There are tons of mistakes we make as content marketers – albeit with the best of intentions. This is something I was discussing recently with one of my favourite marketing speakers and content strategist extraordinaire, Bas van den Beld. He told me:
There is the misunderstanding that content marketers believe THEY are the smart ones – or the business behind the content does. Somehow inside the content, they feel they need to TELL the audience what to do: where things are heading and how the AUDIENCE needs to change. They keep forgetting the audience has a history as well. They have experience and have ideas.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to convince someone of your views. But when you don’t understand their position, chances are you won’t convince them. (Content) Marketers seem to make the same mistakes. Thinking they know best, without thinking about where the target audience ‘comes from’.
Not putting yourself in your audience’s shoes is, argues Bas, the number one content marketing faux pas and I’m inclined to agree. (I go into more depth into understanding your audience in this free eBook).
When it comes to the mistakes that content marketers need to stop making, here are the five biggies: the top ways to sabotage your strategy.
Think more = better
It’s a fair bet you’ve felt the impact of content overload as a consumer. On WordPress alone, there are over 2 million blog posts published every day, while around 6,000 tweets are sent every second and email users send 204,000,000 messages per minute. So why don’t we as content marketers take the hint and stop churning out more and more stuff in the hope that the more we throw at our audience, the more likely it is to stick? This is counterintuitive.
Being offered a wide range of choices is a good thing, right? But, paradoxically, when people are offered too much choice, that they’re less likely to take any action. They simply feel overwhelmed and switch off altogether – a phenomenon termed ‘choice anxiety‘, by psychologist Barry Schwartz.
When there is too much choice people tend to go back to where they are most comfortable. They ignore the other choices. That is one of the reasons people use 5-8 apps on their phones, even though they have dozens installed.
Bas van den Beld says: “For me, the number one error is the sheer number of content pieces out there. Content marketers still seem to believe more is better. Which it is not. Actually, by creating more content all the time, they are making it harder for not just their competitors, but themselves as well, to have any impact.”
The lesson? More is less. Running yourself or your content team ragged in the belief that quantity trumps quality is probably one of the best ways to hamstring your content marketing strategy.
Content is filling up the web… but marketers should be making content that makes it easier for people, not harder, to make choices
Bas van den Beld
Skip the planning stage
Content’s all about creativity and spontaneity, isn’t it? Well, that’s part of it, but – as with any business and marketing activity – you need structure and logic behind your activity.
In a survey on content culture in Europe, content marketers identified the lack of a clear strategy as the number one barrier to their success. When you consider the significant time and effort required to create and distribute content effectively, it’s no surprise that marketers without a plan come unstuck.
A documented plan gives you focus and direction, and allows you to:
- Align content with business objectives
- Ensure consistent brand messaging
- Support your marketing calendar with appropriate content
- Allocate your resources more effectively
- Coordinate the different departments or individuals involved
- Identify gaps and inspire new ideas
Your plan can be as simple or as detailed as you need it to be, as long as it provides you with structure and focus and is flexible enough to allow for ad hoc opportunities and changing priorities.
Refuse to repurpose
Repurposing isn’t cheating. It’s getting smart about how you use your content.
It allows you to maximise the value of an original piece of content, and all of the research that went into it, by making it accessible to different user preferences among your target audience (long-form, short-form, bite-sized, visual, etc) and adapting it into separate pieces that can serve each step of the buyer journey.
An example in practice could be to produce an in-depth eBook, then:
- focus on the key points over a series of blog posts
- pull out interesting stats and present as an infographic
- distil the top-level messages into a SlideShare presentation
- adapt parts of it into a vlog or podcast
Content marketing expert Rebecca Lieb was once asked, “What’s your number one tip for companies who are struggling to produce enough content?”
She replied: “I use a Thanksgiving analogy. You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end. If you are like most families you are going to be repurposing this bird as leftovers for quite some time creating everything from sandwiches, to soups, and more. Your content marketing strategy can be thought of in the same way.”
Regular interaction with other teams makes for a friendlier, more sociable working environment. But the benefits go much further than that when it comes to content. Encouraging input from teams outside of those outside of the content/marketing team can make for a richer, better targeted content…
For a start, those who directly interact with clients and potential customers – such as sales and account managers – know first hand the questions customers ask, the pushbacks and barriers to engagement, and the specific topics of interest and other feedback. This puts you in a position to address these issues through your content and focus on the topics that your audience really cares about.
Delivery teams may be able to offer advice about how a new industry development could affect customers and demonstrate how it has impacted on the way they do their own job.
Collaboration means you’ll have a much wider pool of skills, knowledge and experience to draw upon, adding depth and fresh perspectives to your content, as well as range of voices and personalities. There’s a whole repository of ideas and skills relevant to your industry right under your nose, so it makes sense to tap into it, doesn’t it?
Much as we believe that we are most productive in our little silos, the fundamental fact remains that humans are social animals. By denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas, businesses contribute to their own speedy demise
Another benefit of collaborating with colleagues on content is the opportunity for improved visibility and reach. People are more likely to get behind your content strategy and share with their contacts on social media, email and through word of mouth, when they have a sense of ownership. A business’ employees have around ten times more social connections than all their corporate channels combined.
Give the whole team some ownership your brand’s content marketing activity by asking for suggestions and submissions for blog posts and other content and encouraging them to be involved in
its development. Regularly communicate about content activity and encourage participation, reminding employees why their involvement is important.
Recognise the value and power of your employees as ambassadors for your brand and leverage it.
In the offline world, stores employ people specifically to ensure their products are displayed in the most visually appealing way possible and seen by the maximum number of customers. Visual merchandising is viewed as an essential element of product promotion, and is a career, and an industry, in its own right.
However, the importance of choosing the most appropriate distribution methods can often be under played when it comes to online content. But publishing vaguely-relevant content arbitrarily across numerous channels is unlikely to achieve the results you’re looking for or help to build a trusting relationship with your customers. When you’ve invested time and effort in creating remarkable content, why miss the opportunity to maximise its exposure and impact?
Lindsay Thibeault, Principal Inbound Professor at the HubSpot Academy, says:
Spend as much time on content promotion as you did with creating a piece of content.
Through testing, experimentation and analysis of your performance, you need to identify which channel, or combination of channels, are most relevant to your audience and best showcases your content.
Make sure your carefully created content gets the attention it deserves by using the findings of your research to target the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.
There’s nothing new – or mysterious – about content marketing. From collectable cigarette cards, to Michelin guides, to the origins of soap operas, brands have long seen the value in giving away information. Today, savvy content marketing can drive high quality traffic to your website, increase conversions and keep customers coming back for more.