Brands spend a mint on planning, producing, distributing, and promoting marketing content. More than a few are wasting a big chunk of their money, because their content fails. How many marketing scheckles went into your content in 2013? 2014? What kind of ROI did it deliver? Did it leave a good taste in your mouth?

There is no way to know for sure exactly how much organizations spend on marketing content, but it’s growing every year, according to several recent studies. One point revealed in the 2014 Content Marketing Benchmark Survey; organizations considering themselves content marketing successes spent an average of 243% more on CM than firms considering themselves CM failures.

It’s not all about resource allocation, though. Sure, pumping money in can solve the problem, but not if you’re going in the wrong direction. If

Content fails, does yours? Relax, it’s easy to fix.

your content failed, it was likely for one or more of the following reasons:

Content Fail 1 – Over Complicated

Keep it simple (stupid!). KISS is a proven principle. It’s never been more powerful than when applied to content. Buzzword laced content may be great for scientists or attorneys, but in reality, it’s going to alienate a big audience chunk; likely the ones you’re looking to engage!

There is an exception; the aforementioned scientists. A 2008 Durham University study found scientists and academics actually cite content with buzzwords more often. If eggheads are your market, buzz away; otherwise, KISS it.

Content Fail 2 – Mis-targeted

Created for the wrong (or no specific) audience, in the wrong voice. Know your audience! It’s the number one rule of marketing in general, and applies to content more than nearly anything else in business.

There’s a reason organizations spend (or should) so much time on buyer personas; relevance. If you spend time nailing down your personas, creating effective content is so much easier. If not, you’re almost guessing.

If your content doesn’t resonate, your revenue doesn’t generate.

That means your content must:

A – Deliver value
B – Speak to your audience in a voice they not only understand, but appreciate and trust.

Doing email? Once again, segmenting rears it’s ugly head. Break up your lists so yo can maximize content relevance for each. It equals more value for your recipients and better response for you.

How can you make sure what audiences like? Test your content. Hell, spy on your competitors. What’s working for them? One way to know; look at their popular content and see what’s generated the most social chatter. This Kissmetrics blog post has a few excellent tools for spying on competitors’ content.

Content Fail 3 – Not Delivered on Time

Timing is everything, and it’s rarely more true than with content. The world’s a fast moving place these days, and your audience is moving with it. Moreover, a nice slice of content is aimed to coordinate with time sensitive events: holidays, product launches, elections, legislation, sporting events, organizational changes, and so on.

That’s only the half of it.

Distribution effectiveness is also impacted by time, too. It can come down to the minute, especially for social media outlets like Twitter.

Content Fail 4 – No Visuals

Images and video are proven engagement increasers, and powerful ways to get your message across, when plain old text falls flat. It’s that whole picture / 1,000 words thing. In fact, in some verticals or platforms, visual content can be the majority.

Examples of Video Content That Dominates:

1 – An auto parts retailer (online or physical location) creating how-to videos that show how to diagnose and repair specific vehicles. Creating content showing how to use your products greatly facilitates customer engagement and sales.
2 – A travel company creating videos of different destinations and the best attractions to visit there. Some things are better off being shown, rather than just talked about.
3 – A hairstylist or beauty products company creating how-to videos and before/after images.
4 – Social media posts with a compelling image. Image and video content really drive engagement on social media. In their latest research, Social Bakers discovered 93% of the most engaging Facebook posts were images. Similarly, Buffer found that image Tweets get double the engagement of Tweets without images. Instagram is effective for businesses with a strong visual component. Think restaurants, architects, building contractors, sporting organizations, travel companies, and florists.

You get the idea. Sometimes visual content engages your audience better and conveys the message more effectively.

Content Fail 5 – Too Little

according to the latest CMI/Marketing Profs Benchmark Survey, most brands say they can’t create enough content… if they only knew! It’s the new SEO, after all! That’s far from the only reason to create more content. How can I justify my existence if you’re not creating more and more content, and calling me to help you do it? Did I just say that?

Actually, yes, but there are hard numbers to back it up. You’ve probably been beat over the head by the stats already, but B2B companies that blog more than once per week get 80-some percent more leads than those that only post once per month. If you can’t find the time to post more than once per week (You can’t, “lack of time” was listed as the numero uno content marketing challenge brands face), there’s a great reason to find a way.

