biggest content marketing mistakes

Very few content marketers hit a home run each time they step up to bat. We’ve all had our fair share of strikeouts. Failures, however, are also learning experiences – especially those made by others. Mistakes provide insight into what to avoid in the future. As the content marketing space grows, so have the number of errors we’ve found many marketers make.

Here are some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen brands make and how you can learn from them.

1. Not Documenting Your Content Marketing Strategy

The importance of documenting your content strategy cannot be emphasized enough. A 1979 Harvard MBA study asked students, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result: Only 3% had written their goals and plans; 13% had ideas of goals, but did not have them in writing; and 84% had no goals in their heads or on paper. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again. The 13% of the class who had goals, but had not written them down, was earning double the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3%, however, who had written goals were earning ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined. The same principles apply to a content marketing strategy. If you write down your content marketing goals and plans to achieve them, you are more likely to do so – in fact, 5x more likely.

2. Forgetting To Build A Business Case Upfront

According to NewsCred’s own content marketing expert, Michael Brenner, “Content marketing ROI starts with a strong business case.” Think about what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to create affinity for your brand’s products? Are you trying to generate quality leads? Are you trying to engage new buyers with your brand? All of these things are key elements that must be decided upfront as the foundation of your content marketing efforts. Without this, your program will struggle to prove its value and ROI.

3. Ignoring Your Customers’ Questions

The basic principle of content marketing is to simply answer your customers’ questions. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing content marketing properly. Sometimes we see brands struggle with understanding what their customers want from them. For example, a health insurance company may think providing healthy recipes would be something their audience would find of interest. It’s possible, but it’s unlikely that a large number of people are looking for their next summer salad recipe from their insurance company. The type of questions they’d be asking their insurance company would be more along the lines of, “How do I choose between an HMO or PPO plan?” or “I’m getting married in a few months, how will my insurance change?”

Shopkeep, a point of sale system for small businesses, finds its blog content topics by going straight to the source. Paul Nugent, Shopkeep’s Director of Content, explains:

“We interview merchants constantly. We ask them their pain points, area of concern, what they would want in their inbox every week. We’ve learned there are subjects that are more compelling, even within the same industry. For example, layout design is more important for a full service restaurant than a quick service.”

With this strategy, there’s no doubt that what they’re publishing will be tremendously valuable to their customers.

4. Not Publishing Enough

Not surprisingly, companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content reap the biggest rewards in terms of website traffic and leads. At NewsCred, our team found that increasing our posting cadence from 6 pieces of content weekly (1 original, 5 licensed) to 10 pieces of content weekly (5 original, 5 licensed) increased our unique visitors almost 50%.

Hubspot’s recent research had similar findings in correlation of publishing frequency and generated leads. For the company’s customer base, brands that published 16+ blog posts per month received about 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.

5. Forgetting To Utilize What You Already Have

According to Sirius Decisions, 60-70% of B2B content goes unused. Think of all that wasted time and energy. Instead of starting from scratch, take a look at what’s already been created and what you can reuse or repurpose. Salesforce has this system nailed down with a planned approach to transform a piece of content into multiple media forms. Salesforce content marketing manager Amanda Nelson explained her team’s system saying:

“We had one eBook called ’30 Ways to Create Your Social Media Plan.’ We wrote 30 blog posts detailing each piece. We create tons and tons of content from this central focus. By producing two eBooks a month, our content engine is constantly running.”

Creating content can be expensive and time-consuming, so it’s in your best interest to recycle that investment in as many ways as you can.

6. Dismissing Distribution

Creating great content isn’t enough to get your site to the top of search results. Hollywood spends about 50% of budgets on production and the other 50% on distribution. Content marketing budgets should be divvied up in a similar fashion. If you’re just getting started, paid distribution is a great way to jumpstart engagement and reach. Social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook all have paid distribution offerings. Other vendors, such as Outbrain, have a pay-per-click model, which allows you to only pay for the traffic you actually receive.

NewsCred has found success with targeted social promotion, resulting in correlating increases in reach and social shares. The charts above show that our team correctly targeting the right people resulted in them viewing, engaging with, and sharing our content.

7. Talking Non-Stop About Yourself

People can sniff out a sales pitch a mile away. Good content marketers know they can’t dupe their audiences, and don’t try to do so. Consumers today want content that educates or entertains them. Shameless promotional plugs turn them off. If you provide compelling content, they’ll be more likely to engage with your content — and share with their networks, too.

Photo Credit: Flickr User plindberg.