Why many marketers suck

I was reading an article for the blog post I just wrote about gated content. Within the article I saw a link to another post about what happened when someone followed 150 digital marketers on Twitter.

Oh this is going to be good, I thought. So I clicked.

I had some thoughts going into that post. Knowing the digital marketing space and how agencies run, I knew there would be some accounts that would auto DM or auto Tweet to this person. As a digital marketer, you should know better. But unfortunately this space is filled with people who really shouldn’t be giving marketing advice.

I was not surprised to see that they got tons of tweets and DMs. But of the 150 people they followed, they got 100 tweets and DMs back. That’s really bad.

It makes me think of the shear amount of marketing going on on Instagram.

I run about 10 Instagram accounts for small businesses. I would say 95% of the comments these posts receive are generic things like:

  • Great post
  • Love it
  • Cool photo
  • Love your account
  • Check out my stuff
  • Get 1000 followers blah blah blah

It’s awful. It makes me not want to use Instagram much anymore. I have started ignoring comments because they’re all self-promotional.

It makes me wonder what kind of people are behind these accounts. What marketer has their Twitter account set up to auto DM everyone who follows them? How great of a marketer could that person be?

Why do many marketers suck?

They’re in the business for the wrong reasons.

They say they care about their clients and maybe they’re being honest.

But I think many are in it purely for money. I’m not saying money is bad, it’s a powerful motivating factor to starting a business, or becoming a consultant.

bad marketers

But going into marketing just for the money will not lead to great results for clients.

I consider myself truly passionate about marketing. I love learning new things all the time, digging deep into certain topics, and knowing there is always more I can find out, test, and learn from.

I have worked with marketing agency owners that are in it for the money. They don’t take the time to truly understand certain parts of the business and won’t accept new ideas or ways to do things. They don’t want to take an extra few days to run a test or create buyer personas, they want to get the work done in the fewest hours possible for maximum profit.

It’s a terrible way to do business and I really feel for the clients. They are not getting the work they deserve. But many are coming to an agency because they don’t understand marketing and put their trust in these people. If they really understood marketing, they would run away from these agencies as quickly as possible.

These bad agencies are continuing to get new clients. These are clients that need help and expertise and don’t understand CRO, SEO, or even how to set up Google Analytics. You tell them about email marketing and their mind is blown. These are the people who really need a great agency to guide them and give them great results. Instead many of them get stuck with agencies that care about the bottom line, not results.

It’s a shame to see so many bad marketing agencies and consultants out there. The best thing we can do (as good marketers) is to show our value, explain exactly what we’re doing for a client, create relationships, build trust, and be transparent. Shady agencies will hide their practices and give excuses when results aren’t hit. Good marketers will be upfront, explain challenges with certain strategies, and show the customer that results won’t happen in a week or a month, they take time.

What’s the worst you’ve seen an agency do?

Have any experience with bad marketing agencies or consultants? Did you hire a social media expert who didn’t seem to do much? Let’s hear about it!

Gated Content: What it is and why I hate it

Gated content what it is and why I hate it - Habit Content

I’ve heard about gated content for a while now. It’s one of the newer ways of growing your email list, and you know how much I love ideas that can grow a list.

But with gated or “premium” content, I’m turned off.

Here’s the scenario…

I’m searching around on Inbound.org (one of my favorite communities) and see a new article that catches my eye. I open it and see about 2 paragraphs worth of writing and then I’m hit with a gated content box asking for my email to unlock the rest of the article.

Automatically, I’m annoyed. Yes, I get you want to get my email and you’re making this content for free. But to ask in this way feels dishonest.

I went back to the comments section on Inbound and saw that many other people complained about it too. A moderator said they would be implementing something so that gated content wouldn’t be allowed to be shared on the site. Phew, I’m happy about that.

Why I think it’s a bad tactic

Let’s say the article was “50 copywriting tips to improve your landing page”. I head to the site, start reading a few, and BAM I get a gated content box. Personally, I will exit out, and feel annoyed.

If you had made this same article a lead magnet or a content upgrade in another article, I would’ve been more likely to sign up. Because I know right away that I am trading my email to unlock this content.

With gated content, I am tricked into opening the article, reading, and only being allowed to finish the article if I give my email.

