Content Marketing’s Leadership Problem and the Need for More “Guts”

by Marcus Sheridan

leadershipFor just over 2 years now, I’ve been on a quest to create stories beyond that of River Pools–one where companies (no matter the size) were able to create exceptional results through inbound and content marketing.

This journey, for me, has been an interesting ride to say it in the least. For some folks, like those at Block Imaging, Yale Appliance, Ongoing Operations, Health Catalyst, and many others–I’ve been able to watch digital magic occur with each new blog post and piece of content.

But for others, I have seen myself struggle to help companies take their digital marketing efforts to the next level, as momentum never seemed to formulate.

What Leadership Looks Like in Content Marketing

As I sit back and compare both groups, there is an obvious trait that I simply can’t ignore–and that’s Leadership. In fact, I’d say leadership is easily the most important requisite I’ve found in terms of a company’s ability to do extraordinary things online.

And when it comes to leadership and content marketing success, the only way I’ve seen companies reach amazing levels is by a “top down” approach. In other words, when a company CEO or management team doesn’t care about content marketing, the results generally fall flat (i.e. They Stink). This is also why there is a literal glut of frustrated marketers around the world, wanting to embrace the right way of  marketing while their boss or CEO can’t see the forest through the trees.

But there is more to it than just “caring about” or “buying in” to content marketing. As a major part of this “leadership” we’re talking about, the person calling the shots needs to have guts. (bravery,audacity, and tenacity)

And when I say guts, I means LOTS of guts.

Why?

Because so many industries are becoming more and more inundated in content (be it text, video, audio etc.) there is one major component that makes a company’s ability to stand out and rise above the noise, and that is their willingness to have an opinion.

Sounds simple? Yes, it certainly does, but a shocking majority of businesses and corporations in this world have been taught NOT to have opinions. Rather, their culture is one of just go with the flow, don’t ruffle any feathers, and stay within the lines.

Depressing, isn’t it?

I submit this mentality will soon lead to a whole lot of nothing with respect to content marketing. No big results. No impact on the bottom line. Nothing.

You may be asking yourself what I  mean by “have an opinion,” so here are a few examples:

  • You’re willing to talk about what’s good AND bad about your industry.
  • You’re willing to address the competition. (see Samsung)
  • You’re willing to call a spade a spade.
  • You’re willing to change your opinion when necessary.
  • You’re willing to take a stand when it’s right.
  • You’re willing to show your secret sauce…even though there really is no such thing.
  • You’re willing to change the way it’s always been done because the way it has always been done makes no sense. (see Carmax)

How many companies can you name that actually exhibit all of these traits? Chances are, you’d be lucky to name 1 or 2.

If a company does have these characteristics, I’m not saying they’re negative, attacking,  or “the blogger that cried wolf.”

Rather, they’re simply willing to address subjects no one else seems to be willing to talk about–all because they have a clear vision and understanding of what consumers truly want.

This is exactly why few companies experience exponential revenue and brand growth due to their content marketing efforts, as they’re too busy living in the world of gray (or fear) to make folks stop in their tracks and say, “Wow, it’s about time someone started talking about this.”

What this all Means

So what does all of this mean? In my mind, the future of this industry looks like this:

90% of companies will continue to “play it safe”– not realizing what they’re actually doing is losing ground and market-share. For many of these organizations, the end result will be someone in management saying, “Yeah, we tried content marketing, but it didn’t work.”

10% of companies will have gutsy leadership (w/ respect to content marketing), separating themselves from the pack–causing the competition to scratch their heads (and possible gnash their teeth) as consumers everywhere give their “trust” to the ones that were willing to make *them* their guiding light.

What say you?

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