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The 5 Stages of Content Marketing Grief

The Kübler-Ross Model of Content Marketing

The recent commentary on content marketing by Gartner Research may have given B2B tech marketers motivation to reconsider the concept.

Why? Every B2B tech marketer is familiar with the analyst firm because of the implication the four corners of one certain magical graphical quad chart can have on a short list of vendors. And the tech analyst firm called content marketing the future of marketing.

From my vantage point, having championed content marketing at several different businesses over the last decade – the future has been here for a while.  Some marketers have just been slower than others to recognize the change.

Content marketing is in many ways – if I can mix social science metaphors – the self-actualization of what Doc Searls & Co. articulated a long time ago in The Cluetrain Manifesto: all markets are conversations.

This marketing philosophy fits beautifully with the B2B technology lifecycle – a long sales process with multiple reviewing departments, let alone decision makers.  Content marketing values:

  • utility over hype
  • relationships over transactions
  • third party validation over self-aggrandizement
  • a broad view that considers stakeholders beyond the next lead or sale

These are the building blocks of a business that treat markets as a conversation.  Conversations build awareness, likability, and trust and people want to do business with brands they know, like and trust.

The 5 Stages of Grief in Content Marketing

For those marketers that have been paying attention, content marketing has increasingly played a central to the modern marketing mix.   More importantly, it’s not an either-or paradigm – rather it’s a driving philosophy that permeates the way a business approaches marketing.

Still, the gap between those who are doing it and those who aren’t is widening. If I were to graphically depict this on a content marketing maturity model, it would loosely parallel the Kübler-Ross model – the five stages of content marketing grief.

Stage 1: Denial

Those B2B marketers still wondering what the fuss over content marketing is all about. Marketing has always created content.

Stage 2:  Anger

Those B2B marketers that don’t want to do content marketing.  They are already busy. Developing content consistently and on deadline is either hard or expensive.  It’s almost impossible to build an audience absent good digital marketing skills.


See these related posts:
Why Content Marketing and Public Relations Need Each Other
How Long Should a Blog Post Be? [A Data-Driven Answer for B2B]
B2B Blog Metrics: 4 Effective Categories to Measure Success


Stage 3: Bargaining

Those B2B marketers that think they are doing content marketing because they publish white papers and send them out as sponsored content in an IDG newsletter (and then have an inside sales person endlessly “follow up” with the unsuspecting “lead” that was foolish enough to give up their contact information).  This isn’t necessarily a bad tactical program for a business, but it is not content marketing.

Stage 4:  Depression

Those B2B marketers that do content marketing, know what needs to be done, but organizational limitations, culture and risk aversion, prevent them from doing work that might prove exceptional.  It might be safer to maintain the status quo anyway.

Stage 5:  Acceptance

Those B2B marketers that do content marketing effectively.  Their organizations have a culture of content, a natural inclination for marketing integration, marketing automating and analytics implemented, and maintain a healthy respect for both the art and science of marketing.

* * *

B2B marketing has clearly changed — and it’s changing because businesses expect more out of their marketing teams while the target market grows increasingly sophisticated.  Customers and prospects have heard that line before; got that stat already from the competition; saw that marketing stunt performed previously; and can’t distinguish the difference between the features and benefits because most vendor pitches sound similar.

The way to cut through the clutter is to do what the competition isn’t: have real conversations that favor help over hype and drive engagements, that builds trust and foster loyal customers.


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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
PR is the Best Kept Secret in Effective Content Marketing

Photo credit: Instagram.com/frankstrong

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