Without a doubt, content marketing is the hottest craze right now in the marketing world. Everybody's talking about it.
So, because everyone else is doing it, you've decided to hop on the bandwagon. You throw up a couple blog posts every month, ask the new intern to tweet half-regularly, and maybe (if you're really committed) you even do a couple infographics.
You sit back and wait for results, except you don't get any. Wanna know why?
Because that isn't how content marketing works. To be truly successful on the Internet, you need a researched, well-planned strategy to leverage the incredible power of online content; a strategy that will execute content creation, distribution, and lead generation flawlessly.
In this post, I'll take a look at some of the most common mistakes content marketing strategies make (yes, even experienced marketers have made and will probably continue to make these gaffes) that will doom your content strategy to inevitable failure.
1. Your target audience is off
I'm a firm believer in the idea that no content strategy can succeed if you don't start off with a buyer persona.
In layman's terms, a buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer. You can use it to better understand and target your audience. When done properly, a buyer persona will tell you all of the following (and more) about your target reader:
- Education level & job title
- Pain points
- Shopping habits
Your buyer persona is a goldmine of detailed information. It gives you a ton of info about your ideal reader, so you know exactly what type of content they like to consume and how you should market it to them.
Buyer personas are the core of your content marketing strategy, and every piece of content you ever produce needs to be centered around them.
If you're currently operating without a buyer persona, stop. Please. You need to know exactly who your content should be targeting before you write it. Otherwise, you're just wasting time and resources producing content that might (read: probably won't) attract leads.
Pro tip: if you haven't created a buyer persona yet, use this Uberflip infographic to guide your research.
2. Your analytics are too broad
One increasingly common content strategy error is focusing only on major metrics and ignoring analytics that have a narrower focus.
By major metrics, I mean the big-picture analytics that give you a general overview of your site's performance. Think metrics like pageviews, visitor sessions, organic traffic, etc. These are the stats you immediately think of whenever someone says the word "analytics".
But often times, it's your small-picture metrics that show you exactly how your content strategy is performing. The analytics that come under this label typically have much narrower scopes. Think metrics like lead generation per content piece, bounce rate per page, common exit pages, traffic retention, and the like.
Exit pages, for example, show you the specific pages that are a turn-off for your visitors (thereby showing you what parts of your content strategy you need to improve).
Lead generation by content piece shows you which content topics resonate best with your audience and produce the highest value conversions.
Traffic retention stats tell you whether your content is engaging enough for a user to visit your site a second time.
I'm not saying that broad analytics aren't useful, because they do give you a great overview of performance. However, the small-picture metrics often give you much more actionable insights, and that's very important, too.
3. Content distribution is non-existent
Tell me this hasn't happened to you before.
You've just written the most awesome blog post ever: the type of content that's just bound to knock the socks off any visitor who reads it.
You hit the publish button, and wait for the approaching hordes of visitors who are going to read, share, link to, and otherwise extol the virtues of your incredible post. So you wait ... and you wait ... and you wait ...
Hold on: what's up with this? Where are all your visitors? Isn't this how content marketing works? You create awesome content, publish it, and readers from around the web are instantly attracted to it by the virtues of its greatness.
Um, no, sorry. That's not how it works.
Millions of blog posts are published every day. Literally millions. A portion of that is knock-your-socks-off content just like what you've created.
But guess what? Only a very tiny fraction of those awesome blog posts ever get any significant traffic.
The ones that do get traffic leverage this crucial marketing strategy: content distribution.
You see, in the world of marketing, content may be king, but distribution is queen and she sure does wear the pants in the family.
Creating terrific content is only the first step in your content marketing strategy. After each piece is published, you need to promote, promote, promote it as much as you can.
Here are a few distribution ideas to start with:
- Turn your content into a slide deck and post it on SlideShare
- Get your content syndicated on major publishing networks in your industry
- Conduct blogger outreach to get major influencers to share your work
- Create a whiteboard video based on your content and post it on YouTube
4. Call-to-action opportunities are not maximized
Now let's say that you've implemented content distribution in your strategy. As a result, you've been able to get quite a few visitors over to your content piece. And just like you predicted, your readers have fallen totally in love with your content.
They read it all the way through, get to the end, and then ... do nothing? Wait a second. That's not how it supposed to work.
If you're seeing this happen with your content, then you're probably missing this critical content component: call to actions.
Call to actions tell your readers exactly what to do next after consuming a content piece. Here's an example from Neil Patel's blog.
At the end of every post, Neil has two things:
Convenient buttons so readers can share the post on social media.
A lead capture form (with some pretty effective copy, you have to admit) to convert readers into subscribers.
If you don't have appropriately placed call to actions in your content, you're missing out on a huge lead generation opportunity.
5. You're (I hate to say it) boring
The Internet was never meant to be a boring place. Don't make it one with boring content.
Humor is proven to boost content engagement. Take the example of SunGard, a B2B company that experimented with humor when creating an educational video series that described industry trends and helped viewers to overcome pain points.
The result: 3,000 leads in 3 days, with email engagement rates 2-3 times above average. In fact, the call to action at the end of each video (a white paper download offer) boasted an 87.4% click-through rate.
The industry they're in?
Finance. If SunGard was able to make finance funny, then you can make your content funny, too.
There is always—I repeat, always—a way to make your content fun. The very least you can do is try to insert an appropriate joke or a witty one-liner where possible.
And if all else fails, then remember that there's always Will Ferrell around to back you up.
Avoid content marketing doom
Let's do a quick recap—if your content strategy is making these mistakes, then you could be setting yourself up for failure:
- Not using a buyer persona to find your ideal audience.
- Focusing only on big-picture analytics and not on metrics with narrower, more actionable insights.
- Creating and publishing content without making distribution a high priority.
- Failing to use call to actions at the end of your content to spur readers to action.
- Creating boring, dry content that doesn't engage (in other words, not using enough Will Ferrell memes).
So, what mistakes have you been making in your content marketing strategy, and how do you plan to fix them?