Is It All About You? Why Some Content Marketers Fail

November 7, 2012

In today’s online world, B2B content marketing is marketing. It should fuel your marketing engine, and its byproducts should inform and influence your sales, product, and organizational strategies. Which is why I think content marketers are absurdly valuable to B2B companies. Let me rephrase that: Smart, selfless, company and customer-focused content marketers are absurdly valuable to B2B companies. Unfortunately, far too many B2B content marketing operations — and the content marketers that drive them — don’t qualify for that distinction. In fact, some fail to bring significant value to their company at all because B2B content marketing has become more of an exercise in personal brand building for them. They care about building their personal Twitter followings, and base their success on which of their highly regarded content marketing peers retweet them. To be frank, all of that is worthless unless those B2B content marketers spend at least as much time — if not significantly more — representing and building the brands they were hired to support. If they aren’t, they should be fired. That might sound harsh or unfair, but it’s the truth. Content marketers — whether it’s a Chief Content Officer, Director of Content, Managing Editor, or some other role — are only valuable to your organization if they’re investing themselves and their time into developing content that matters to the business and its customers. They should be building Twitter followings that are rich with customers and prospects, not content marketing peers. They should be constantly thinking about producing a new video or eBook that will solve a particular customer segment’s needs or pain points, not writing a blog post about why being named the top content marketing Twitter account of 2012 is such an honor. As OpenView senior advisor and content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi wrote on his blog, the number one contributor to bad B2B content marketing is content marketers making it all about themselves. Quite frankly, that self-absorbed attitude is not only unproductive, it’s also unflattering. Customers don’t care about you, your content marketing prowess, or the fact that your best friends are content marketing all-stars like Pulizzi, Monetate’s Rob Yoegel, or MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley (full disclosure: I have a great deal of respect for all of those people, and Monetate is an OpenView portfolio company). Customers care about their needs, their pains, and how your insight and thought leadership can help them solve those problems. Enough said. It’s really as simple as that. So when you begin to build a content marketing team, make sure you run candidates through a simple questionnaire to uncover their true motivation:

  • How much time do you spend on your personal brand versus your company’s brand?
  • How many blog posts do you publish about yourself and your personal experience, versus what’s really important to your customers?
  • Would you rather have 5,000 Twitter followers with just 10 percent made up of people that really matter to your business, or 1,000 Twitter followers with 90 percent made up of people that really matter to — and care about — your business?

If your candidates’ answers to those questions are anything more than 50 percent personal, then they won’t really add value to your B2B content marketing operation. To the content marketers reading this post, I suggest looking in the mirror. If your daily goal is to create compelling content that is mapped to your customers’ needs, then great. You’re doing your job. If you’re thinking about how you can interact with more content marketers and grow your personal brand, then you need to either find a new job or change the way you think about B2B content marketing. For those of you that are offended by that, I’m completely unapologetic. In the end, every minute you spend attending personal networking events and building your social brand is a minute wasted not developing B2B content that matters to your customers. And with the Content Marketing Institute’s newest industry report suggesting that the biggest issue content marketers will face in 2013 is producing enough good content, your company can’t afford to pay for that kind of inefficiency and self-absorption. So, how are you — or your content marketing team — spending your time? If it’s yakking it up with peers and content marketing colleagues on Twitter and Facebook, you might be in trouble.

SVP Marketing & Sales

<strong>Brian Zimmerman</strong> was a Partner at OpenView from 2006 until 2014. While at OpenView he worked with our portfolio executive teams to deliver the highest impact value-add consulting services, primarily focused on go-to-market strategies. Brian is currently the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at <a href="">5Nine Software</a>.