Hands up if you’ve invested time, money and effort into a content-led marketing initiative and have gotten nothing back in return. Quite frankly, I’m not surprised. Content marketing is so misunderstood by the majority of marketers who blog, email, and socialize their content that it’s little wonder that so much of it doesn’t actually work.

This shouldn’t put you off content marketing. You just need to get better at it. Content is like any other form of marketing: Unless it has a clear objective, is carefully targeted, and is optimized (in the same way you would optimize your email marketing or paid search activities, it will not work.

Get things right, and suddenly marketing becomes very easy, as your content helps position your brand and the individuals in your organization as industry thought leaders, driving leads, shortening the sales cycle, and helping you to close more deals.

The first step in any content marketing optimization strategy is to know what you are doing wrong.

6 Things You Are Doing Wrong

  1. Not Setting Objectives: What’s the point of your content marketing activities? If you don’t know what you want your content marketing efforts to do, how will you know if they are successful? Set your objectives before you create the content and start working toward your goal.
  2. Targeting the Wrong People: So much great thought leadership is buried under impenetrable jargon that potential clients haven’t got a hope of understanding. Unless you are targeting industry peers (for example, as part of a recruitment drive), you might want to simplify it a little bit and use a language that everyone understands. Remember, clients choose you because they lack the expertise or resources to get a job done. Don’t make it difficult for them to understand how you can help them.
  3. Expecting Campaigns to Go Viral: So you’ve written an amazing blog post, shared it via social media and then … nothing. In a perfect world, your content marketing campaigns will go viral and you’ll get thousands of incoming leads for next to nothing. It doesn’t always work like this – in fact, it hardly ever does. You need to work hard to position your content through your email marketing and social media activities. You may have to pay to drive traffic via paid search or sponsored ads on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Whoever said content marketing was free? Great content will help you maximize your efficiencies from paid acquisition marketing techniques. If you are paying for traffic, you might as well give your visitors a good excuse to remember you. Content marketing fills this role very nicely.
  4. Using Content Only Once: The best content can be used time and time again. Take the opportunity to recycle and re-appropriate your content wherever possible. A good blog post provides excellent content for an email marketing campaign and your social media activities, and can be extended to form the basis of a white paper, an eBook, a presentation or a webinar. Remember, potential clients will always be dropping into your sales funnel and seeing your content for the first time. As long as your content is relevant, timely, and engaging, it will always appear new to fresh eyes.
  5. Not Building Momentum: Highly visible content marketing is like a pulse. It should be strong and steady. Leave too many gaps between your activities and potential clients might forget about you or favor more visible competitors with a healthier pulse.
  6. Giving Up: Two or three blog posts, a single email campaign, and a smattering of social media posts isn’t a strategy – it’s hardly even an effort. And yet, I meet countless marketers who tell me that content marketing doesn’t work on the basis of such little investment. You wouldn’t expect a single advert on television or in a newspaper to drive much business, so why have such high expectations for your first content marketing efforts? Content marketing is something you have to work on. The more you do, the better you will get at it, and the more it will work for you. And remember, the more content marketing assets you put out there, the greater the chance your content will be found by the right people.

Have you given content marketing a fair chance? Yes, you might need to invest a little more time, effort and money into your strategy, but the rewards are there for those willing to put the work in.

Share your content marketing success story below.

This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.