard will ultimately turn potential customers away. For sure, content should do something for the business, but doesn’t this fall under the category of “What’s the ROI of your mother”?I think the real issue is that so many CEOs and businessmen DON’T know how to effectively write or express their ideas coherently and feel obligated to keeping a blog. A blog (or Facebook Page, Twitter account, etc.) should have a plan to it and you shouldn’t start one unless you know what you’re going to do with it.

    • JayBaer

      @NickSweeney You raise a good point Nick, but the requirement (and the difficult part) is to fall into the sweet spot in the middle. It’s not “good” content or a sales pitch. In fact, I’m not suggesting that your content be ABOUT your company at all. I’m suggesting that you think about what you want people to actually do once they consume that content.

  • Samir Soriano


    I really like this post. It lets me know that I’m on the right track – content’s only good if it’s actionable. If your content doesn’t provide value to the people reading it, then is generally has no use.

    – Samir

  • EricaAllison

    Really like this post, Jay! It’s a good companion to what I posted today re: using your content to create influence – make folks actually do something. Folks, of course, are your clients or leads, and potential referral opps that need to be asked to do something and given somewhere to “go” or an action to take.

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    Most of the small companies are still blissfully ignorant of content marketing influence on businesses. This should help them know that you can no longer it any more… Online Business Virtual Assistant

  • RobertDempsey

    And hence the needed addition of direct response marketing principles in every blog post Jay. It’s like advertising without a way for the customer to contact you.

    On every blog post a business puts out, at the very least there should be sharing options as well as subscribe options. Even better are banners linking to landing pages for opt-in offers.

    At the end of the day if it doesn’t translate into leads and sales it’s a waste of time and money. The same as any piece of marketing a company creates.

  • RossJones

    What *specific* behavior(s) do you want readers to take post consumption and how does this blog post make that funnel a reality?

  • sparkloft

    @iammeganlowe @socmediarology @jeremyawilliams Thanks for your retweets!

  • RobertCustons

    Great post Jay, I think when creating content for businesses employees/marketers should be considering the effect it will have on the reader. Strange to think that some people think they are writing content simply for the sake of it.

  • epicmc2

    @redrocketmedia thanks for the RT

  • urvin

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post especially points one needs to understand is how you want to turn content consumption into leads, sales, and advocacy, and supporting my thoughts with a good example is

    Would surely like to read more of these.Thanks again.

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