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Maybe We Shouldn't Talk About Content Marketing

As much as I've loved them, the words "content marketing" are starting to bug me.
I've been going on for years about how techniques from the discipline of "content marketing" can drive direct response results - in this blog, and to anyone who would listen.  I certainly didn't invent the concept of content marketing.  I just took a swing at applying these concepts to direct response fundraising for nonprofits.  
I'm not about to tell you that content marketing is dead. 
But I will tell you, simply cranking out content is useless.  
I want us all to start thinking about value. 
Think about this for a minute. 
What VALUE does your organization offer the people who support it?
Maybe your organization does work to make the air cleaner or defend immigrants' rights or help victims of sex trafficking. But, what value are you delivering to the people that you want to make donations or take actions? There's usually a massive divide between the people who give you money and the people/animals/bees that benefit from your organization's work. 
What problem are we addressing by offering someone the opportunity to make a donation? 
At best, we're offering them the opportunity to outsource the positive impact that can't make themselves. No matter how much I want, I can't possibly go on a safari to rescue lions. But, I can have someone like World Wildlife Fund send their team to Africa to save the lions.
At worst, we're selling them a shame safety valve. I know your organization doesn't do this, but plenty of organizations hit me with "content" in the form of postal mail, email, and Facebook ads featuring big-eyed-sort-of-sad-yet-sort-of-hopeful children asking for a donation.
Both of those offers are worthy investments, for sure. But, neither of those "offers" are nearly as valuable to me as the stuff I deal with every day. Taking care of my family, enjoying the great outdoors, and discovering music are (for better or worse) the things I think about every day (sorry, lions).
I only make donations four or five times per year, but I have to solve life problems all the time.  I need to figure out fun stuff to do with my kid every day. I need to figure out how to budget for groceries every week. I try to grow my own vegetables in the backyard all summer long. Our new puppy keeps peeing on the nice rug.  
If a nonprofit could help me solve these problems (especially the puppy one) I'd be way more inclined to give to them those four or five times a year. 
Here are some crazy (good) ideas...at no charge :)
  • Share Our Strength! Why not send me some easy recipes and a shopping list for affordable healthy school lunches? You guys are great at doing that for struggling folks.

  • Natural Resource Defense Council! Why not send me plans to build a compost bin for my tiny kitchen? Bonus points, if you can make it a fun and safe activity for me and my kid to do on Saturday.

  • ASPCA! Send me a guide entitled "Bringing Home Puppy" based on best practices with a printable chart that helps me schedule and train my dog to go pee outside?
See, it's not that hard. I'm getting excited just thinking about these ideas. Each one delivers real, tangible value to supporters (and potential supporters) in their daily lives! Arguably, none of them are off brand or off mission for these organizations.
So, please, join me in thinking less about content and more about MORE ABOUT VALUE as you craft your next set of blog posts, mail pieces, emails, Facebook posts, and ads!
Have an opinion on this?  Join the conversation below.


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