Why It’s Time for the Content Marketing Haters to Move On in 2013

by Marcus Sheridan

hatersThere has been one constant to growth and evolution since the beginning of time:

Leaders of the previous generation are the slowest adopters of the next one.

Kmart did it. Henry Ford did it. Blockbuster did it. Kodak did it. Sears did it.

The list goes on and on.

The same holds true for those that now speak of “content marketing” as if it’s simply a buzzword and silly annoyance that will surely be washed away with the next high tide of marketing-speak.

Just look at the recent article in Forbes.com entitled Why I hate ‘Content Marketing’ and Blogger Outreach. In all frankness, I can’t believe this article made it past the editor’s desk, as the author understood what content marketing was about as well as I understand the rules of cricket—but truth be told the author had a journalism background and has allowed gross bias to fog his acceptance of an important and influential phrase that’s here to stay. In other words, if he doesn’t want to use the phrase, then fine, but why the attack? Heck, why the attack on any phrase being used in marketing realms, be it “inbound” or “digital” or “content” or any other metaphor we could surely come up with?

But this isn’t particular to the marketing and writing industry, it happens everywhere. To give you an example, 5 years ago swimming pool companies used to tease and talk-down fiberglass pools because they were still relatively new to the US market. Today, those same companies are eating their own words and selling fiberglass pools just as hard as they can. And why are they doing this? Because the public is informed and they now demand it.

Mark my words, the same people that want to poo-poo “content marketing” today will be using it in their occupational description tomorrow, as the momentum is now too great and the phrase will soon reach critical mass, infiltrating the vernacular of two main areas that tip everything when it comes to global business trends—colleges and small businesses—which will take it to the main stream just as “social media” became mainstream a few years back, at least in the vernacular sense of the word.

That’s why I think it’s time we stopped with this silly and petty debate. Instead of complaining about the phrase(s) used by the various groups, let’s focus on helping businesses learn how to use digital content to teach, inform, communicate, and garner consumer trust. If someone wants to call it “content,” then great. If they choose “inbound,” then good for them. Again, it’s not the actual word that matters, it’s whether or not the masses understand it.

After all, it ain’t about us “experts” and what we feel is kosher or acceptable phraseology. It’s about the consumer. And because they’ve spoken loudly in 2012 and will only increase their volume in 2013, it’s now time to move to the next phase of marketing’s evolution.

Agree? Disagree? Go ahead, speak your mind. :-)

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Hanley December 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

Marcus,

I’ve been using the terminology “Inbound Marketing” instead of straight content marketing recently because I’ve seen lower barrier to acceptance from “haterz.”

Using Inbound Marketing to include content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, traditional marketing (or Unconnected Marketing) seems to make more sense to a generation of Interrupter…

To a certain extent we may be talking semantics but would love your thoughts.

Merry Christmas bro.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan December 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

If I had to give an ideal definition or distinction between the two Ryan, it would be along those same lines. I essentially view them as one in the same, but ideally inbound is the combination of social and content marketing, IMO.

This article wasn’t really meant to be about which word is the best though, but rather more to the point that it’s silly to attack any of these phrases. Some folks attack inbound. Some attack content. I think both words are awesome and good for anyone that is trying to master them in business.

Thanks again brother.

Marcus

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Marshall Ponzi December 20, 2012 at 10:29 am

Well said, Marcus. The content marketing train has definitely left the station.

But to make small biz content marketing mainstream, we need to help them make sense of it all. Every day, I meet biz owners who could gain big benefits from content marketing, but they can’t even fathom why it’s a good thing because they’re still overwhelmed with it’s all about.

The Forbes article you mentioned is a good example of the fog. The author, Shel Israel, confuses content marketing with social media. I hear that kind of thing all the time. There are so many online communication options and often the lines between them are pretty blurry. Social media, SEO and marketing experts take pleasure in making it all sound complex and mysterious.

At the end of the day many people just need to know where to start.

The time for debating terms IS over, but it won’t end until businesses’ actions speak louder than words. IMHO, one of the best ways to help small businesses with content marketing is to help them understand the basics and teach them how the pieces fit together. In other words, cut thru the confusion and just help them connect w/ their customers!

Great article. Thanks.

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Marcus Sheridan December 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Marshall, I honestly don’t think you and I could be more on the same page w this. My thouhts are constantly drawn to the word “simplify” when I teach, write, and discuss this stuff. After all, what we’re really talking about here is the principle of great communication and teaching within the business setting.

Thanks for dropping in bud.

Marcus

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Eric Pratum December 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

Potato, potahto. Shel Israel knows his stuff, so do you. You’re just disagreeing on terminology.

No matter what terms we marketers use, our customers couldn’t care less. They don’t look at a blog post and think, “This is content marketing.” They think, “This answered (or didn’t) my question.” They couldn’t care less whether we call it Inbound Marketing or Content Marketing or Organic Marketing or Monkey Marketing as long as it does what it’s intended to, and we shouldn’t either. It’s just a distraction from getting work done.

