Businesses everywhere look at ROI. “How many Rupees do I get back for every Rupee spent?”, “How much will I make this quarter”, “Sure, that’s long term – but we don’t really have time for it now – low ROI”. While this is a valid ‘ask’, it does more harm than good for online content marketing efforts of an organisation.

A phenomena we’ve noticed during our interactions with various people in the content marketing industry is the tendency for people to ignore the “Content” and go in for the “Marketing”. It’s actually rather tragic.

The Scenario

A new business is starting out its life on rather hopeful wings, the staff is still coming to terms with everyday routines. At this stage only one thing, it seems, matters. Sales. The employees are motivated and driven intrinsically to achieve their targets. The business model is sound and proven. Customers are happy and referrals are high. Word of mouth marketing is the main source of new business.

Our new wonderbrand has an online following of friends and fans who have used the product and vouch for either the product or the people (and in many cases, both). The numbers aren’t high, but they make sense and give the business an opportunity to ‘mine’ the data and look at the audience.

The organisation at this point looks at ensuring that service levels do not drop and new business is taken care of promptly and efficiently. Business grows organically and so far, everyone is happy.

The company now looks to expand and for this, funding becomes necessary (we are told). A consultant is called in and avenues for finance are discussed. The focus moves towards profitability and ensuring that the VCs see what they need to see – growth potential and increasing visibility.

The agenda on social media becomes ‘visibility’ – are the ads being shown to everyone all the time? Are people constantly bombarded with ad content on different platforms day and night? Will the posts be seen by everyone (including people who’ve liked my page)? Why bother with education?! Just get the brand ‘out there’ and in people’s faces….the list goes on.

Here’s what really happens

Businesses end up throwing money and resources at a problem without really asking themselves if it will yield the desired outcomes.

Businesses tend to lump their content marketing initiatives with the rest of their ‘sales initiatives’ and that is where we believe the problem lies.

Businesses of all sizes and in almost every industry get this wrong. Which really amounts to a horrendous waste of the time and hours of effort invested and then wasted. Content is seen as something that must make people buy. A rupee of time invested in content must result in a hundred Rupees of return or it stands the risk of “not being worth it” or “not driving results”. This becomes the beginning of the end for content marketing as we know it.

And what happens in the previous example? The business inundates customers with so much ‘information’ that prospects end up ‘unliking’ and unsubscribing. Disengagement grows as does a feeling of “If they need to advertise so much, maybe something’s wrong”

How content marketing actually ‘moves the needle’

Backed by our experience, we are of the view that businesses that treat content marketing as a ‘salesperson’ in the short run are doomed to fail. Why?

Because content marketing is not selling just a product. It is about putting forward the best aspects of the brand and it’s USPs – happy customers, great employee experiences, awesome products and other qualities out to a wider, but targeted audience of potential users. In short, content is about building relationships between you and your customers. A sale is temporary, a relationship, not so.

Content is meant to educate the target consumer about a given product or service and then induce enough interest in the mind of the prospect through frequent, relevant and timely interactions to engage with the brand. It’s meant to build a bank account of positive interactions with the brands at various levels. It’s also about bringing the positives of other people’s interactions to the forefront so as to provide a feeling of comfort in the mind of the people who are signing up to receive this content.

It’s not just about ads. It’s also about talking about what makes a business different from the others in the herd that will make people sit up and take notice. Have a great backstory to your brand? Have an awesome set of fans who’d never think twice about calling you in for your services? Have a great product that sells based on performance and not hype? Talk about these aspects consistently. Engage with your audiences. Create content and experiences they can use and not just see on their newsfeed. Great content drives conversations about the brand that lead to increased credibility. Your target audience might not buy from you immediately, but with good content marketing, it’s you they will turn to first when purchase is on their mind.

What do businesses need to do come back to The Light Side : Don’t just do social. Be Social.