The Painfully Accurate Reality of Content Marketing: It Isn’t Easy!

Date: Posted: November 9, 2016

The world is bursting with voices. Every person has it.

I have it.

You have it.

Brands have it.

Your own business or company has it.

Our unique voice is what separates us from the rest of the world, but it’s also what unites us with them. When you’re a creative, the search for your voice—or your brand’s voice—never truly ends. But it’s not finding it that’s hard (though, in its own right, it really is)… it’s not having it heard that gives you bites of anxiety every now and then.

Go back to the very first sentence: truly, the world is filled to the brim with innumerable voices. Some rise up, some drown, some become too obnoxiously loud, some mute themselves to oblivion and some wait for their time to shine naturally. But the content producer’s worst nightmare–aside from the dreaded creative block–is to be unnoticed.

It’s putting your work out there but never having any eyes to read or watch them. It is days upon days of effort just to produce quality content that never gets acknowledged anyway. It’s time you can no longer get back and still have no one learn from whatever you have just painstakingly made.

As content creators, we crave for that–our big break or our overnight success story. We long for an article or a video or a photograph that will define who we are. Just one piece that will shoot us up to the SERPs and we’ll be fine.

As much as I hate admitting it, I’m one of those people. I still am. Hey, one can hope, right?

I am a writer and I’m one of those who would post an article just minutes before sleep. I’ve got my fingers crossed on it, wishing that this is it… This is the blog that will have people talking. Finally, this is my chance to be up there with the people I admire.

Then as I drift off to sleep, I am still haunted by the numbers I wish to reach.

The very first thing I do in the morning? Rush to my phone, open my blog and hope for a miracle.

But the miracle doesn’t happen.

It’s still the same. Nothing extraordinary. Just a like or three, maybe sixteen if I get lucky. But that’s it. No shares. Maybe a comment or two. That’s it.

The Number Game

Have I painted a familiar picture? Or is it really just me?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I’m sure we all dream of having numbers greater than fifty or a hundred. Because, let’s face it–6, 10, 25… 1? They really aren’t all that encouraging.

At this point, most content marketers get disheartened by the statistics. They either:

  • give it up altogether and convince themselves that they don’t need content marketing;
  • try again with the same or a different strategy; or,
  • they try an alternative—they hack it prematurely (I’ll discuss this further later).

We turn to these because we see low numbers as a sign of failure. But here’s the truth powerfully articulated by Gary Vaynerchuk:

One is greater than zero. Turns out, this truth doesn’t only apply to mathematics; it applies to us content creators as well.

“Because I’m all about depth over width. I want to go deeper with my community. I want to give back to people who support me.”

Just because someone has a thousand readers or viewers doesn’t mean each and every one of those numbers have read or watched the entirety of the article or the video.

Keep this in mind: Never underestimate the value of 1. 1 counts. 1 is still one person. One person who took the time to digest what you’ve made. One person who you’ve successfully sent your message to. Because, in the end, isn’t that what we truly want? Not to be “liked” per se, but to be able to communicate deeper with our current and potential customers?

After all, “You might make a video with 89 views. But one of those viewers could be a producer at CNN. Undervaluing just that one view is a huge mistake.”

The Process Blurred Out by the Outcome

Another point Vaynerchuk hits homerun with is this:

“To me, doing these interviews or guest posts is about the process of the work. Too many people are impatient and not willing to do that work.”

In a fast-paced world that’s hungry for instant gratification, we value the outcome more than the process itself. All because it’s what we can see or touch that we consider valuable.

Zuckerberg. Gates. Musk. Jobs. We are blinded by the sparkle that comes with their names or the nonstop development of their products and services. We regard them as how we regard comic book superheroes—all powerful and otherworldly.

But they’re human and I’m pretty sure they were once in the very situation you are in right now.

The climb, the grind, the process doesn’t stop. Not even for these people.

Remember what Richard Branson said?

“There are no quick wins in business–it takes years to become an overnight success.”

Years.

While it is possible to create mind-blowing content within a few days, the reality of content marketing is that it takes months—or even years—to get to where you want to be.

The Lengthy Journey

The whole content marketing process is a journey. It’s you, the content creator, in front of a long and winding road. As cliché as that metaphor might sound, it’s an accurate depiction of what we have to face every waking moment of our lives.

Now what most people see is only the actual piece that we produce. What is hidden from them is the amount of effort and time we’ve poured into every single part of the content we create.

Think of the extensive research materials writers have to sift through just to make one article comprehensive and thought-provoking. The hours upon hours of shooting and editing one video just to produce something worthwhile. All the eyestrains of making one infographic come to life.

That’s just one. Imagine having to do a bunch of that every single day.

Your clients and prospective customers do not see this. They don’t see the map you’ve prepared for yourself and for them.

They’re blind to the road in front of you that’s going every which way, expanding and expanding as you keep creating and creating. It opens up possibilities of what you could do better. Maybe even what you could produce in the future.

They don’t see the step of bravery you and your company has to take every time you produce something, just this one thing. The risks, the fear, the confusion on what to do and what not to do… This is the reality. This is your journey.

And in journeys such as this, you need limitless supplies of what will keep you going. In the world of content marketing, you need these three:

  • Consistency
  • Patience
  • Perseverance

Believe me. Though there are only three of them, it’s way harder than it looks.

The Case for Consistency

There’s a quote floating around the internet which says “Lack of consistency can bring on a lack of interest.”

Isn’t it true though? These are what inconsistency can bring to your business:

It makes you forgettable

The moment you stop posting is the moment people will start overlooking you. It’s like dealing with friends. There’s a huge chance that you’d forget about them once you don’t talk with them.

