Content marketing, as a concept, has been around for a while. Companies have long used curated content to increase brand awareness and forge customer relationships. Some of the most successful content publications have both longevity and broad audience recognition. Think of the Michelin Guide, developed in 1900, or The Furrow, developed by John Deere in 1895. Those are publications with importance and staying power!
In today’s digitally interconnected world, there are more ways to reach more audiences than ever before. Social media, mobile apps, and 24-hour news and entertainment cycles give companies plenty of opportunities to disseminate information about their brands. However, with greater content marketing avenues comes a heightened risk of stumbling. Avoid the pitfalls and leap into success. Read on to learn more about some common content marketing mistakes.
1. Have a Plan of Action
Everybody has a story to tell. The trouble is that some people just aren’t good storytellers. There’s the guy at the party who spends ten minutes setting the scene, only to leave everyone hanging when he can’t remember the punchline.
The same holds true for businesses. From long-established companies to fresh start-ups, everybody wants their brands to have a compelling story, one that resonates with their target audience and proves that their product or service is more than the sum of its parts. When it comes to content marketing, leave the improvisation to the comedians. Telling a meaningful brand story requires a clear content marketing plan.
There are a number of ways to develop and document your content marketing strategy. There’s no industry standard or all-in-one formula that guarantees you overnight success. Some organizations give classes — this year’s Content Marketing World offered a beginner’s course on how to document your content marketing strategy. Others boil it down to checklists or fill-in templates. Velocity published a great strategy-building checklist for B2B content marketing. Sarah Mason at Uncommon.ly developed a handy one-page fillable plan. There are many resources, at various price points, available to you.
No matter which method you choose, you can get a head start on your content marketing plan by asking yourself a few simple — yet familiar — questions:
Who is your target audience?
Go beyond basic demographics and think hard about the people you want to reach.
What form will your content take?
Your message may be better suited for one format over another (e.g., videos, blog articles, etc.).
When do you expect to see a return on investment?
Set clear goals and milestones. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
Where should you share your content?
Which platforms are ideal for disseminating your content? This is related to the “what” of your content marketing plan.
Why do you need content?
This is perhaps the most important consideration. What do you hope to accomplish with your content? The answer to this question should go beyond, “because everybody is doing it.”
How will you create your content?
Consider your staff, resources, and budget.
The more clearly-defined your content marketing plan is, the better your brand story will be. Don’t be the guy without a punchline — know where you want to go before you hit the ground running.
2. Reassess for Success
Now that you have a route mapped out, you’re ready to start rolling out content. All of the forethought given to your marketing strategy will undoubtedly pay off. But as you proceed towards your content marketing goals, it’s important to remember two things:
There are bound to be roadblocks, detours, and other unforeseen changes to your content marketing itinerary. Maybe your how-to videos are generating fewer leads than anticipated. Or perhaps your weekly newsletter has only one subscriber. Remember that executing your content marketing plan is only part of the equation. You must also regularly track and measure its effectiveness. The time and money spent on producing content won’t amount to much if you can’t tell what’s working and what’s not. Measurement of efficacy is an all too common problem that businesses face. In fact, according to the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Trends report, a staggering 49% of B2B businesses struggle with it [Forbes]. As Robert Burns put it: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Expect the unexpected.
Tracking the success of your content marketing plan requires clearly-defined metrics. Again, there’s no single set of measurements that everybody follows. Jay Baer at Convince & Convert breaks content metrics down into four distinct categories. Brian Honigman at SumAll sees seven.
No matter which set of measurements you use, the important takeaway is that your content marketing is only as good as the data you can back it up with. Track your content’s performance assiduously, and be prepared to reallocate your resources accordingly. Don’t be afraid to change course to reach your destination — data-driven analysis of your content’s performance is key to reaching your marketing goals.
3. See the Big Picture
Content development is no doubt an exciting marketing tactic, due in large part to the ever-increasing breadth of platforms and the changing cultural landscape. As you perfect your content marketing efforts, it’s important to see it within the context of your business as a whole.
For example, Björn Owen Glad, writing for Spoon, discusses the importance of coordinating content marketing with traditional advertising. Direct messaging campaigns and original content may look very different, but they ultimately share a common goal: increase brand awareness. Heidi Sullivan at Convince & Convert explains how original content has transformed the overall landscape of communications, calling for public relations and marketing divisions to work together to craft a singular message.
Content marketing is at once a new frontier and a familiar touchstone of smart business. Companies have been using it for decades; global digitization has transformed it. As you embark on your journey into content marketing, remember:
Following these three simple rules will help you avoid content marketing pitfalls and position you for sustained importance.
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