9 Reasons Content Marketing Programs Fail, and How to Ensure They Don't

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It's all about content.
It's all about content.

Content marketing is gaining prominence, as marketers look for more impactful ways to connect with and engage customers. Unlike most forms of marketing, content marketing focuses less on selling, and more on communicating, informing, and educating the customer. Generating engaging content is all about knowing your audience, capturing their attention, and staying relevant—often easier said than done, which is why some content marketing strategies miss the mark.

Here are nine common mistakes in content marketing, and ways to avoid them:

You don't draw the reader in. “Ninety percent of the battle is getting folks to the landing page or form or call-to-action,” says Paul McKeon, president of The Content Factor. “If the teaser, headline, or abstract aren't compelling, even if the content is great it's an uphill battle.”

Do: Write catchy, compelling headlines, teasers, abstracts, and summaries. A good rule of thumb is to think about what would get you to click on a piece of content.

You don't know your numbers. “Your board or investors wants to hear what you're doing to engage people with content—Facebook fans, blog subscribers, etc.—but, mostly, they want to hear how the content you're creating is moving your business forward,” says Mike Volpe, CMO at Hubspot. “You should be able to easily, and readily, articulate how much it costs to create content, how it's moving the needle on your competitive landscape, lead flow, cost of customer acquisition, and customer acquisition, and you should always optimize your content approach based on those indicators each month.”

Do: Create a plan for how your content strategy will further your company's business objectives, and “outline a baseline from which you're launching your content strategy so you can quantify impact and results over time,” Volpe advises.

You're impatient. “Content marketing is a process, not a project,” McKeon says. “I recently downloaded a content asset from a well-known provider of marketing automation solutions. No sooner had I clicked “submit” than my phone rang with one of their salespeople on the line. Tongue in check, I asked if I had been ‘nurtured' long enough.”

Do: Delay “the inevitable salesperson call,” McKeon recommends. Failure to do so is likely to deter customers from engaging with your gated content in the future.

You don't promote it. Posting great content on a medium that gets little traffic is a mistake. “Creating great content is only part of the puzzle; you have to promote it to get people to view, interact with, and share it with others,” Volpe says. “Remarkable content will work wonders for your business, but to do so, people need to be able to find it, so ensure that you're promoting it effectively to maximize traction,” he explains.

Do: Leverage keyword trends to optimize your content for search, maintain a presence on social networks and blogs, and use co-marketing partnerships and PR to ensure your content is visible.

You don't know your audience. “An accurate definition and prioritization of your buyer personas is critical,” says Amnon Mishor, founder of Leadspace. Often, marketers produce content without a specific audience in mind. “Get to the job of creating content only when you have a good notion of who to target,” he adds.

Do: Analyze your existing customers. “[Identify] who's a decision-maker and who's an influencer, and learn where key target personas are likely to congregate online,” Mishor says. Then, he says, “model your ideal buyer profile manually, or with a social lead targeting technology.”

You don't understand your medium. “Twitter is not the best place for your 14,000 word essay on the challenges facing your industry, nor will a meme perform well in a serious industry journal,” Volpe says. The channel your content is published or promoted on dictates the format and style of your content. Understanding the potential, as well as the limitations, of each channel is step one to creating content that doesn't “make people [want to] hit the snooze button.”

Do: Use compelling images and infographics to “keep your content visually appealing,” he says.

You don't share the content-creation love. “Some of your best potential content creators may not be on your marketing team,” Volpe points out. “Ask your founder, sales folks, services team, really anyone, who interacts with customers on a regular basis or knows your industry well for content ideas.”  

Do: Tap into the content-creating potential of your entire team to deliver content that resonates with your leads and prospects.

You focus on the wrong company instead of the customer. “Although it's getting better, there's still a lack of ‘what's in it for me' content,” McKeon says. Too often, marketers generate content that revolves around the company and its products, and fails to provide value to the customer.

Do: “Create prescriptive or informative content,” he says. “One litmus test: Is the content you're sending good enough that the recipient would share it with their boss or customer?” If the answer is no, consider revising it.

You don't use data. “One hundred percent of Americans like facts and figures, from what we can tell,” Volpe quips. Relevant stats and figures serve up information in bite-size pieces, to be consumed and shared more easily.

Do: “Be a resource your prospects, customers, and leads turn to for data and information in a digestible format,” Volpe says. “And make sure you tweet relevant stats, as well—they are highly shareable.”

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