We’ve all heard it before: Self-promotion is not what content marketing is all about. Each piece of content you create isn’t meant to be an undercover sales pitch, and your products and services aren’t the center of your content universe.
Still, I can understand how plenty of executives, thought leaders, and content creators get hung up on it. If one of the main points of content marketing is to ultimately drive your audience to profitable action, then why pass up the opportunity to be promotional in your content?
What I believe happened here is that content marketing as a practice took off rapidly — much faster than many people expected. That takeoff left a lot of room for assumptions about the purpose of content marketing and what kinds of results and ROI are realistic.
And you probably know what assuming does.
The purpose of content isn’t to trick your audience into reading all about why your company is the best around, and you can’t really expect to increase sales overnight with one article. Content is a long game, and the winners know that self-promotion is the fastest way to sabotage your efforts.
If you really want to see success with content marketing but are still trying to self-promote, then you’re going to have to make some changes. I know; change is uncomfortable. But it’s not impossible. Here are three simple steps to help you get started:
1. Slow down.
As hard as it might seem, you need to pump the brakes a little and stop expecting immediate results from content. It’s this kind of mentality that drives thought leaders to promote their businesses: Results happen quickly, and if I don’t mention my company, products, and prices, they’ll never buy from me.
I find it helps to think of it like you’d think of any relationship. It all starts with a meeting, a first impression. As you spend more time together and get to know each other better, your bond deepens, and trust is strengthened.
This is how content works. Through content, you’re trying to reach, engage, and build a solid relationship with your audience. That doesn’t happen right away, and it probably won’t ever happen if your audience feels like you’re only in it for yourself.
Don’t worry. Slowing down doesn’t mean settling for bad results; it means adjusting your expectations. Try changing how you measure your content marketing results, and consider both the quantitative and qualitative ROI of content.
2. Think about the type of content you enjoy.
What sort of content do you find yourself reading (and enjoying) most often? Is it industry-related content that covers trends, updates, tips, and insights from thought leaders you trust?
Or do you gravitate toward content that is sprinkled with product promotion and presents solutions to your problems that sound oddly like sales pitches?
I’m guessing you (like most people) probably prefer the former. So what makes you think others will want to read something of yours that feels pushy rather than helpful? No one enjoys content like that.
Don’t try to squeeze one or two more mentions of your company into an article where they don’t help or make sense, and don’t even think about offering content to your audience that you wouldn’t want to read yourself. Not only will your audience members turn away from that content, but you’ll also lose their trust in the process.
3. Educate yourself.
This is a big one, but it might be the best way to improve your chances of meeting your content goals and expectations.
Read articles, explore ways to create better content, test your content distribution methods, improve how you track your content marketing ROI, and bring it all to the table at your marketing meetings to discuss what you’ve learned and how you’ll improve.
Take it upon yourself to learn what content marketing is about — if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that this industry won’t wait for you to catch up. And if you’re putting off that education, you can bet that your competitors are either teaming up with content agencies or creating their own in-house content teams. If you’re not sure where to find the educational resources you need, you can always check out our resource library.
Changing your views on promotional content isn’t easy, but it is possible (and necessary if you’re looking to find success in content). Remember the purpose of content marketing, and keep these steps in mind as you continue to create content that aligns with that purpose.