Why Content Marketing Fails

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Why Content Marketing Fails
Tips for making your content marketing bear some serious ROI fruit.

Would it surprise you to learn that content marketing fails more often than not? While it's an essential part of a comprehensive marketing strategy, it's not a magic bullet—nor will it solve all of your marketing woes, especially if it's poorly executed. Even so, most marketers are at the very least starting to experiment with content marketing, and with good reason. It can be an incredibly powerful tool and has been proven to reduce cost per lead by up to 80% in the first five months.

But many still struggle with understanding the fundamentals and therefore haven't implemented a formalized structure with supporting marketing technologies.

According to an informal survey we conducted at Uberflip, many marketers identified their top challenges as finding time to create content and coming up with ideas for good content. A more formal study by Curata echoes these sentiments. Here's a ranking of the top seven content marketing challenges based on Curata's research:

1. Limited staff

2. Limited budget

3. Creating enough content on a regular basis

4. Finding the best sources to create amazing content

5. Organizational culture

6. Measuring the impact of content

7. Promoting content

Do you agree with the above prioritization? Most marketers do. Unfortunately, this is ultimately the reason why content marketing fails. The last two challenges listed are also the two most important, indicating that marketers aren't prioritizing the measurement and promotion of content.

So, what are they focused on? The answer: content creation. To that I would say—stop.

Creating some content is, obviously, important. But continuing to churn out content without understanding what impact it's having on your business isn't smart. In addition to that, very little (if any) thought is put into what happens after content is published. Who are you targeting? Where will it be promoted? How will you measure success?

These are all questions that must be part of the content marketing process, and ignoring them will only lead to failure. But with a little focus and systemization, companies can turn potential failure into major gains.

Focus on purpose

Generally speaking, any piece of content has a purpose that will fall into one of the following four categories:

1. Encourages engagement

2. Generates leads

3. Convinces buyers

4. Retains customers

Engagement is where it starts. This includes likes, shares, and comments and typically refers to top of the funnel content that might be educational, inspirational, or even controversial in nature. Generating leads and convincing buyers to take action demands content that is created for people who are a little further down the funnel. And don't forget about customer marketing. Some of your content should be dedicated to your customers (they are paying you after all) and can help reduce churn in the long run.

Every single piece of content you create should have an explicit purpose, because that will ultimately decide how you promote each piece of content and measure success.

Focus on promotion

While promotion was listed as #7 on the rundown of the biggest marketing challenges, I think it's probably one of the most challenging obstacles marketers have to grapple with. There is no shortage in the number of distribution channels. In fact, we are inundated with noise. There has never been more content created than right now. But finding distribution channels which aren't completely saturated (read: costly) is challenging.

You have to truly understand your buyer personas. Most companies will get nowhere broadcasting their message to a large group of users. Getting hyper-targeted and understanding where your audience lives is key to effectively promoting your content.

Focus on content ROI

Measuring the impact of your content and determining your content ROI has to be prioritized. This is more important than increasing the volume of content created and should inform your strategy moving forward. Look at measuring your progress in two ways:

1. Engagement: This will tell you whether your content is resonating with people.

2. Conversions: How many leads turn into customers will allow you to determine how your content marketing is impacting your bottom line.

By systematically measuring the impact of your content marketing, you'll be able to identify what's working and what isn't. Only then can you iterate on your content, and in the process boost your key metrics, drive down cost per acquisition, and, ultimately, increase growth. 

Focus on experience

This is often the most neglected aspect of content marketing—but it can have a drastic impact on how people engage with your content. We have come to expect a lot from the Web and the companies that live here. Five years ago organizations could easily get away with a subpar user experience, lackluster interface, and fragmented content.

Now, the bar has been raised. Like it or not, packaging matters and a well thought out user experience boosts engagement and leads. When we talk about experience, it's more than just a pretty front end. Here are four questions you need to consider:

Is it responsive?

Forget about a mobile strategy—you need an “everything” strategy. According to an IDC study, 87% of Internet device sales will be made up of smartphones and tablets by 2017. This means that responsive design is no longer a “nice-to-have”—it's a must-have. This shouldn't come as a surprise, yet the vast majority of companies (particularly B2B companies) don't have a mobile experience.

Imagine your mobile audience clicking on a Twitter link to your content, only to be presented with a non-mobile friendly site that is difficult to read and navigate. Chances are, they'll bounce off your content and with them goes any chance of engagement and conversion.

Is there a clear path?

What happens after someone lands on your content, whether it's a video, blog post, or even an eBook? Think of the first visit as a first step on a path that, eventually, leads a Web visitor to become a customer. Once visitors have read the article or watched the video, where do they go next?

Presenting them with choices is key and there are a few ways you can do this. Recommending a “next article” for them to read—including internal links throughout your content—and displaying contextual call-to-actions are easy ways to guide people down the path you've laid out for them.

Is it tailored?

Have you ever clicked on something only to find that when you landed on the page it wasn't quite what you were looking for? Tailoring your content to your audience seems like a no brainer, but many companies simply send everything to everyone. Avoid broadcasting your message to an audience that doesn't care. Instead, create tailored hubs of content that are personalized for your audience's interests and that targets your specific buyer personas.

For example, at Uberflip we have our main content hub, but we also create customized streams of content for specific segments of our audience/customers. Here's an example of our Everything HubSpot stream created specifically for people who use HubSpot since they are a part of our target market (see below; click image to enlarge).

A recipe for content marketing success

The bottom line is that it's really all about the bottom line—and that's where your focus needs to be when it comes to your content marketing. Creation is an integral part of any content strategy, but don't let that be the bulk of your efforts. Your content must be tailored and targeted to the right audience in order to truly engage people, turning them from casual visitors into loyal customers.

By focusing your efforts on creating an exceptional experience for your audience and listening to them by measuring what's working, you'll be that much closer to becoming a content marketing success story.


Yoav Schwartz is cofounder and CEO of Uberflip. He is a unique combination of a creative and analytical thinker, having touched a variety of industries from commercial flooring to web applications. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @yostar.

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