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These Mistakes Can Make Your Content Marketing an Epic Failure (but You Can Avoid Them)

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Many marketers today seem quick to jump on the latest strategy, approach, or technology, attracted by the promise new and amazing results. It's done with great enthusiasm and the best intentions, but often also with a lack of planning and forethought. And when that happens, the enthusiasm and excitement can quickly turn to a feeling of epic failure.

With all the buzz about and allure of content marketing, jumping in quickly and then not seeing the expected results happens a lot.

Here are three common content marketing mistakes and some ideas for how to avoid them.

Mistake No. 1: Of course I know my audience. Now let's crank out some content.

I recently had the experience of helping my 10-year-old plan a party she was having with some classmates. It was amazing how clear she was with what she wanted. From the games to the food to goody bags, she was detailed and precise. Anything I suggested that deviated from her vision was shot down immediately, but supported by some sound logic.

I relented and let her run the show based on one simple reason: I was pretty sure she knew her audience a whole lot better than I did.

The first big mistake a lot of companies continue to make: they jump right in and create content too focused on their own brand versus what their audience might really be looking for. They skip the critical first step of figuring out or validating what is truly relevant to the customer.

We should all know by now that if your content doesn't entertain, educate, or solve a problem for your customer, you are probably missing the mark. So even if you have a really great brand story, don't make it about you. Make it about your customer.

The good news is there are lots of quick and easy ways to learn more about what your customers might really be looking for before you start cranking out the content.

Do some keyword research. Look at the keywords that are used most to search and find whatever it is you sell. You may find terms that you do not immediately associate with your brand, but your customer and prospects do. If so, figure out how to align your solutions with those terms, and then work them into your content to create greater relevance.

Also look at your website's referring website traffic. It will tell you what visitors are looking at before they are looking at you. That can be a great source of information to help position your content or identify the digital channels your customer and prospects frequent.

Turn to your own sales and customer service teams, which are too often overlooked as sources of information. What are they hearing on the front lines? Maybe there are some common requests or needs being raised that you were not aware of. Use that information to create fresh content. Recent customer feedback is great source to help you keep things relevant and up to date.

Mistake No. 2: Absolutely, we speak with a consistent brand voice. Now let's blast out more content.

Your brand voice, and the personality you inject into, it is really important. It can be one of the most powerful ways to distinguish your brand and set it apart from others.

Brand voice is one of the staples of good marketing, but it is especially important when you introduce new content and through multiple tactics and channels.

Some variance in tone and language might be appropriate to address different audiences, but generally speaking your brand voice should be consistent and clear across all the channels you use.

Recently, a company was announcing the addition of a great new feature to its flagship product. On the corporate website, the announcement was formal and businesslike. The same announcement on one of the company's social media sites was significantly less formal and even used slang terms. The dramatic different in tone and approach could easily create an unwanted variation in the perception of the brand.

To avoid inconsistencies, create a style guide that clearly presents your brand voice and story line. It should define the focus, tone, language, and visuals to be used. Everyone creating content should adhere to that common set of guidelines—including Marketing, PR, HR, Corporate Communications, and any other group.

You can also perform a periodic content audit, which is a great process for identifying where and when inconsistencies may occur. An audit can be done by collecting a broad sample of posted content for review. It can also be incorporated into an approval process for looking at content before it goes live.

Mistake No. 3: Crank out our content on blogs and social media. They're all that matter.

All too often companies seem to associate content marketing with blogs and social media, and not much more. But there are so many more options. Selecting the best options ties back to understanding your audience.

One organization implemented a B2B lead generation program, creating some pretty compelling content but not getting results. After looking deeper, it realized its mistake: It was distributing its content through social media sites that its prospects did not frequent. The organization instead integrated the very same content into a high-traffic section of its website, and also placed links on an industry association website where its prospects visited. Results improved exponentially.

It seems obvious, but the driving force behind your content tactics and channels of distribution should be how and where your prospects and customers consume information. If that's on a website where a blog can reside or through specific social media, that's great, but don't discount content tactics such as e-newsletters, e-magazines, articles, microsites, infographics, and video, just to name a few.

The good thing, especially in the digital space, is that you can test tactics and adjust or switch them quickly.

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So, to make your content marketing an epic success instead of an epic failure, make sure you know what kind of content your audience wants, create it using a clear and consistent brand voice, and make sure you put your content where your prospects and customer are mostly likely to consume it.

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Jeff Sierra, a marketing strategist and technologist, is president and CMO of Mind Fuel, a provider of marketing strategy and business planning solutions.

LinkedIn: Jeff Sierra

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