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8 Content Marketing Don’ts

With so many industry best practices, it can be easy for marketers to focus on what they do right; however, they don’t always focus on what they do wrong.

To help shed some light on the latter, representatives from an agency, a brand, and hybrids of the two came together at the Direct Marketing Association’s &THEN 2015 conference in Boston and discussed key content marketing dos and don’ts. Here are eight don’ts.

1. Don’t save distribution until the end.

Producing quality content is important, but it’s only half of the battle. Distribution is also essential. 

“You really, as a marketer, can’t get a return on investment with a content asset until it reaches its intended audience,” said Chris Schraft, president of Time Inc. content solutions, the content marketing arm of the media company.

Indeed, Matthew Grant, director of content strategy for research firm Aberdeen Group, added that marketers need to establish their distribution strategy early on and figure out how they can tell their stories across different platforms and channels. He also encouraged marketers to use data to shape their strategy.

“Distribution can’t be an afterthought,” he said. “It has to be built in at the very beginning.”

2. Don’t treat all platforms the same. 

Part of having an effective distribution strategy is realizing that content’s life expectancy differs depending on the channel. Twitter, for example, typically hosts in-the-moment content, said creative agency MRY CMO David Berkowitz, while Tumblr’s content can live on for a long time and not spike until way after it’s posted.

3. Don’t focus solely on technology.

Technology can certainly help marketers produce and distribute content, but it’s not an end-all solution. Andrew Bailey, manager of content strategy for FedEx, stressed the importance of having the right people and processes in place, as well. 

Bailey explained that FedEx has myriad marketing departments—from international marketing to domestic. “We also have a lot of siloed organizations,” Bailey said. As a result, the shipping company didn’t have all of its channels documented or one place where employees could find the appropriate contact for each channel. 

So, after working with a consulting company, FedEx had its employees write down every channel and team contact on paper and define each of its strategies. Bailey said that this created a lot of aha moments for the company. For example, although FedEx’s marketers could use a number of channels to deploy messages, the average marketer only leveraged two or three, he said.

The company also reorganized its internal structure. In the case of the go-to-market professionals, people who used to sit on different teams are now all under the same umbrella, Bailey explained. Plus, the company identified key areas of improvement. One was the lack of a defined go-to-market strategy, Bailey said, so FedEx spent time last year developing one.

4. Don’t create content without an objective in mind.

Content can serve multiple purposes. It can provide education, offer humor, or make people think. Whatever its role, it’s imperative that marketers identify why they’re creating a piece of content and what the performance goals are.

“Get to the heart of it,” Berkowitz said. “What do you want this content to do for you?”

5. Don’t underestimate the power of emotion. 

Marketers are storytellers, and the best stories are the ones about their customers.

For that reason, FedEx holds a Small Business Grant Contest to recognize its SMB customers. In 2015 FedEx awarded one of the grants to AnaOno Intimates—a lingerie company founded by a woman who designs bras for women affected by breast cancer. The founder shared her story of how she had battled breast cancer and struggled to find the right bra after her treatment and surgery. Now, she uses FedEx to ship her orders. This touching story lives on the brand’s online Small Business Center.

“The most powerful person to give you feedback is the customer themselves,” Bailey reiterated.

6. Don’t feed everyone the same content.

Not all customers have the same needs. So, why serve them the same content? Don’t. Marketers need to tailor their content to appeal to customers at different stages in their lifecycle. FedEx, for example, has seven different customer segments, Bailey said. The company then creates content prescriptions based on where those segment members are in their journeys. So, if a small furniture retailer has been doing business with FedEx for 10 years, the owner might receive content about its freight services, Bailey explained.

7. Don’t forget about the value exchange.

Today’s consumers are flooded with content across multiple devices. Although they’re willing to engage with brands, they demand a valuable experience, Time Inc.’s Schraft said, and they’ll abandon an experience if they feel like they’re not getting anything in return.

“You want to stack the deck in your favor,” he said.

8. Don’t be exclusive. 

Content creation shouldn’t be a marketing-only activity. From agencies to IT, many professionals can play a role in the process. Marketers need to include these people in the early planning stages and make sure that everyone has a universal definition of what content marketing means to the organization.

“It’s everyone in your organization, from top to bottom,” Grant said. “Make sure they know what they’re asking for when they say content marketing.”

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