There’s something you must understand if you’re going to venture into content marketing. It’s absolutely essential to your success. And I hate to break it to you but…

“If You Build It, They Will Come” only works in the movies, NOT in content marketing. I wholeheartedly agree that great content is much easier to market, it can be nearly effortless — if you’re lucky. And content marketing is important to the success of an inbound marketing strategy – the right content is like a magnet, pulling prospects to you. Even in outbound marketing, a great content strategy gives you some measure of control over what people will find when they research your company.

But saying no to marketing altogether – including social media strategy – is ignorant nonsense. You cannot simply rely on the content part of content marketing and hope for success. It does not work despite what people who claim the opposite say.

If you’re one of those people who believes in this myth, keep in mind that I’m trying to help and suspend your disbelief for just a few minutes. I’ll tell you how you can prove this to yourself in a moment.

For now, let’s talk about why this is such an important thing for business owners and executives to understand.

There are millions of people with beautiful, interesting, hilarious things to share who have failed because of bad marketing.

Your favorite cancelled TV show? Probably failed due to bad marketing, and poor placement in the lineup, which meant that it couldn’t make the network enough cash from ad sales to stay afloat.

Now, if your experiences with marketing have been negative in the past, no one can really blame you for thinking the spam-the-area technique that’s making the rounds on the web again is not for you. This is just a perception issue – that type of marketing hasn’t been effective for at least a decade – and even then? It all depends on your definition of effective.

Effective marketing is when you find people who would be interested in what you have to say/sell/ put ads in, and enrich their lives in return for their attention. That’s pretty much it. The amount of enrichment may vary – you may not be as enriched by deciding to buy one brand of eggs over another as you are about your new car.

And yes, there’s an aggressive faction that loves to sit under the marketing or strategist umbrella, claiming their “spam the world and play the odds” technique works just as well as research, timing and great content.

But they aren’t marketers. Not really. They’re gamblers.

That douchey stuff? Gimmicks, not marketing.

Marketing isn’t when someone tells you to send 1 million spam emails in hopes of getting 1% of people’s attention. And social media strategy isn’t telling someone to beg for likes. Those 2 things are called scams, and are prime examples of why so there are so many rants against amateur “experts”.

A real marketer won’t even take your case unless you have something worth spreading or that can be made into something worthwhile. It’s not because we’re awesome, it’s because we like money. And no one makes any for long off a crap product or useless service.

A true social media strategist always starts with your content. Because they need real people to share it, and real people to respond to that sharing.

Now may be the part where you beg to differ.

“But I don’t market my stuff and I got discovered/ noticed/ traffic.”

At best people who believe that are misinformed. At worst, they’re just plain lying. Next time you encounter one, ask them the following questions. (Or, if you are of this mindset, here’s the chance to prove how much greater you are at marketing than you thought.)

“You mean to tell me you never handed out one business card? Did a single press release? Had one conversation, email or phone call about what you were doing?”

This includes placing great content in an environment where people are already assembled. If you told even one person, you marketed your content, even if that was just by publishing to an established audience.

And I agree of course that your content/ product/ service must have been so exceptional that the few people you told, told more people, who told more people. The better your content, the more effective marketing is, because at some point, the cost to widen your audience goes down. You aren’t paying for word of mouth.

Think how much more attention you’d be getting, or how much sooner you’d have been successful, if you did just a few more totally non-scummy marketing or PR activities.

Because telling even one person is still an act of marketing. When you do this, no matter whether you’re using an emailed reminder to your subscribers or by putting it somewhere where people who may already like it have gathered, that is marketing.

So don’t let anyone fool you. It’s not a case of choosing either great content OR marketing. It’s knowing how to balance them both. There’s no need to overtly ask for a like, or beg like a nut. Realize though, that when you put the Facebook button on a great piece of content, you Are still asking for a like.

You’re just being classy about it. Real marketing is classy & great marketing is so subtle you don’t even know it happened. Look around the area where you’re now seated. If you see things around you that you’ve bought, or influenced someone to buy for you, you’ve been successfully marketed to, some time in the past.

And if you don’t continue marketing your content in even the smallest ways, your competitor can get the customers that should be yours. This is why you MUST resist the myth that great content markets itself – the life of your business depends on it.

Marketing techniques vary according to things like how effective they generally are, cost, how ethical they are – even legality may come into play. Find the right type of marketing for your business, rather than dismissing every marketing method as spam.

At some point, for your idea to take off, for your mobile app to be downloaded, for people to drink your energy drink, buy your timeshares, read your book, eat in your restaurant, visit your website, or become a consulting client, you’ll have to make sure the right people know what you’re selling exists.