Core Challenge of Content Marketing.
Most blog posts suffer from the same problem: they feel like content marketing. The reader is never allowed to forget that what they’re reading is, first and foremost, a marketing asset.
We came across a great post titled “The Four Forces of Bad Content“, of which the following is just a snapshot.
The core challenge of content marketing is making sales easier without alienating the reader by obviously selling to them. Attempts to reconcile these two goals often lead to helpful articles becoming undermined by product calls-to-action and thinly veiled sales pitches in places where they don’t belong:
There’s the “product shotgun” strategy where CTAs are blasted into every inch of available whitespace: after the fold, before the conclusion, between paragraphs. This is unpleasant but obvious—like a salesman with a foot in the door, it’s easy to recognize their unwelcome effort and say “no.”
There’s the bait-and-switch “I’m 800-words in and forgot to mention the product” approach, where the final paragraph is given over to a grotesque and unsubtle product showcase, souring the reader’s final moments with your article.
There’s the insidious “undercover agent” tactic, where the writer talks about their product in the abstract (like the example sentence above), believing that the reader won’t realize they’re being sold to.
But readers are smart. They don’t like being sold to, and they especially dislike being lied to. But it doesn’t need to be so adversarial.
Write About the Problems Your Product Solves, Not the Product
When an article bludgeons the reader with the features and benefits of a product, it feels like you’re being sold. But when the article helps you solve hard problems in a new way, and the product naturally emerges as the conduit for pursuing that new way, then the idea to try the product is effectively “incepted” into your brain. You want to try the product, and you feel like you arrived at the decision under your own steam.