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You can’t be serious, thinking that a company professionalising in creating content, providing a large database of buyers, lives off likes and virtual fame.

I simply had to put this story down in writing. Once again, I was invited to visit a destination, where, in return for creating several articles, they would provide free accommodation and two sandwiches. All of the expenses connected to text production, proofreading, preparation and distribution would be covered by us, not to mention the travel expenses. To the kind invitation, I replied with a question: “Would you be willing to do your job as a marketing director for three months without any payment?” That’s exactly how much online visibility they expected from our reportage.

On a second occasion, the matter regarded video interview production, which, according to some, is a service that can surely be free of charge, as it is so easy. You just pull out your phone and record. Who cares about script, production, post-production and distribution? When I asked them why I have to pay for every single coffee in their hotel bar, I was left with no answer.

The third anecdote involves a hotelier, who confidently explained that they are so fully booked that they don’t need content marketing. When I told him that in two years, three new hotels will be competing for the same guests, he replied that that doesn’t concern him at the moment. He will surely be thinking about it when the competition is knocking on the door. Too late for thinking at that point.

The fourth and final story sparked from a call by one of my colleagues, who asked whether we could do a campaign on social media. He was certain that he wouldn’t have to pay a dime, as posting on social media is something every 10-year old can do. It was quite hard telling him that social campaigns are a service, not a favour.

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It’s no secret that content marketing is not a free sandpit, as many colleagues still like to imagine it. It never really was. Content production and distribution can be compared to building a house. You certainly wouldn’t ask your neighbour who hasn’t moved a brick in his life to build you a home.

On the surface, everything seems so simple. You open an account on Instagram, publish a few posts and meeting planners will come running with enquiries. The same goes for websites. You build a site full of static content and wait like a spider, for someone to get caught in your web…page. Forget about dynamic content and news, as they are too much work anyway. That reminds me of a fishing boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or a jumbo poster in the Sahara.

When the fun ends, it’s time to face reality. Facebook, Google and Amazon are not charity organisations. That became clear after all the affairs that have shaken the internet in the last couple of years and their organic reach will keep dropping if they continue happening. The business model is simple: keep giving us money and we will keep your followers. Just like feeding the digital beast. When you stop, the likes stop appearing and the vicious circle continues. It’s when AdWords gurus, influencers and social media managers can’t help anymore. Screaming “If you are not on Facebook, you don’t exist” doesn’t really work anymore.

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“Modern marketing shouldn’t be intrusive, it should sell indirectly through good stories”

Smart companies in the meetings industry are aware that the new digital ecosystem is something we have to invest in. We have to invest in our own quality stories and media. Relying on reselling information and freeloading is a dead end, and Facebook proves it.

The key question that I get asked by my colleagues is whether good content truly increases sales. We understand good content as everything that users share. Contagious content, but in a good way. We have to take into account that good content works in the long run. To fully exploit your content marketing capital, you first need to find a good storyteller, start measuring direct effects, connect with different tools, multiply stories and have immense respect for your readers.

I am a firm believer in the efficiency of content marketing, but you have to be aware of some traps and dangers. Everyone is a self-proclaimed master in event organisation and content marketing. Just like everyone is a professional football analyst. Often times, those people have real trouble putting their thoughts into words. The result? Bad content and bad responses. What’s even worse is not reacting to your readers’ responses. Keep the content fresh, original and if you can, provocative. Luckily, in this day and age, everything can be measured, especially when it comes to content marketing.

We all need to learn how to catch fish. But first, we need to learn what bait to put into the water. In other terms, we need to know the needs and expectations of our customers – meeting planners. If we did, we would stop with the usually inefficient “push” marketing, which comes across as very intrusive. Don’t sales calls, telemarketing and aggressive personal sales pitches seem like an invasion into your private space? Rather than “push”, I think “pull” strategies are much more efficient, as the buyer comes to you because of your reputation, word of mouth, or simply because he thinks you put out really interesting stories told in an innovative way.

As I have said many times, marketing in the meetings industry is not a sprint, which brings results overnight. It’s a long and sometimes strenuous marathon. Those who understand that, will succeed. Unfortunately, the market is impatient and expects immediate results. The route you take is your decision.