First off, I’m a big fan of content marketing. I believe when done well it works for many. Done poorly, it’s a huge waste of time and money. Having said that, I’m not a huge fan of many content marketing agencies. I find many overpromise the effectiveness of content marketing as well as the level of time and money required to implement a successful program. If your company is considering a content marketing strategy you need to first make sure it’s right for you. As Flava Flav said “don’t believe the hype”.

Over the last several years, I have been pitched just about every content marketing platform out there, and I’ve worked on many different content marketing strategies for clients. Over time, I have learned much about the benefits and pitfalls of content marketing. Here are the five content marketing questions you should know the answers to before you pull out your checkbook.

What’s the total cost of a content marketing program?
Let’s get the question of budget out of the way first since budget is one of two things that prevent many content marketing programs from getting off the ground. Content marketing IS expensive. First, there is the cost of the platform. For packages that include the most-needed features, the top platforms charge between $800 and $3,000 per month. Many also have add-on features for additional cost as well as upcharges for more contacts. There’s also usually some sort of onboarding or training that is typically an extra charge.

There is another major cost associated with content marketing and that’s agency fees. Unless you plan to manage your content marketing in-house, you will need to pay someone to create all of your content, build landing pages, track results, build workflows, and report analytics. This gets expensive fast. The more you blog, the more content you put out, the bigger the chance you have to generate leads. But all that content comes at a cost. Make sure you have the budget to create the content you need to make this successful.

Many marketing tools are expensive, so is the expense worth it? It all comes down to ROI and what a sale is worth to you. If you’re in an industry where a single consulting gig can be worth tens of thousands, then spending 15 or 20k a year on a platform plus the cost of developing content, can be worth the investment if it means additional sales you wouldn’t have gotten without content marketing. If you are a smaller business with lower dollar sales, your mileage will vary, so be sure to weigh the costs vs. benefits of content marketing.

How much time does it take?
A lot, at least at first. It takes at least a couple of months to set up the platform. The basic setup is pretty easy; but once that’s done, you need to create templates for emails and landing pages, develop calls to action, create workflows, set up your analytics, connect your CRM if needed, and do all the training. You also have to create a good deal of content—blog posts, infographics, whitepapers, case studies, videos, etc.—these things take time. If you choose to do this in-house, you need time for your people to create this content. If you hire an agency, you will typically generate content faster, but it will cost you.

I find what often works best is to split the difference. No one knows your product or service better than you. Spend time creating the basic content, then give it to your agency so that they can turn it into beautiful content your prospects will want to download. You can also use content development companies like https://contentwriters.com/ who work on a pay-per-post model.

What if we can’t handle all the leads?
If by some miracle you get so many leads you can’t handle it, you should remind yourself that there are much worse problems to have. Luckily (or unluckily) this rarely happens. Will you get leads? Probably. Will there be so many that you can’t handle it? Probably not. If you are talking to a rep from one of the platforms or an agency pitching you on content marketing and they tell you that a content marketing program is going to bring in tons of leads and you barely have to do anything, you should run. Content marketing is just another tactic, that’s all it is. If content marketing was a guarantee of leads, everyone would do it and we would all be rich. Like all other marketing tactics, leads take work.

In reality, content marketing isn’t about pulling in mega leads; it’s about pulling in useful leads that you can walk through your sales funnel to weed out the bad prospects and end up with a handful of qualified leads who are actually interested in spending money on your product or service. This saves your sales team some leg work. Make sure your agency and/or platform provider gives you an honest answer on what to expect from your content marketing.

Content marketing will replace “blank”.
You have to love a marketer’s optimism. Everything new will replace everything old. Everything new and shiny is the best. Everything old sucks. Over the last 20 years, I have been assured that computers will replace paper; they didn’t. The internet will kill TV; it didn’t. Billboards are over; they aren’t. Content marketing will crush everything; it won’t. As I mentioned before, content marketing is a tactic, nothing more, nothing less. It’s not going to replace your sales team, or your website, or anything else. Marketing is a strategy that achieves an objective, everything else is a tactic to help make that strategy work.

Don’t be convinced it’s more than what it is, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Content marketing won’t replace other tactics, but it is a great way to tie them all together. Add a URL or QR code to your print materials to drive users to a landing page where you can capture their information. Offer a whitepaper or other download as the call to action for your YouTube videos or tv commercials. Don’t think of it as a replacement. Instead, figure out ways to combine tactics to make the most out of all of your marketing efforts.

Is Content marketing dead?
It’s not. It’s a little older and wiser, but it’s not dead. Just a few short years ago, content marketing was the new kid on the block. Content was king and the companies who did it well were pulling in tons of leads. Sure, there was a time—as there is with all new tactics—that content marketing was a novelty. Many companies did well with it at first. More companies implemented it and now it doesn’t work as well, how come? It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just harder to stand out. You are competing with massive amounts of content so you need to make sure you stand out. Put out quality content that’s useful to the prospect. Add content regularly and make sure it looks great. People are visual, no one wants to read the ugly whitepaper you made in Word.

Conclusion
Overall, I am still a big fan of content marketing. When done well, it can generate results. Just make sure you know what you are getting into. Make sure your agency and the platform vendor are honest with you. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Marketing takes work, content marketing is no exception. Measure your ROI!

My recommendation
My favorite platform is HubSpot. It isn’t the cheapest (it’s also not the most expensive), but the software is elegant, easy to use (with training), they have great support, and I feel they are honest when it comes to setting expectations. As far as my favorite agency goes, that’s ummmm…oh yeah, Paris Marketing of course.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.