In a recent article (below) Bill Schick of Mesh posits that content marketing is about helping people - but before you can do that effectively, you have to be able to help yourself. 

The observations he makes so well are critical to the success of any business taking on what can be a gargantuan undertaking.

Here, inspired by Bill's post are three near-certain danger signs that you do not have a well-considered content marketing plan and might need to reconsider your priorities.

1. You have purchased a marketing automation system without a strategy for how you are going to fuel the machine.

With the explosive proliferation of marketing technologies across the planet, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of believing this will automagically become a panacea for all your marketing ills.

If this is you, then you could do worse than secure a copy of the (still fresh and relevant although published in 2012) Content Marketing Strategy Checklist by Doug Kessler, the inimitable Creative Director at Velocity Partners.

2. You believe content marketing is the NEW 'advertising' and can be bought and distributed in the same way.

Content marketing is often the first port of call for refugees fleeing the world of interruptive sales and marketing techniques who perceive it as being a new approach often referred to as native advertising.

There are many well-conceived and executed examples of native advertising (although there are many more poor examples), but it is not content marketing. You can amplify your content marketing through paid promotion on third-party channels, but that is content promotion (and I'm not suggesting this is a bad thing - just that it is not content marketing). 

With content marketing you are not building your business on rented land; you own the media, it is your asset. Content marketing is not a campaign - and it is not new (it has been practised for more than a hundred years). 

With content marketing, your content resides on an owned property or an unpaid third party property. If it fits this bill and is original, valuable, relevant and designed for a specific audience, it is content marketing. And you need a specific strategy for that.

3. You have not considered your resources or buy-in in a way that is truly understood and embraced by all.

It is not uncommon for new content marketing initiates to underestimate the need for a broad range of skill sets to get the job done. And equally, the importance of gaining traction within the organisation, both from the leadership and across the company, is often overlooked.

Effective content marketing requires a lot more than remarkable writing. Writing is just one aspect of content creation. After all, what will that content look like? Will it be static or interactive, will it use illustration or photography, will it need audio or visual?

Success requires not only an appreciation of the interests, fears, and aspirations of our intended audience but also an understanding of where they are looking for information. This will take more than the hiring of a great ex-journalist. 

To do this right, we have to think like a publisher and act like a producer. Of course, we can pull external resource into play if needed, but who is going to orchestrate everything? Who has the technical expertise? Who has the creative chops?  

The need for this level of resources requires serious investment as well as the internal will to follow through on an enterprise that can take a long time to show a return. You not only need executive support but intimate understanding and support across multiple departments, including Sales who have the greatest customer insight. 

Without this level of buy-in and appreciation of the required resource, you will not have a working inbound marketing plan.