Provide value with your content. Don’t make it a sales pitch. Have a cohesive content strategy. Focus on quality over quantity. These are all pieces of conventional content marketing wisdom – things that you’ve probably read more than a few times.
These recommendations, though basic, are all good pieces of advice (and hopefully you’ve already taken them into account). The issue is, a lot of companies that have embraced these philosophies haven’t seen the kind of content marketing results they were hoping for.
That’s where this post comes in. I’m aiming to point out a set of more advanced factors that can derail an otherwise solid content marketing effort. These are the kind of things were the intention was right, but the execution didn’t quite follow through – the type of thing that can plague even experienced content marketers.
Without further ado, let’s dive into 5 not-so-obvious content marketing mistakes.
1. You’re solely focused on thought leadership.
Thought leadership is a goal of most, if not all, content marketing efforts. Companies seek to establish themselves as experts in their field and share relevant knowledge. This is the basis for the “trusted advisor” relationship that enables content marketing.
The problem with thought leadership arises when companies get so caught up in explaining their perspectives, tips, and expertise that they lose sight of the audience. They fail to provide a compelling reason to adopt the discussed changes. In other words, they explain the “what” and the “how,” but not the “why.”
A great example of this comes from an article by the Harvard Business Review. Essentially, Xerox was performing content marketing to promote new color printing capabilities and different ways they could be used to support teaching. These efforts didn’t prove successful until Xerox began to highlight the importance of color printing in maintaining the attention of schoolchildren, accustomed to vibrant digital screens at home.
2. Your brand voice doesn’t translate into your content.
As part of your content strategy, you likely defined the voice, or writing style, used throughout your content. With knowledge of your customers (and maybe a little fine-tuning), you can establish a voice that resonates with your audience.
The problem comes because, in many organizations, those who craft the content strategy aren’t necessarily those who write content on a day-to-day basis. As a result, the brand voice can be interpreted and applied differently from writer to writer. This is especially true if the written guidance concerning the brand voice is brief or non-existent.
This is where a company style guide comes in. A style guide defines the brand voices more thoroughly and provides concrete rules and regulations. It helps to ensure that it’s applied the same way, no matter the writer.
Style guides also help to smooth things out by standardizing small, stylistic elements of writing and clarifying the definitions of common terms. The idea is to give content from your company a signature look and feel, rather than taking on the style of each individual writer. All in all, a style guide helps to give your content marketing efforts a crisp, professional, and cohesive feel.
3. Your content doesn’t help you gauge purchase progress.
With basic lead scoring programs, we try to distill lead qualification into a numeric score. It’s easier said than done. A raw number of actions, or even a weighted score, is often too simplistic to accurately reflect progress in the purchase progress. The result is leads that are released too early or held too long.
Reliably measuring progress through the purchase process can only be accomplished when you have distinct, targeted, and relevant content for each stage. This content becomes the measuring stick by which you can determine progress through the purchase process.
The goal is to serve content in such a way that interested individuals can proceed through the purchase process at their own pace, while also making it difficult for a new visitor to stumble on late-stage content. To accommodate, lead scoring programs need to weight scores heavily toward the end of the process, apply negative scores for unrelated pages, and pay close attention the time between conversions.
4. You’re trying to be your competitors, instead of beat your competitors
One of the first steps in crafting a content strategy is survey what’s out there in the industry – to take a look at your major competitors, see what they’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not.
It can be very tempting to try to emulate your competitors. After all, they’re successful (or at least appear to be), so why try to reinvent the wheel?
This is absolutely the wrong approach. Think about it. At best, assuming you can perfectly emulate the given technique, you’ve firmly cemented yourself as the second fiddle. All that work to be Choice B.
Things get even worse when you start “borrowing” techniques from various competitors. You end up with a series of uncoordinated activities, rather than a coordinated content marketing operation. Not to mention, without techniques unique to your brand, you’re doing nothing to differentiation yourself.
You can’t exceed another company by doing exactly what they do. Unless you’re some sort of industry giant, you’ll never realistically beat all of you competitors on every front. On the flip side, that means there’s opportunity – even for small companies – to be the best in certain areas. It might be something small, like a strong presence on a specific social network or a particularly well-done content format. But once you know where you have an advantage, you can use strategize build on this success and create a more decisive advantage.
5. Your content is missing something.
One of the most frustrating things about content marketing is that you can have a strategically sound, well-executed combination of content formats and still not see the kind of results you would like. You can do things by the book, the strategies others have used to succeed, and not enjoy the same results.
The problem is that textbook content marketing is exactly that: textbook. It might be valuable and well-executed, but it’s also formulaic – and, chances are, it’s just like all the other content in your industry.
In some industries, doing the basics right might be enough to take you where you want to go. In a lot of industries, it’s not.
The solution is to do something different.
Unfortunately, this “something” probably isn’t something you can pull from blog posts. You have to look at your customers and how they interact with your offering. Look for a gap in understanding, an uncommonly common question. Use this information to create something compelling and unique to your brand.
Putting it all together
If you have the basics of content marketing in place, you’re already well on your way to a successful content marketing effort. These not-so-obvious mistakes are designed to help frustrated content marketers troubleshoot their efforts. Whether it’s one or all of these mistakes, it just might be the obstacle between you and content marketing success.
Let us know what you think:
- Are you satisfied with your content marketing efforts?
- Do you have problems with any of these mistakes?
- Do you have anything to add to the list?