Content Marketing vs. Marketing Strategy: Is Content Marketing Enough?

Marketing Communications Mix Tactical Tree

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I came across a great article this week by Samuel Scott: Everything the Tech World Says About Marketing is Wrong. It was originally posted a couple of months back but the points are important and directly relevant to readers here at Gurulocity™. So, I figured I’d share the highlights. The article does a great job of answering questions that any marketer could use a refresher on. Questions like, “What is marketing?” and, “Where does content marketing fit in the marketing mix?” The whole thing kicks off with a bang:

The biggest problem in marketing in the tech world today is that too many marketers do not know the first thing about marketing.

The author laments that many in the marketing tech world (i.e., marketing automation and content marketing) never actually studied or learned real marketing to begin with. Instead, many of them started tinkering around online and off they went. Once they got a little online traffic, they then declared themselves marketing experts.

While I don’t believe that all online marketers are phonies, I do believe that many have a weak link when it comes to marketing strategy. The strategy behind marketing is not taught enough.

I do think I received a good foundation in strategic theory when I got my MBA. But, much of the real learning came from applying those theories in practice. There’s no substitute for real-world experience, and the really good experiences all had one thing in common: a great strategic coach, mentor or advisor that you learn something new from.

Unfortunately, learning in the real world often involves baptism by tactical fire. Many aspiring marketers learn more about reactionary execution than the strategic thinking needed to set good business direction. That’s not to say all marketers are bad. But, I do believe that there is often too much tactical focus before a good marketing strategy is in place.

Off my momentary soapbox and back to the article… The author makes a really interesting point when he starts discussing the definition of content marketing.

Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.

By this definition, content marketing has always been around.

The content has always been the most important part. It’s a pandering beer commercial that is shown on TV during the Super Bowl. It’s a shocking video of a publicity stunt that spreads throughout Facebook. It’s a duckface selfie photo that a narcissistic millennial posts on Instagram. It’s a contributed article to a major news outlet…

It’s through the lens of this definition that content can be rightfully placed back into the traditional marketing mix. Included is a great tree diagram of marketing communications: have not listed “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” or “social media marketing” because those things are not parts of the promotion mix and do not actually exist in the first place. Any example of those three things is simply a function of an existing element of the promotion mix by another name.

In fact, the majority of what people today refer to as “inbound” or “content marketing” is actually a digital subset of “direct marketing.” When framed this way, it opens up the mind to a larger world of possibilities. What can you do to expand your marketing communications? The real point isn’t to stop producing content, but to instead think of it as part of a bigger marketing picture.

One of author’s final points is to simply learn (or at least refresh yourself regarding) traditional marketing strategy. We should all be life-long learners and continue to study our craft. It’s a particularly compelling statement coming from Samuel, who is a digital and online marketing expert.

To become better marketers, those in the tech startup world need to skip the latest redundant blog post on “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” and read a Marketing 101 textbook. (I recommend Principles of Marketing by Philip T. Kotler and Gary Armstrong. Tip: Buy a used edition that is a couple of years old to save a lot of money.)

I encourage everyone to read the entire article at Everything the Tech World Says About Marketing is Wrong. Hopefully you find it helpful and thought-provoking.

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