Content Marketing and the Death of the Campaign

September 22, 2010

Last month, I took to my personal blog to write out some thoughts I had about defining inbound and outbound content strategies; my conclusion in that post was that ownership of the content, real or perceived, was the defining factor. I stand by that determination, though—like any self-conscious writer—I'm again wondering if I used the right terminology.

Still, I failed to make an important distinction between comprehensive content strategies and campaign-based content strategies (or content marketing, as the two are used interchangeably). The former represents a holistic view of one's content production and promotion; the latter is term-limited, either by time, topic, deliverable, or other factors.

The problem is that the web doesn't have a shelf life, and any limits you place around campaigns are relatively artificial. Campaign-based content marketing efforts must work as part of a bigger whole to attract and nurture qualified leads. In other words, the traditional marketing campaign is dead.

Content marketing is a process

When content strategists warn about backsliding into campaign mode, what they're really talking about is putting hard boundaries around a particular tactic or effort and taking it out of context. Engagement marketing isn't about a quick sell, so you've got to ensure your campaign is flexible and has legs.

You also must put effort into ensuring your campaign comports with your other efforts, from other campaigns to individual tools like your website. That doesn't mean the logo needs to stay the same—it's the messages that need to be consistent, and they must change over time to remain relevant.

Lead nurturing is about an experience, not an email

If you have a product or service that has a long sales cycle, you understand the importance of nurturing your leads. A purely campaign-based content marketing effort will take that into account, but you can't control where your leads are at all times; your content doesn't exist within a bubble, especially if it's branded, and it's likely your leads will check you out in detail.

What kind of content will they find? Mixed or incompatible messages will send your prospects packing, so they should find content that continues the brand experience and reinforces what they've learned through everything else you've provided.

Good content marketing builds trust after the campaign

This is a point rarely made in our field, but it should be emphasized. A content strategy is about delivering something your prospects need, when they need it, without strings. That doesn't end once your leads have become paying customers—unless you simply don't care about repeat business and referrals. A campaign may come to a close according to one measure or another, but that doesn't mean you stop engaging people, especially if you've put the effort into identifying profitable customers.

In the end, any campaign you create is just part of a larger, ongoing content marketing machine, and it should be treated as such. RIP, old friend.