I admit it's an odd way to come out of the 2013 gate, but the truth will set you free, right?
Intent to harm doesn't factor into this crime. In fact until now, I wasn't even aware of my wrongdoing.
My admission: I've been talking some of my clients into doing content marketing. I can't stop myself. I believe in content marketing. It works. But to do it well, creatively and (most importantly) effectively, you have to believe in it, too.
It's not a tough sell
Again, I'm a kind of an innocent guilty party. You see, I don't beg my clients to get into content marketing. I don't insist and I don't make them. I suggest it.
Then, typically, I answer questions about what content marketing is and how it works. I cite examples of how some brands are rising above the noise, enjoying the benefits of search success, expanding their community, and making money because of their efforts.
I get the green light, but then we stall and eventually stop. We're forced to admit we wasted time and money.
I wish I had kept my mouth shut.
This is where I beg for leniency
Most of these ill-fated forays into content marketing begin when someone contacts me to create a new website, which is often. I consult with the client and we forge a plan to make a great website. I often refer to my eBook on the subject, "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website," and use it as a guide to the strategies we'll pursue.
Along the way it's nearly impossible to avoid subjects such as blogging, search, social media, and other tricks of the trade. Why? Because the best website in the world won't make a dime unless people come to it and engage with the content.
There I go again. I can't stop spouting the gospel.
There are good reasons to do content marketing, and there are bad reasons. Let's talk about the bad ones:
1. Content marketing is where marketing is at right now.
Most big brands pour on the content with blogs, magazines, apps, videos, eBooks and all kinds of compelling content aimed at being educational and/or entertaining. Done well, the content draws the company and customer closer together emotionally, and loyalty and word of mouth ignite in the process.
Content marketing is on fire.
But don't do content marketing because it's hot. Don't do it because that's where media is going. Don't do it because your competitors, friends, mom or the crowd is doing it.
Content marketing isn't for followers. It's for leaders.
2. You don't have to buy media.
OK, this is also true. Plus, it's incredibly intoxicating to startups, small companies, or any company attempting to rein in spending. Though there are certainly exceptions, most companies are seeing their return on investment in advertising, direct mail, and the gamut of outbound marketing decline.
The sting that comes from burning money—or the job insecurity that comes from flimsy results—tends to grease the skids for going cuckoo for content.
Sure, in content marketing you dial-down or eliminate the traditional media spend. However, you can't escape the need to use media, for lack of a better word. You have to make, be, or earn media.
There's a learning curve, and it's unending. Though you may master the tools in reasonably short order, you'll never be able to stop investing in learning.
Translate: Content marketing requires expertise. Expertise takes time, and time is money. The discipline isn't as free as it may seem.
And what about earned media? It's even more important than owned media. To get people on your website to do business with you, you have to make yourself known elsewhere on the Web—in the news, on other blogs, and throughout social media and social commerce.
There's a secret to all this earned media stuff. Your content has to be great, as in worth publishing, sharing and praising.
Content marketing isn't for media amateurs. It's for professionals.
3. You want to join the conversation.
A brand is essentially the sum of what people say about it. We're connected and social now. We're hypercritical, hyperactive and so hyperonline we're barely offline when we sleep. Scheduling content to publish while we're snoring is easy; there are apps for that.
Once again, this bad reason comes with a major disclaimer, because it's also a good reason. If you're not a part of the conversation, you are going to miss out on some opportunities.
But joining the conversation is a commitment. You can't just talk. You have to listen. It's not enough to be there; you have to have a presence.
Content marketing isn't about adding words. It's about adding value.
Will you take this stuff to heart?
For a few years now, research reveals marketers' two biggest challenges in the content marketing arena are:
1. Lack of budget.
2. Producing enough content.
You could argue these are two versions of the same thing.
But I want to challenge that argument. Don't get me wrong, I'm not attacking the integrity of the research. If the research is flawed, it's because one challenge has been left off the list of choices: belief.
If you think about any of the things you do well, stick to, and get satisfaction and rewards from, you're going to conclude they're the things you truly believe in—the things that have your heart. And where your heart goes, your brain will follow.
You shouldn't go down the content marketing path with doubt, trepidation or hesitation. Go down the path if you believe it's worth the effort, that you will get good at it, and that it will become a part of your corporate culture for the long haul.
Content marketing isn't for you for the reasons you think. It's for you if you believe in it.
Barry Feldman is a freelance copywriter, creative director, content marketing creator, consultant, and owner of Feldman Creative. Follow him on Twitter @FeldmanCreative. A version of this article originally appeared on Convince & Convert.