It’d be like giving someone a whole pizza, no strings attached. They take a few bites, and then you pull it away from them telling the person that they have to pay for the pizza now.

I understand the psychology behind it. How people like to finish things they start. It’s a great psychology hack to get people to give their email.

Maybe I’m too much of a skeptical marketer, but I think the practice is dishonest.

People already hate marketers and their never ending need to advertise and create pop ups, we don’t need to give people another reason to hate us.

gated content

Here’s an example of an article with gated content. See the red box I created? The content in there is all you get to read. Everything below that is gated.

gated content

Now I have to give my email to “unlock all exclusive, premium content site wide”.

I thought this article would just be an article, now I have to give my email to even just access articles on the site.

As you can see, I’m not a fan of this.

Let’s test this

I’d be very interested to ask The Muse what their conversions are like on posts with gated content. I’d like to see if they have comparison data from before they implemented gated content and after.

It’d be nice to compare gated content vs. 50% scroll pop ups vs. content upgrades. I also want to see what length of time is spent on the site if the person enters via an article with gated content. Do they leave right away? Do they visit other pages? Do they give their email?

Just because I’m not a fan of this practice doesn’t mean I don’t want to see how well it works. If sites are using it, there must be a good reason.

Personally though, even if it gets tons of conversions, I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable using it.

Why it works

While I don’t like gated content, I can see why it works.

First, you are separating qualified and unqualified leads. If I get to a gated article on 50 copywriting tips and I don’t choose to submit my email to read more, maybe I’m not the right fit for this company. If you do submit your email, it means you really want to learn about those copywriting tips because you either don’t know much about copywriting, need help with it, or a super curious to learn more.

For me, I wouldn’t submit my email because I know I can find more copywriting tips elsewhere. Unless this is someone I admire in the copywriting space like Joanna Wiebe, I wouldn’t give my email to unlock the content.

Second, you are now able to build a deeper relationship and start building trust with this person. Someone who chooses to unlock the content is now likely in your funnel and will receive certain emails from you. If they really value your content, they’re likely to open your emails and learn much more about you and your company than they would have if they hadn’t signed up.

Why it doesn’t work

It won’t work well unless you already have some authority in the space and your content is extremely valuable. Not everyone wants to throw their email around just to get access to your article.

This better be a damn good article, because if it is mediocre or average, you’ve just lost trust with the reader.

Second, gated content is annoying (as I’ve said over and over in the beginning). That’s the first word that comes to mind when I see an article that is gated. Do you really want to annoy and alienate part of your audience?

Third, I read an article on Unbounce called Is Gated Content a Necessary Evil?. It talked to a few marketers about their thoughts on the practice, the good and the bad.

I like what Ian Rhodes said,

“I don’t believe in content gates for one simple reason. If the information you’re putting out is truly worthy of my time, I’ll naturally want to receive more. I’ll be hooked. How will I receive more? That’s my call. Email, RSS, Twitter follow, Linkedin connection. Give me easy access to your information and I’ll be your biggest customer. Your biggest advocate. That should be the real intent of your content.”

Your audience is smart (I hope) and if they really value you as an authority and appreciate your content, they will find a way to sign up. Creating gated content is a sort of trick to get them to sign up when they really didn’t want to.

Someone forced to sign up to finish an article may not be an ideal lead for your business. They may have signed up because they wanted to finish the article, not necessarily because they wanted to receive more information from you.

I’m not sure if you can have gated content emails verified, but when I submitted a false email to unlock a piece of content, it worked. So now you are inviting readers to give fake emails just to get your content, which now means you’re going to get more bounced emails.

Your thoughts?

Having never used gated content first hand, I want to hear what you think of them. Have you used them in your business? How well do they work? Have you gotten negative feedback?

Maybe I’m too skeptical for my own good, but I don’t see the practice living on for too long. I see lead magnets and content upgrades as sticking around much longer, as they provide a more honest way of getting readers to sign up for your content.

I really like this blog from Drift about their CEO wanting to get rid of all forms on the site making all content open, no content upgrades or lead magnets.

Why your content isn’t good

why your content isn't good - Habit Content

There, I said it. Your content probably isn’t good, or even decent enough to take the time to read.