The thing about consistency in content marketing is that it reminds people that you exist. Your brand’s website or your blog is like a living, breathing being. Once you stop producing content, you start killing what you already have. And once it’s dead, people will have a hard time trying to remember you.

It annoys people

Think of it this way: there’s a chef who makes the best soup in town. People just can’t get enough of it, especially his customers. Then one day, the quality of his soup starts to dwindle down. And then bam! Out of nowhere, he just vanishes.

Wouldn’t that annoy you the slightest bit? The same goes with content marketing; inconsistency—whether or not you’re focused on quality or quantity—disappoints.

It makes you look unprofessional

A blog that hasn’t had a post in months or a social media profile without any update whatsoever makes you look unreliable. Your potential clients will either think that you don’t care or that you’re too lazy or that your company no longer exists. Once they see this, they’re out of your doorstep before you could even convince them to stay.

It makes you an easy prey

Each and every single one of your competitors are vying for that top spot on the SERPs. Without a consistent content marketing strategy, other businesses will overtake you. Without it, your could-have-been-potential customers will just find another company to do business with.

Uploading content on a regular basis reminds people of your business. It makes them feel as if they can count you… because they can. You just have to show them.

A quote from Joe Pulizzi summarizes it perfectly, “Content marketing is a promise to your customers. If you stop or are too irregular with your content, are you breaking your promise?”

The Case for Patience

Echoing Richard Branson’s wise words, overnight success is a myth. Other than constantly producing content, there’s another thing you have to keep by your side as a content creator: patience.

This is where hacking doesn’t come in. You read that right–doesn’t.

It’s tempting. It really is. It’s the easy way out. Pop an advert here and there and you’re sure to get that traffic you long for… right?

But can you guarantee success on something so instant? Can you really rely on it?

Here’s another truth from the sales lion Marcus Sheridan:

“Creating a culture of content marketing success isn’t easy. It takes time, tools, resources, and major dedication.”

Content marketing is a long term investment. You don’t get results in a snap. So, as much as possible, stop expecting it to do so.

According to Sheridan, it takes at least three to six months till you finally get the leads you’ve been longing for. Then about four to twelve months before you get the sales and revenue you deserve. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible if you are not willing to:

  1. Produce fresh and excellent content for your on-page blog and off-page accounts.
  2. Promptly and regularly respond to your prospects or customers questions.
  3. Get the full participation of the entire company. In content marketing—as in life—no man is an island. You cannot go through with this process alone.

I urge you to read and bookmark this article by Marcus Sheridan as it will accurately show you the stages you will undergo if you choose to pursue content marketing success.

As Yoda would say, “Patience you must have, my young Padawan.” Give it time. The trek upwards is slow and challenging but every step guarantees you the glorious view at the top.

The Case for Perseverance

Perseverance is going beyond consistency and patience. Still remember what Vaynerchuk said?

“When you’re still making the climb, when you haven’t made your name known yet, you need to put in that work.”

Creating a name for yourself isn’t as easy as what self-help articles with clickbait titles make it out to be. There’s no easy way to do it and I promise you, there will be times when the climb will take so much out of you.

This journey will get to a point when it will wear you and your whole team down. You will keep wondering what in the world you’re doing wrong. And there will come a time when you will want to just throw in the towel. You will want to give up.

Just like most content marketers.

The truth is, you’re not alone in this one. According to a study by the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, the top 5 content marketing challenges are as follows:

  • Lack of Time/Bandwidth to Create Content (51%)
  • Producing Enough Content Variety/Volume (50%)
  • Producing Truly Engaging Content (42%)
  • Measuring Content Effectiveness (38%)
  • Developing Consistent Content Strategy (34%)

Content marketing isn’t easy. Mistakes will be made and the numbers on your analytics will keep fluctuating. Those years ahead of you know this to be true. Not all the content they’ve produced have been seen by a million eyes, but they keep doing it anyway. Why? Because it’s all worth it in the end.

After all, high quality content produces more than just links—it develops your brand image and, more importantly, it builds a relationship between you and your customers. What you’ve created will prove useful to you and your business for years to come. Articles, videos, even infographics and other images can be made evergreen.

You can repurpose them year after year after year. What you’ve produced can be as everlasting as you wish them to be.

With those long-term benefits in mind, I ask you this: what have you got to lose?

The Case for Hacking

Content marketing is a lengthy journey that keeps going and going. And you have to go along with it.

There comes a time when you can hack it. But if you don’t have enough reputation yet, you’ll only be wasting your money. See, no matter how many times you put an advertisement on the SERPs, on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site, people will just scroll past you because they don’t even know who you are.

When phenomenal growth happens during your content marketing journey (and it will), that’s the only time when you can play around with the idea of hacking it.

This technique is only taking it to the next level. When you’ve already made a name for yourself, people will gladly click on whatever advertisement you’ve created.

A word of warning though: you can’t keep relying on hacks. Ultimately, it’s your content—and your consistency, patience and perseverance—that will define whether or not a person will do business with you.

Your Journey Doesn’t End

Content marketing doesn’t end with attaining the goals you’ve set out from the moment you’ve created your strategy. There are a million things you will learn along the way.

You might discover that the things that worked out for other people, won’t necessarily work for you. You might find that consistency, patience and perseverance aren’t the only “virtues” you will need by your side. Your brand might even develop a voice much stronger than what it had before.

It doesn’t end, but here’s a tip: just keep going. It’s a journey after all.