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Top 10 Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes, and How to Correct Them (Part 3 of 3)

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Editor's note: The first installment in this series covered three content marketing mistakes, and the second tackled four others. The third and final installment, below, lays out the remaining three of the top 10 content marketing mistakes.

8. Your content doesn't tell a story

At some point along the way, we content creators forgot an important, universal truth: Story matters.

The idea of "being engaging" is beyond misunderstood; it's usually described with other clichés, too, but what it really boils down to is telling a better story.

That might seem obvious, but so much content lacks story (not that all content must have it). You see tons of tactics and "how to" articles, or theory and philosophy; but, without the story thread to tie it all together, the content has no soul.

The metaphor I use to describe the problem is the classic tale of the knight who slays the dragon—in step-by-step outline:

  • Step 1: Grab sword.
  • Step 2: Mount horse.
  • Step 3: Find dragon.
  • Step 4: Pierce through heart.
  • Step 5: Rescue princess.

Where's the struggle? Where's the love, the romance, the passion, the reason to care?

I'm not sure where the problem lies, but it could be that most "content marketers" don't understand the two basic types of storytelling: direct vs. indirect (just as in asking for the transaction).

In a direct story, you're telling your content consumer about something that happened to you or someone else: "Jane used the tactics found in this post and saw a massive increase in her traffic."

Really, even though you're telling someone else's story, you want to tell it in a way that allows consumers to recognize themselves throughout the content. The more they connect with the subject of the article, the more likely they will be to take whatever action the content calls for.

Indirect content, on the other hand, is a little sneakier. The content itself might seem straightforward information, but it really has its consumers simultaneously telling a second story in their head:

  • "What would it be like if I did...?"
  • "Oh! I could use that here..."
  • "I've always wanted to try..."

Those are the types of interactions you want to go for.

Honestly, it's a tricky skill to master, and the only way to really do it is by practicing deliberately and keeping an eye out for it when it's being done to you.

Also, realize that if you're looking to build a long-term relationship with your content consumers, what you publish, and the order you publish it in, tells a story all its own.

As a content creator, your personal story needs to progress, too (see mistake No. 10). Without that, again I ask, What's the reason to care?

9. Your content never leaves home

Part of the way you keep the interest of your long-term content consumers is to get your content to leave home.

You can do that by writing guest articles or posts on other sites and blogs, making the front page of a social news outlet, or even appearing in the mainstream media.

If your content never leaves home, you don't give your loyal readers anything to root for. Your content also won't be exposed to a fresh audience, which means it won't be challenged to grow.

Search sites such as Alltop, Technorati, or even My Blog Guest to find opportunities for creating relationships with bloggers and, eventually, guest-blogging opportunities.

As for distribution, look beyond the big social networks, to less mainstream communities. Reddit, Delicious, HackerNews are good starting points, but you can get even more niche than those. And, again, do your research. You should be researching not only new places to guest-post but also the people who are the ones determining whether a piece of content is "worthy" of publication.

Usually, niche sites are tastemakers for the rest of the Internet. Too often, however, "content marketers" overlook such sites and instead try to stand out on the major platforms. The reality is, the people you appeal to on the niche sites will help propel your content into the Facebooks and Twitters of the social media world.

10. Your content never grows up

Finally, when you've been developing content for an extended period, your content has to grow up, or you risk losing your core audience.

Every television show in its third season and every teen pop artist on the verge of becoming an adult faces such a dilemma.

Many would argue that your content doesn't have to grow up, because "there will always be people just starting out." That's just a cop-out: That's what your archives are for.

When your content doesn't grow up, or at least reinvent itself at some point, you'll find yourself repeating yourself. And you'll be completely unhappy with the creation process.

It's at that point that you should take your content, full throttle, in a direction that pushes beyond your boundaries and forces you to become a better creator. (You might, for example, start a membership site or write a book or attempt to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter).

Whatever your next step, it shouldn't be resting on your laurels. Many great content creators let themselves stagnate and never reach their full potential.

If you've made it this far in this series of articles, I know you care about the content you create, so promise me that you will continue challenge yourself in unexpected and exciting ways.

* * *

No one said content marketing was easy, but with the right guidance it doesn't have to be complicated, either.

I'd love to help with any immediate challenges you might be having. So please leave a quick comment, below, to let me know. Be specific, because I want to give you specific suggestions.