It’s harsh, but it’s often the truth.

Businesses have their marketing team, or even worse, an intern, or worse yet, a marketing agency behind on the times, set up a blog and start writing.

No strategy, no guidelines, just writing about the company and its industry.

Worse yet (and I’ve seen this first hand) is having blogs written solely around the company. Meaning a home care agency has a blog called “5 Reasons to Use a Home Care Agency” and includes tons of self promotion.

Maybe a non-savvy internet user might read this and find it useful. If I were looking for a home care agency, I would definitely not read that article.

I try to write articles that are as unique as possible. It took me a long time since I started working in marketing to realize that not all content is good content.

Not all content is good content!

I had to repeat that for dramatic effect and so you will really remember it.

Just because you set up a blog and start writing doesn’t mean people will read it.

Shocker, I know.

But there are tons of new bloggers and small, medium, and even large businesses that think creating a blog means tons of sales.

There are a few things I want to go over:

  1. Blogging isn’t content marketing
  2. Content marketing doesn’t often result in direct sales
  3. Quality > Quantity


Blogging isn’t content marketing

Content marketing doesn’t mean just setting up a blog and writing posts. It’s about doing marketing for the business that just happens to be done through content. That can mean blogs, but also podcasts, webinars, infographics, videos, and more. If you’re no promoting your stuff, nobody is going to find it. You need to have an audience in mind who wants and needs your content because it fills a gap in that space.

If you’re in marketing stop writing “5 Ways to Increase Twitter Followers”. I bet I can find an article that goes way more in depth, so why would I bother reading yours?


Content Marketing doesn’t often result in direct sales

This is similar to social media. Companies love trying to find the ROI for marketing strategies and apply the same thinking to strategies that are not about direct ROI. Content marketing, like social media, is about relationships and resonating with your audience. You want to build trust, become an authority, provide valuable information to your audience. They probably aren’t going to buy from you after reading just one of your articles, but maybe they will after seeing a webinar, and reading your eBook, and seeing you guest post on another site.


Quality > Quantity

I’m sure I don’t need to repeat this. If you’re in content marketing, you know that quality trumps quantity every time. If you put out boring 300 word articles every day that are just rehashing common topics you’ll get no following. If you instead spent those 30 days creating two 2500 word articles, going in depth into a subject you haven’t seen done before, you’ll likely get at least a few readers. Promote it properly and you can gain new audience members who subscribe to get more.

Get out into your industry. Spend time researching what others are doing and what you can improve upon. See an article about cold emailing?Write one about the 4 awesome cold emails you received and explain exactly why they succeeded.

It’s all about the effort you put in. If you take the easy route (like so many half-baked content marketing strategies out there) you will end up with poor results. The easy route has been done, the easy topics have been written about to death. You have to put a new spin on a topic, go deep, or think of something brand new (or at least hasn’t been written about a whole lot).


Message to Small Businesses

If you are hiring a marketing agency, ask what their content marketing strategy looks like for you. If they are writing based on SEO keywords, take time to look at those keywords because some are strange and will make your article sound like it was written for SEO purposes. An article written around the keyword “HVAC Florida” is going to result in a terrible article.

Make sure they are writing unique, useful articles. There are some agencies out there that outsource this work or have their interns do it because they don’t value it. Content marketing to them is not something they can really sell small businesses on because it doesn’t provide that juicy ROI we love to see.

But if you’re a smart business owner (you’re reading this blog so I know you are), you will have them explain the content marketing strategy they’ve created for you and their promotion efforts. If they just post to social media, that’s no good. They need to be guest blogging, reaching out to sites they mention in the article to have them share it.

They need to be writing long, detailed blogs. Don’t let them charge you for three 300 word articles because it’s likely junk. Make them do a 1000 word article instead. A 300 word articles is easy to write and takes about 20 minutes, and anyone can do it. It takes a good writer and researcher to plan out and create a 1000+ word article that involves images, sources, quotes.

Make them work for the money you’re paying them!

That is all 🙂

PS. My agency rant is because I’ve seen how they work from the inside. It’s not how I want to see content marketing done and I want to make sure small businesses aren’t getting taken advantage of.