Very few content marketers hit a home run each time they step up to bat. We’ve all had our fair share of strikeouts. Failures, however, are also learning experiences – especially those made by others. Mistakes provide insight into what to avoid in the future. As the content marketing space grows, so have the number of errors we’ve found many marketers make.
Here are some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen brands make and how you can learn from them.
1. Go big, brave and bold with content marketing
“The biggest missed opportunities in content marketing come from playing it safe,” said Ann Handley, chief content officer of Marketing Profs, a company that offers educational services for marketers, in another Marketing Nation Summit session.
To break through the noise, Handler says marketing pros should try to tell a bigger story, and be both brave and bold with content. She cited a Skill share course on how to “brew an amazing cup of coffee,” produced by boutique coffee roaster Blue Bottle Coffee, as one example of a brand telling a “bigger” story.
The online class initially seemed “ridiculous” to Handler, but she said she learned a lot and ended up subscribing to Blue Bottle’s mail-order service, even though it’s pricey. Blue Bottle’s online course is “bigger” than the brand itself, Handler said, because it helps educate all coffee drinkers, not only Blue Bottle customers. It’s a winning example of “training as marketing,” she said. “When you educate customers about why things matter, you elevate them at a deeper level.”
2. Not Documenting Your Content Marketing Strategy
The importance of documenting your content strategy cannot be emphasized enough. A 1979 Harvard MBA study asked students, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result: Only 3% had written their goals and plans; 13% had ideas of goals, but did not have them in writing; and 84% had no goals in their heads or on paper. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again. The 13% of the class who had goals, but had not written them down, was earning double the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3%, however, who had written goals were earning ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined. The same principles apply to a content marketing strategy. If you write down your content marketing goals and plans to achieve them, you are more likely to do so – in fact, 5x more likely.
3. Ignoring Your Customers’ Questions
The basic principle of content marketing is to simply answer your customers’ questions. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing content marketing properly. Sometimes we see brands struggle with understanding what their customers want from them. For example, a health insurance company may think providing healthy recipes would be something their audience would find of interest. It’s possible, but it’s unlikely that a large number of people are looking for their next summer salad recipe from their insurance company. The type of questions they’d be asking their insurance company would be more along the lines of, “How do I choose between an HMO or PPO plan?” or “I’m getting married in a few months, how will my insurance change?”
4. Not Publishing Enough
Not surprisingly, companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content reap the biggest rewards in terms of website traffic and leads. At NewsCred , our team found that increasing our posting cadence from 6 pieces of content weekly (1 original, 5 licensed) to 10 pieces of content weekly (5 original, 5 licensed) increased our unique visitors almost 50%.
5. Forgetting To Utilize What You Already Have
According to Sirius Decisions, 60-70% of B2B content goes unused. Think of all that wasted time and energy. Instead of starting from scratch, take a look at what’s already been created and what you can reuse or re purpose. Sales force has this system nailed down with a planned approach to transform a piece of content into multiple media forms. Sales force content marketing manager Amanda Nelson explained her team’s system saying:
“We had one eBook called ’30 Ways to Create Your Social Media Plan.’ We wrote 30 blog posts detailing each piece. We create tons and tons of content from this central focus. By producing two eBooks a month, our content engine is constantly running.”
Creating content can be expensive and time-consuming, so it’s in your best interest to recycle that investment in as many ways as you can.
6. Dismissing Distribution
Creating great content isn’t enough to get your site to the top of search results. Hollywood spends about 50% of budgets on production and the other 50% on distribution. Content marketing budgets should be divvied up in a similar fashion. If you’re just getting started, paid distribution is a great way to jump start engagement and reach. Social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook all have paid distribution offerings. Other vendors, such as Out brain, have a pay-per-click model, which allows you to only pay for the traffic you actually receive.