Better Than Website Traffic?

The new leads aren’t strictly from greater website traffic. Great content is a credibility builder. It shows prospective customers you know your stuff, and are worthy of consideration for what they’re doing. It helps them do something that over 70% of B2B purchasers now do; use content to get them down the purchase path, before they ever contact your sales team. Think about it. Before they ever contact you, you’re already on their short list – if your content puts you there!

It boils down to having sufficient content to for two objectives:

– Attracting Prospects
– Informing Them

Do you have it?

Content Fail 6 – It Doesn’t Physically Fit

How will your audience consume it? If it’s a good bet they’ll view it on mobile, make sure they can see it there; without squinting, scrolling, or swiping. People hate that; your audience among them.

If you have recent platform data from your blog, website, or past projects, check it. If not, run some small scale tests first. Better to discover how your content’s consumed before investing major resources on it, then finding it failed because a significant percentage of your audience threw up their hands. Safer to go with recent trends and just make sure there’s a version of your stuff optimized for all screen sizes.

Content Fail 7 – Doesn’t Address The Key Audience Issue

People came to your content for a reason. What is it? Do they want to learn more about your industry, team, organization, or products? Perhaps it’s more basic; process or procedure oriented questions they want answers to. Did you answer them or point them to where they could be found? Whatever the reason they are there, if your content doesn’t address their key issue, or point them to other resources that do, it’s a flop!

How can you keep from getting called into the CMO’s office for all the wrong reasons?

First, go through the “Magnificent 7” failure points above. How does your content stack up? Next, check those below:

1 – Start with a documented content marketing strategy.

Like writing down your weight loss goals, it works wonders. According to the latest Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs benchmark report, it delivers a 600% improvement! Yeah, your mileage may vary, but unless your strategy has more holes that the Cougar defense in 2011, a real plan brings you nowhere but up. The survey discovered:
66% of the most effective marketers used a documented content strategy
11% of the least effective marketers used a documented content strategy
Kind of a no brainer….

Map out where you’re going and how you propose getting there; exactly. Use quantifiable goals. Without defining success, you can’t tell when you’ve achieved it, or by how much. When the CMO asks “How did Campaign X work?” in your next quarterly, you can deliver an actual answer, with numbers to prove it. No more mumbling.

2 – Testing and refinement holds the key to content success.

Marketers should test everything, because that’s where improvement lies. Incremental improvement leads to maximum performance.

Split test headlines, e-mail subject lines, web pages, social media release timing, your boss’s tires, or the pizzas you’re considering for the game Saturday. In short, use real data to make your decisions, not what feels good. Often, what feels good is plain wrong. Do you want to gamble your organization’s budget and your rep on a gut feeling, when you don’t have to?

3 – Know Your Audience and Create for Them

Did I mention that above? I should put it in all caps, online etiquette be damned. If you don’t know them, their issues, and how your organization solves their problems, how can you create content that resonates with them? What are their values, what makes them tick, and what direction are they coming at things from?

4 – Platform Optimize

Know how your audience will consume it, then ensure there’s a version optimized for each platform. Nowadays, that means a myriad of devices and screen sizes.

Responsive websites are easier than ever, and that’s a big step in the right direction, if not the entire answer. If you’re running a WordPress Site, it’s as simple as starting with a responsive template, checking all the right boxes, and doing a little image optimization. If your site isn’t responsive, send your web team (or guy/gal) shopping for a new one. It’s usually well worth the investment.

If your organization includes local outlets customers will be out looking to visit, don’t stop at a responsive website. Experience dictates your audience is looking for specific info (location, contact info, specials, etc.) and want it yesterday. Creating a different, mobile optimized site for them is a great solution. If you’re a B2C firm with local outlets, keep the meaty content on your main site, but put your meaty specials, address, map, and phone number on a mobile site with no fluff.

Mobile viewing while driving; it’s against the law in many areas, but so are many other things people do. Better to do your part and help them find what they need fast, and get their eyes back on the road where they belong.

Content Fails for Specific Reasons….. Find Them, Fix Them, Succeed

If your content’s failing, it’s not an indictment of content marketing. Too many achieve runaway success with it. It’s more likely due to a few key problems. Correct them, and your content will be out there, working to bring in new customers, and helping turn existing ones into repeat buyers.

What were your biggest content fails, and how did you fix them?