Think of it like this. Your sink is clogged, so you call a plumber and explain the issue, “I think there’s a clog down in there, but I don’t have one of those long metal things that reach down the pipe and pull clogs out.”

Plumber – “You mean a snake?”

You – “Yeah, whatever it’s called. Can you come fix this?”

Plumber – “A snake. It’s called a snake.”

How does the plumber help you by telling you it’s called a snake? You don’t care what it’s called. You care about results.

Same thing here. If we focus less on terminology and more on being effective, we can avoid distractions and get our jobs done better and faster.

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Marcus Sheridan December 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

That’s the thing Eric. I honestly don’t care what people call ” it”… I just think its silly to bash a group for using the phrase ” inbound” or “content” or “digital” or “take your pick” …I’ve always been perplexed w the amount of odd ire their is directed towards a simple phrase just because some in the industry didn’t use it.

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Eric Pratum December 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Kind of like Mark tweeting about SEO today ;) https://twitter.com/markwschaefer/status/281784957561614338

Don’t get me wrong… I respect him immensely. I just saw a few parallels there.

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Jordan J. Caron December 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Eric,

You’re bang on here. The person looking at that piece of content don’t care what it is as long as it presents some value to them.

I use to teach golf and too often other Pro’s would be all hung up on terminology. In the end they would totally confuse their students because they had no idea what they were talking about. At the end of the day the golfers just wanted to shot lower scores, not be be educated on the industry slang.

Put yourself if your potential customers shoes and think what would information would be useful for them. Give them a reason to stay on your website and build a connection by solving their problems.

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Donna December 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

Well said Marcus. And Eric. I agree…what we call our content is less important than how we help people with it. You helped people with your blog about swimming pools. I still have not yet built or bought a pool in our beautiful home here on the Sunshine Coast, Australia (partly because of our sloping block by the forest, so yes, fibreglass would be an option if we choose to put one in here – and partly because we are fortunate to live near the beach). I digress. BUT… mark my words when I do, I will be referring to your blog for advice! Just like I refer to it with clients re why they should have a blog when they resist so strongly. Have a wonderful Christmas break.

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Marcus Sheridan December 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hahahaha, love it Donna. And it’s too bad the fiberglass pool market isn’t a whopping 60% like it is in Australia!!!!

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Donna December 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm

ha ha yes, we do have some obscure shapes and places to fit pools and above ground have become hugely popular with cool decking – much cheaper too ….now back to content marketing – great discussion Marcus. Some really good comments in here. Love how you are always thinking…. Have a wonderful christmas with you and your family. PS Can’t wait to meet Rebecca at SMMW – a few of us pool-lovin’ Aussies are heading over to play in San Diego, so I will look forward to meeting you in person too!

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Darnell Jackson December 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

…the movie industry calls it product placement but its still content marketing.

I think you make a good point Marcus.

Once the colleges start offering degrees in it and companies start creating jobs called it, THEN people will understand.

Until that day we get to do what dollar general is to Wal-Mart.

That is work our plan while THEY over look us.
By the time they notice, it’ll be too late to stop us.

Happy Holidays.

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Marcus Sheridan December 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Well said Darnell, and thanks for dropping by!

Marcus

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Jon Loomer December 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm

So passionate, Marcus! I don’t really care what we label it. You call it “Content Marketing.” I call it “Get Crap Done.” I have a feeling your phrase has a better chance of sticking though!

Content marketing, inbound marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing… it all makes my head spin. It’s using the online assets at your disposal to get desired results. Just get crap done, man.

GCD? Anyone? No? Alright, never mind…

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Marcus Sheridan December 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm

That’s exactly my point here Jon. I’m not married to the phrase content, inbound, digital, etc. For me, it’s more a matter of everyone realizing that this is a rapidly evolving age, with lots of changes, and new words, on the horizon. Instaed of bashing them as they pop up, let’s embrace the principle behind each.

Thanks for dropping in bud :-)

Marcus

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Craig McBreen December 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Hey Marcus,

Like Marshall, I do think many business owners confuse content marketing with social media. In fact, it’s still a foggy world to most of my clients and they are indeed overwhelmed! Most don’t know where to even start, but I’m learning from fine folks like you so I can consult with them on the best way forward.

About the terminology though: This is all a battle of semantics really. The de-facto term is “content marketing” and it is here to stay. People also get hung up on “personal branding” but that’s not going away anytime soon either.

I’m just wondering why the heck people are so focused on the terminology anyway. To me, the term makes it easier to explain the process to the client and I like to whittle things down and create effective strategies that work. You know, getting things done ;)

So I don’t care what it’s called, but it is becoming a necessary ingredient in most of my client’s rebranding efforts. I’m working on two very large projects right now, one B2B the other B2C where content marketing is becoming a big part of the plan.

