Let’s start at the beginning. What is the “content” of your content? What is the experience, the point of view, the substance, the je ne sais quoi in your content that lets people know exactly what you’re all about?

The content of your content – the essence of your content, essentially – should serve as your fixed point of reference in content marketing. It’s your North Star showing you where you are and how to get to where you want to be if you’re not quite there yet.

Take some time to thing about it for a second…

  • There’s NO TIME! Readers want quick content they can skim!”

No, really. Take a minute to think about what’s in the content you and your company produce. What are the common elements that, despite different formats, distribution channels, objectives, and so on, show that your content represents your identity or your brand in particular?

  • “Why don’t YOU tell me the attributes that make my marketing content unique!”

As marketers, we all know how cluttered and noisy the world is for our buyers/consumers. And though it may be a myth that the average consumer sees 5,000 ads a day, given how many marketing touches we all encounter on a daily basis, it might as well be true. You need to take the time to reflect on those elements that (should) make your content stand out. If you can’t perceive the consistent, unique, compelling attributes in your own content, what makes you think buyers will?

  • “TL;DR. It shouldn’t take this long to tell me what’s ruining my content!”

The bottom line is this: Without knowing what makes your content specifically yours, you have no way of knowing what’s ruining your content marketing efforts. You have no benchmarks for improvement. You have no drawing board to go back to if things don’t work out.

How can you get out of your content dilemma if you have no idea which way “out” is. Frankly, if you don’t know what’s uniquely yours in your content, that is exactly what’s ruining your content.

  • Acme Inc. gets a bazillion content downloads a day. Doing what they do must be the best thing to do!”

Once you do know what makes your content yours, what your content is really about, you can begin assessing what approach to content makes the most sense and what doesn’t. For example, if your content is all about detailed and informative discussions of complex processes in, say, the medical device industry, viral click-bait or owning the first page of Google for “health” just doesn’t make sense.

What does make sense is creating content that speaks to medical professionals belonging to your target audience or trying to rank for a niche phrase such as, “Internet of Things in healthcare.” Creating copy-cat content and pursuing goals that don’t suit the brand or the business ruins your content by contradiction. Unless you align the content you create with the specific goals you are trying to achieve, you are setting your content up to fail.

  • “With a word count this high, by now no one is reading, so you might as well cram CONTENT MARKETING in another header for SEO.”

Ultimately, your content needs to serve the people to whom you’re marketing. If you produce content for a search engine as a part of your SEO efforts or for a named account (rather than for specific people at that account) as a part of Account-Based Marketing (ABM), your content may be ruined by a simple lack of human compatibility. If content resonates with people, they will dig in and read, watch, or otherwise consume it. If it strikes them as valuable, they will engage no matter how long or short it is.

If this post ended without candidly answering the question – “What’s ruining your content?” – I’m pretty sure you’d be pissed. If it were titled, “What Content Marketing is Like at [Your EXACT Company Name]” and I just went on in vague generalities, you’d react with something like. “Andrew Moravick DOES NOT KNOW MY COMPANY!”

In both cases, even if I got you to click, my content wouldn’t win you over. It’d be a waste of your time. Still, it’s all too common to find – and, sadly, all too easy to settle for producing – content that ranks well or even has a promisingly relevant title, but disappoints in terms of substance.

  • “Hang on! Might bullet points like these actually be ruining my content?”

Personally, in the content I create, I try as much as possible to ensure form fits function. I strive to align topic, style, and length with both my own aims and the aims of my readership. That’s my thing. And it became my thing after seeing tons of other people’s content and determining what conventions it makes sense for me to follow, and what rules I can defiantly break to stand out in a useful way.

When your content is YOUR content, you take pride in it. You seek out details, subtleties, and styles that strengthen it. What’s more, you craft your content to achieve the goals that suit its strengths. If it delivers on that, your content and all your supporting content marketing efforts can’t be ruined.

What do you think? Are there other things ruining content marketing efforts that should be highlighted? Make this post all the more useful by sharing your insights in the comments!

Image Source (Creative Commons): Ben Sutherland.