Content marketing, Freelance life

The uncomfortable truth about content marketing that content marketing experts will never tell you

Mousetrap with cheese incentiveHey! Have you heard the news?

Every form of marketing before content marketing is dead. Old fashioned. Out of date. Not tuned in to the zeitgeist.

Great! You can’t stand still. So let’s plough ahead with our own content marketing.

Yes, let’s. Only let’s make sure we remember to focus on the ‘marketing’ at least as much as the ‘content’.

Who stole my cheese?

It’s been said, by people with an ever-so-slight interest, that advertising/marketing pre-CM was like a mousetrap with a photo of the cheese.

The poor punter was ‘tricked’ into reading and possibly buying.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is a mousetrap with real cheese. The mouse is so grateful for a square meal that he or she willingly gets trapped.

Here’s the thing.

Most content marketing is actually a huge pile of cheese with no mousetrap at all.

How I did it

I have been running a largely content-marketing-based business strategy since my copywriting agency Sunfish opened its doors for business in 1996.

My original marketing strategy read, in its entirety, “Books. Articles. Speeches. Training.”

The problem is, by providing tons of valuable content for nothing, you are educating the very people you want as customers that what you provide is free. Always.

The still widespread perception of the Internet as a free space isn’t helping.

As an example, on this site, we offer about two books’ worth of free information on every aspect of copywriting and making a living as a freelance copywriter

Yet when we run AdWords campaigns, the conversion rates – from people entering ‘free copywriting tips’ and the like – is dreadful.

We concluded that what people want is free stuff NOW. And by free, I mean free, instantaneously. Not in exchange for an email address and a 30-second wait.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in content marketing. We continue to pursue it for the Academy, which is extremely profitable. We also have an app – CopyWriter – that feeds into the strategy.

Here’s my point.

Well, two points actually.

Don’t tell physicists that gravity pulls things downwards

First of all, if you are going to follow a content marketing-driven strategy (and let’s remember, there are other games in town) you need content. Duh! But it has to be good. It has to be original. It has to make people believe in you.

In my own field, copywriting, I see a lot of this type of thing:

Your web page needs a headline.

Copy needs to be relevant to your reader.

You don’t need lots of exclamation marks.

Now, to be honest, this is all true. It’s just not very helpful. In fact it makes you look like a rube for even writing it down.

Show me the money

Second, and far more important, before you worry about creating content, get your marketing sorted out. Without that element of your strategy, what you have is a pile of cheese with no trap.

How are you going to capture your visitors’ contact details? What are you going to do with them? What are you going to say to them?

And, the literal $64,000 question, how are you going to persuade them to stop expecting stuff for nothing and get their wallets out?

Weirdly, at this point, all the content marketing gurus go silent. Because they would have to tell you that what you need is a mousetrap with a photo of a piece of cheese in it.

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