All fun for me as I get to go beyond traditional design and branding.

Hey, I love the term and these are exciting times, my friend! :)

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Louie December 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm

CM is O-Tay with me!

Love, Buckwheat

MERRY CHRISTMAS brother M.

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Alex M December 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Totally agree, as Louie said, “CM is O-Tay with me!” haha :P

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Wade@Make Money Blogging December 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I can’t believe that post actually got through the editors desk either! Why do people hate change? The internet IS change! Heck 10 years ago was a whole lot different than today, and 10 years from now, providing God don’t come back, it’s gonna be so much different than what it is now.

If you have an online business, then in some way, you are going to have to learn how to adapt to change at some point or another or be left behind!

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Chris Badgett December 22, 2012 at 5:20 am

Content marketing is not going anywhere. And you’re absolutely right that the old guard of successful people have a tendency to be late majority on emerging marketing trends.

This is because of something called “Survivor Bias” where someone attributes their business success (or survival) to their marketing acumen, when in fact their survival was likely due predominately to a random string of unrelated events mixed with some skill. This is why they look surprised when they fail.

There are the makers and the takers. Content marketers are makers. If you want to tip the odds in your favor, make something.

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Love that phrase Chris— survivor bias— that certainly fits the bill :-)

Keep “making” it in 2013 my friend!

Marcus

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Ileane December 22, 2012 at 7:36 am

Hi Marcus, there are two news websites that I avoid like the plague and #1 on the list is Forbes. You see I happen to “hate” pop-ups.
Don’t get me wrong I know that they are effective and when I come to a blog like this one I understand that you are building your list and I’m even considering putting one up temporarily on my blog.
But against my better judgement I visited the Forbes link because I was intrigued after reading the comments here and listening to what you had to say in your the post.
I counted at least THREE pop-ups!
Come on Forbes – give me a break, am I really supposed to wade through all of that to read a post I knew I wasn’t going to get much out of in the first place?
What was said about “blogger outreach” is what really struck a nerve with me! I’m proud to be a blogger and take this line at the end of the piece personally
“We are journalists and should be treated as such. No more or no less.”
Sorry, but in my world “journalists” and “bloggers” are on the same level. You have some good ones and some bad ones in both groups – just like some of us are “snobs” and others “keep it real”.
I try to keep it real and any site that shows me THREE pop-ups before I get a chance to read the content is off my reading list and I don’t care what the URL is. So maybe that’s just the content marketing “snob” in me rearing it’s ugly head.

Thanks for always keeping it real Marcus.

Have a wonderful holiday!

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Love, love, love that passion Ileane!!! I just wish I could bottle it up and give it to those poo-poorest out there!! ;-)

Hope your christmas is a wonderful one :-)

Marcus

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Heather Stone December 23, 2012 at 4:54 am

Hi Marcus,
Yep, unless there is a change in customer behavior mighty soon, content marketing is here to stay. This isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a simple explanation of the way stuff increasingly gets found on the Net. Thanks to Ileane for sharing the post with the BizSugar community and thank you for this thoughtful post!

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Marcus Sheridan December 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Hi Heather!! So glad you stopped by and I love how you explained it— a simple explanation of the way stuff gets found on the web. Yep, that’s it:-)

May your Christ,as be a wonderful one Heather!!

Marcus

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Martin Lindeskog December 27, 2012 at 4:31 am

Marcus Sheridan: I found your blog post via BizSugar, so you have been able to market your content! ;)

I do think Shel Israel knows what he is talking about. From WikiPedia:

“Shel Israel (born August, 1944) is a writer and speaker on social media issues. He co-authored with Robert Scoble the book Naked Conversations, How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers (John Wiley & Son 2006).
He has completed a second book called Twitterville on business uses for Twitter, published in September 2009. He has contributed editorially to BusinessWeek, Dow Jones Co, and FastCompany.TV.”

I left the following comment on Forbes:

Shel: You are such “nice guy,” so I don’t understand the use of the word “hate” in your title. ;)

I will not call myself a regular mainstream journalist anytime soon. Please feel free to label me a “citizen journalist.” I think that Forbes magazine is an esteemed publication and I have belonged to the Forbes blog network.

I wonder if the editor missed the word “not” in the following sentence:

“Now with Techcrunch, Huffington Post and the hordes of us here at Forbes, there really is much difference between those of us who post on the internet and those who originally published on paper.”

I use the word “conversational marketing” in order to describe social media. So, keep the conversation going! I hope I have added at least $0.02 to this thread! ;)

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Marcus Sheridan December 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

You certainly have Martin, and I very much appreciate you stopping by! :-)

Marcus

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Nick Simard December 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

As long as Google Algorithm continue to love content the content marketing will be at sky high. Or simply content will remain KING.

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