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By: Hayden Jackson on September 15th, 2015

The One Topic that will Kill Your Content

There’s no shortage of content out there. But not all of it is generating interest, attracting new leads, or shepherding existing leads down the funnel—even if it’s good.

According to a 2015 survey of 5,000+ marketers by the Content Marketing Institute, 86% of B2B marketers are using content marketing. But only 36% say they are using it effectively. And “creating engaging content” is the #1 challenge.

Good topics are as varied as the audiences they engage. The Ultimate Guide to Segmental Rim Sprockets, for example, might put most of us to sleep, but it’s content marketing gold if you’re trying to engage elevator service technicians.

One thing, though, is a constant. No matter who your intended audience is, where they’re from, or what they’re trying to accomplish, there’s one topic they just don’t want to hear about.

That topic is you.

We know; it’s hard to hear. If it makes it any easier, it’s not personal. Every company faces the same reality, and every marketing department faces the same challenge. As the world gets busier and more crowded, and as sneaky marketing pitches infiltrate our inboxes and social networks, we’re increasingly impatient with anyone trying to disguise self-interest as generosity.

Imagine this. You’re at a social gathering, and the conversation turns to time management. Everyone is trading tips for multi-tasking more effectively, and one woman in the group mentions a cool new app that triggers alerts based on location, so you’re reminded to renew your driver’s licence when you’re within a few blocks of the DMV, or to pick up milk when you’re close to a 7-Eleven. Intriguing! But then she starts listing the app’s “best in class” features, describing the buzz it generated at CES this year, and detailing the different payment plans available. Suddenly, what was an interesting conversation turns into an awkward moment.

When we talk about ourselves too much or too early in the content-marketing process, we risk coming across as self-interested, disingenuous, or just plain tone-deaf. In fact, nothing erodes consumer trust as quickly as self-promotion. According to a study by Kentico Software, a web content and customer experience management provider, something as unobtrusive as adding a product pitch to the end of a blog post reduces its credibility by 29 percent. Every time you start talking about you, you’re undermining what could be a great, engaging piece of content.

Remember, competition for attention is fierce, and it takes mere seconds for your audience to make a snap decision about whether to engage or shut down. In that sense, your content strategy has more in common with speed dating than with any ordinary social interaction.

So, how can you eliminate the me-me-me from your content? Here are 5 tips to help you recognize self-promotional missteps and restore credibility.

Audit your entry point.

The top of your funnel is your most vulnerable spot from a content perspective. Prospects who are entering your marketing funnel for the first time have the least amount of tolerance for “me-centric” content. At this point, they don’t trust you; they barely know you. They may not even fully understand your product or service category. So if your content is peppered with “our innovative company this” and “our best-in-class product that,” they will walk away.

Don’t jump the gun.

Content marketing is not a quick fix. It’s about starting a conversation, forging a relationship, and building trust. Make sure your content is aligned with the lead’s state of mind. In the early stages, they want content that helps them identify an issue or an opportunity. In the mid stages, they want to explore and compare a wide range of solutions and learn from experts and peers. It’s only in the final stages of the decision-making process that brochures, data sheets, and demos will be relevant to them.

“What’s this guy talking about?”

By diving into the details before providing any context, you risk confusing your audience.

Don’t bait and switch.

If you dangle The Definitive Guide to Widgets in front of your audience, make sure it’s a piece of content that delivers real value to the widget-buying community. If it’s a thinly disguised and hugely biased sales pitch for your own brand, you’ll lose credibility and leads. And don’t make your audience wade through a morass of self-promotion before rewarding them with the good stuff: too many good webinars are bookended by irritating puffery that undermines the value of the presentation.


“Gee, thanks for the ‘gift’!”

Reward your audience with valuable content. Don’t make them wade through egotistical junk.

Don’t say it. Prove it.

When you DO talk about yourself, make sure it counts. Anyone can appoint themselves an “industry leader” or “world-class provider,” but without cold, hard facts or warm, fuzzy testimonials or solid, reputable, third-party research to substantiate those claims, they sound pretty hollow. Wherever possible, leverage credible proof points and let clients and respected experts speak up for you.

Listen first. Talk later.

If you know more about your company and its products than you do about your audience, you have a problem. To produce meaningful, relevant content, you need to know your audience inside out. Great content starts with listening, which could take the form of market research, persona development, or just reaching out to existing or prospective customers to find out what’s happening in their industry, their business, and their day-to-day work lives.


“What a fascinating guy!”

Nothing is more engaging than a good listener.

You never want to be the loud-mouthed bore at the content party. Be ruthless about editing out the me-talk and have confidence in the effectiveness of a well-paced, thoughtful content strategy built on delivering real value to your leads. Get inside their heads, anticipate their questions and interests, and deliver the information they need when they need it.


A ‘less you, more them’ approach to content is the start of a long and happy relationship.

And if you need help developing more engaging content, talk to DemandLab, the content-strategy experts… No, wait! Scratch that. (See how easy it is to let the sales pitch creep in?)