Also, if you know of others who've been having trouble with their content strategy, would you mind sharing this article with them?

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Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist and the host of Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats, fresh and entertaining shows that aim to shake up online and content marketing.

Twitter: @tommyismyname
LinkedIn: Tommy Walker

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  • by Dennis Wed Mar 27, 2013 via web

    Tommy, thanks for the post. Today people just don't have time to read irrelevant material.

  • by Lisa Wed Mar 27, 2013 via web

    I found this article clear, informative, and useful. These are all good things, for which I, a relative neophyte in the word of posting, blogging, tweeting, etc., am grateful.
    That said, I do have a question I hope you can address: when did writers become content providers and/or content marketers?
    Perhaps it is a generational thing, but I take pride in being a writer (whether I am working on my own materials or writing for a client) and to me the phrase content provider makes it sound as though writing is a commodity - something anyone can do, rather than a skilled profession that requires more than a keyboard to accomplish.
    Am I over-reacting? What do you (and anyone out there reading this) think?
    I look forward to your thoughts.

  • by Tommy Walker Wed Mar 27, 2013 via web


    I don't think writers "became" content providers or marketers. Not at all, actually.

    In my opinion, the major difference between a genuine "writer" and a "content marketer" is that the content marketer will always have some sort of motive or purpose beyond what the piece of content they're creating is. (Read the first in this series, that will make more sense)

    Writers on the other hand are telling stories for the sake of telling stories. Sometimes those stories are fictional, sometimes they're true, but their intent is for the sole purpose of telling a good story (unlike a content marketer who will want to get shared, get comments, get leads or get sales)

    Sadly though, if you look around, you'll see that writing itself is a commodity. The barrier to entry to call yourself a "writer" now is so thin that it's diluted the entire process.

    You know as well as I do that putting words on the screen isn't what makes you a writer, but the ability to fall in love with words and use language to move people (be it for a purpose or to provide some escape.)

    Content provider to me is someone who is hired to write to get the attention of search engines. Whether they put work into the craft or not, that's entirely up to them, but to me that's a phrase that blankets both "writers" and "content marketers" which I believe is the difference between an "artist" and "graphic designer"

    Great question, and I think one that's worth really examining deeper.

  • by Lisa Wed Mar 27, 2013 via web

    Thank you Tommy for a thoughtful and cogent reply.
    I did read all three installments, so I understand what you mean.
    I don't think that writers became content providers, I do think that the title has changed and I agree that the barriers to entry for publication are so low as to be laughable. I can only hope that over time the difference between being able to publish and being able to write will become clearer.
    As someone who is relatively new to social media but not at all new to writing, I look forward to learning more from your articles and those of other experts.

  • by Tommy Walker Wed Mar 27, 2013 via web

    What it really comes down to Lisa is this "Time will either promote you, or expose you"

    While the barriers to publication are gone, what engages people are not.

    With all of Google's recent updates, and the socialization of content, it's becoming much more difficult for low quality stuff to make it's way to your screen. As the filters improve (which I think is going to be the next major shift in all social media tools) the garbage will get weeded out.

    While it won't take much for anyone to "publish" it's going to take a whole lot more to be distributed. Which I think in this new era, distribution will be the new publishing.

  • by Lisa Wed Mar 27, 2013 via web

    I am not sure how these new filters you mentioned would work, but I am hopeful they will do as you suggest. If distribution indeed becomes the new publishing, that should help as well.
    Food for thought indeed, thanks.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Thu Mar 28, 2013 via web

    With regards to #9--you have to go where your audience is! If you could count on them finding you every single time you wouldn't really need marketing would you? The goal is to create as many quality touch points as you can so that when you audience starts looking for what you have your brand is everywhere they turn.

  • by Carina Thu Mar 28, 2013 via web

    Lovely article, definitelly inspiring me and other content creators. Thank you!

  • by Claudia Tue Jun 18, 2013 via web

    Hi Tommy! Thank you for the great article. You see, I've been having so much trouble to writtinng my content, and I read and I tried different ways but nothings seams to work. Could you help me , or do you know anyone who can help me write my content for my webpage please? Just in case I will leave my e-mail: Thank you in advance! Claudia

  • by search engine marketing perth Sat Oct 19, 2013 via web

    Really you have good explains in your Post In my opinion content marketing is one of the best way to expose your business. and blogging is totally depend on content so content is king. Thanks for sharing.

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