My last post outlined the difference between content marketing and content strategy and how these forces work together. If you have a solid understanding of your organization and your business objectives, you should be able to devise an effective content strategy and content marketing approach. Seems simple enough, right? Not so fast… However simple having synchronous content strategy and content marketing efforts may seem, this is often the point in the equation where the biggest mistakes originate.
In my experience, here are the 5 most common content marketing pitfalls:
Theory: We don’t need a long-term plan, we just need content and we need it now.
Reality: Despite what other internal stakeholders may think, developing a strong and successful marketing strategy takes an immense amount of organization, planning and project management. Launching new content without a clear plan or direction is a waste of time and energy – which ultimately equates to a waste of money. It’s OK to test different content tactics, but you need to make sure your test will answer how well your variables meet your overall objective with measurable results. Simply trying out different content (as opposed to testing) won’t work and you will likely end up repeating these marketing fouls in the future.
Remedy: Have a plan, stick to your objectives and utilize several different kinds of content. Think of content as stock. You wouldn’t invest in just one stock so dedicate enough time to conduct thorough research and plan what content you are going to test. Allow for reflection of your findings to help determine what tactics you will move to implement in the future or refine your testing for more defined results.
Theory: We need a social strategy but we don’t want to isolate potential market share, so let’s make sure we’re active on every and all social media outlets. We need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Storify, Quora, YouTube, Vine, etc., etc., etc….
Reality: This approach doesn’t work for many reasons, but primarily you can’t be everything to everyone. Not all social media and digital properties are created equal. What resonates for one industry’s audience isn’t going to stick for another organization. For example, if you’re a B2B organization thinking of starting a Pinterest account you may want to reevaluate, considering the highest ranked Pinterest pages are B2C retailers and brands.
Remedy: Do some solid research and determine where there is already a built-in audience for your organizations products or services. Facebook, twitter and the others mentioned above don’t even scratch the surface of all the online communities and platforms that are out there. Even the most niche industries are likely to have their own online forum. Plus, because there are literally thousands of social media and online communities out there you really don’t have the time to be active on every platform. Your time, effort and reputation are irreplaceable so be careful when choosing which platforms to use for your social media strategy.
Theory: We need white papers, case studies and customer testimonials so everyone can see that we’re the best, fastest, smartest and most-experienced company in the industry.
Reality: Your competition is also “the best, fastest, smartest and most-experienced”…so why are you different? Today, if you can’t communicate your point in a bite-size, 140 characters or less then you’re irrelevant. Instead of focusing on why your organization is the best, focus on why you’re different.
Remedy: I’m not advocating that white papers, case studies or customer testimonials don’t have their place in the marketing mix, but you need to determine how to deliver that information in a more compelling way. You’ll be lucky if your prospect even gets through the introduction of your 10 page white paper. The more likely scenario is the users actually downloading the white paper off your site are your competitors looking to size you up or cherry-pick content messaging ideas (guilty!). Brainstorm how you can meet these objectives through other tactics while delivering a unique message. Don’t get rid of your text-heavy, boring whitepapers if you already have them, but determine how to supplement this content in another, more creative way. Maybe create a video series of several short 2 minute customer testimonial spots briefly reviewing the greatest business value your client achieved through working with your organization.
Theory: Infographics are a sexy, compelling and cutting edge way for us to communicate visually with our customers. Infographics will help convey that we’re an organization in touch with digital trends.
Reality: Infographics can be sexy, compelling and cutting edge, but if you’re not entirely sure what information you’re trying to communicate, you’re just left with graphics.
Remedy: It’s not all about design. Don’t underestimate the analytical thinking involved in putting together an infographic. Accept the fact that creating a truly compelling infographic requires a lot of thought, time and a collaborative team. Determine exactly what your objective is and determine whether an infographic is the best tactic to fulfill that objective. You might realize you don’t need an infographic to get your message across. You can outsource the best design team out there, but if you don’t have a clear objective the visual is going to fall flat. Before you set out to create an infographic, you should already have compiled the facts, figures and information that support your tactical objective. Whether using a design team in-house or outsourced you must have your creative proposal clearly outlined ahead of time. So often I see collateral described as an infographic when really it’s just a diagram; not to say that there’s anything wrong with a sharp looking diagram :)
**Pardon the title, but let’s be honest – there really is no other way to put it.
Theory: We should start a blog; everyone is doing it. It will be an easy side project we can have to supplement our other marketing and we will just blog whenever something comes up that seems important enough to write about.
Reality: A blog can be an extremely useful tool in building customer trust, brand loyalty, thought leadership and industry credibility but you don’t just “have a blog” much like you don’t just “have a garden” – You need to tend to your blog and use careful foresight to determine what kind of topics you’re going to blog about and why they’re important to your audience.
Remedy: Develop your team of contributors, brainstorm and collaborate content, build an editorial calendar and determine how you’re going to leverage your blog content through social and digital media outreach. Your blog must be collaborative and you must make sure you’re writing for your audience – not your boss. This means having a strong team of contributors each assigned with their own specific role and responsibility. Most importantly, keeping a blog means creating a conversation, so don’t let it be one-sided. Monitor other blogs, social media and online communities in an effort to engage and reach out to other like-minded thought leaders or enthusiasts.
For an example of how to organize your editorial and content calendar, check out this template I created.
Clearly there are many potential pitfalls in the content strategy and content marketing process, but you’ll notice the common theme in remedying these issues is staying true to your objective. Be patient and take the time to develop a solid marketing strategy with clearly defined goals and objectives and use it as a blueprint to shape your content marketing efforts moving forward.
Do you have any content marketing pet peeves? Are there any additional pitfalls that you think should be added to this list? Let me know what you think!