Wall Street’s got a problem with content marketing. Or maybe a better way to frame this conundrum is that content marketing has a problem in Wall Street. That problem is three months long and repeats itself four times a year, every year.
Wall Street wants results quarterly, preferably in the form of a hockey stick with a sharp tick up. Blips, misses and mishaps are punished severely in the form of a depressed stock price. Nothing puts senior management into a short-term tizzy like a stock plunge.
The investor phone calls start first, then the financial analysts begin to prod, and on a really rare occasion, for those publicly traded companies that mix of the masses of the middle market, a reporter starts sniffing around.
Such events trigger two-pronged strategy, for lack of a better word, in marketing. PR ignores the journalists and hopes they go away, while direct marketing puts on a full court press: the re-marketing budget is suddenly inflated, pop-up ads are reluctant to close with a click, and the email hose is turned on full blast. After all, email still beats Facebook and Twitter in sales.
It’s desperate. The end of the quarter is around the corner.
To be fair, marketing in a publicly traded company is incredibly challenging. Investors are in fact owners and an owner has every right to question priorities, methods and results. Being publicly traded brings an entirely new set of stakeholders to which a company must answer, and opens a company up to a different level of criticism, constructive or otherwise. Still, it comes across to customers and prospective customers as desperate.
A piece on Marketplace titled, In Egypt, political turmoil hits tourism business, describes how some locals are so desperate for business, they actually invite themselves on a taxi with tourists in an effort to force their business on travelers. Such aggressive “marketing” happens often around popular tourist destinations, like the Pyramids of Giza, but has grown so bad during the recent chaos, Marketplace says the State Department issued a warning calling recent methods “closer to criminal conduct.”
Having spent a year in Egypt, I’ve witnessed what western culture would perceive as high pressure sales techniques first hand. When we did have the chance to travel to Giza, we were escorted by the tourism police because clean shaven Americans, even Soldiers, are easy targets. We had some pressure, but the fact our escort was perhaps the largest Middle Eastern man I’ve ever seen — at about 6’6″, easily approaching 300 lbs and visibly carrying an Uzi, kept us filtered from much of it.
Still, it reminded me then, as this story did today, of the second and third order of effects of such aggression. Sure, an aggressive approach might lead to a sale or two in tough times, but in the long term, people stop going. A subsiding tide lowers all boats.
The same is true when companies turn on the high-pressure tactics to meet a quarterly number: they stop reading, they stop engaging and they unsubscribe.
A recent survey by B2B Magazine analyzed by eMarketer found that customer acquisition and nurturing were tied for the top email marketing goals. Nurturing nests nicely with content marketing, because content marketing is a relationship building vehicle. It’s about creating content that educates and helps a consumer which in turn leads them to buy from us, rather than a competitor, but at a time of their choosing.
A plumber that develops videos for how to replace a sink might think he or she is giving away trade secrets that cannibalizes business, but in fact the opposite is true: a potential customer that interested in replacing sink, is more likely to search for that content, find it, view it and then hire that plumber to do the job anyway. This approach — vis-a-vis — blasting the email list with a 20 percent discount if the customer buys right now.
Content marketing is a slow build. It takes time and effort the way it takes a lot of inertia to propel a giant ship forward. The upside is that marketing is also subject to the laws of physics like Newton’s Law: objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
It’s a real challenge to convince Wall Street that a little patience today, will pay dividend tomorrow. The reality is however, the interruption marketing ship sank long ago. Perhaps due diligence one day will include a content marketing audit, and then perhaps Wall Street will “get” content marketing, rather than having a problem with it’s slow build results.
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