Ever get excited about an idea, but when you start searching online for further information you're taken to mountains of boring, insufficient, copycat content? Why is that?

In B2C Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, merely 38% of respondents' organizations reported having a documented content marketing strategy. Among those who thought their content marketing efforts were most successful, 59% had a documented strategy compared with 18% for the least successful marketers. The numbers were similar on the B2B side.

Clearly, a documented strategy makes a difference in content performance. Instead of flooding the Internet with content that's merely meh, avoid the following content marketing mistakes to ensure that you are strategically producing content that breaks through and wows your audience.

1. Lack of Research

Many content teams don't spend sufficient time up front to research the niche they are targeting, missing opportunities for creating unique content. Little to no audience research is done to understand important gaps in the market. No interviews. No insight into what's being shared or linked to the most, by whom, or for what reasons. Often little thought is given to the types of content that would truly captivate the targeted audience.

One software company that's doing content research right conducts interviews of 20 members of its target audience for each of half a dozen blog posts it produces monthly. The result is content that offers tangible, real-world, insider insights far beyond what any others are doing in the space. That process also translates into an army of promotional soldiers for the company: Each participant takes to social media to promote the pieces to which he or she contributed.

You may be thinking that conducting 100-120 interviews monthly for your blog would be like herding kittens. And that's where looking to technology, standardization, and established processes makes the effort efficient and manageable. The result is an onslaught of online promotion of the company's content all the time, every week, by those with credibility and existing social networks.

Interviews are merely one method for researching fruitful topics. You can also monitor industry trends for fresh, new ideas, or review onsite searches to confirm the current interests of your audience, or monitor online discussions to uncover new challenges or approaches that would be useful to tackle in your content.

The point is, when developing your content, you should incorporate strategic research to ensure your content is both unique and powerful.

2. Lack of Alignment With the Funnel

Content strategy should be thought through so that content effectively drives traffic throughout the entire funnel. Although some marketing teams create a content calendar, the scheduled content is not designated for a specific layer in the funnel.

Align your specific content pieces with the different stages of the funnel in order to resonate more directly with your audience:

According to Demand Gen Report's 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report, 71% of B2B buyers surveyed like to read blog posts at the top of the funnel; webinars are of strong interest in the middle of the funnel; and 48% say ROI calculators to be the most valuable form of content at the bottom of the funnel.

Let's say you sell baby goods, and your target audience consists of new moms. Instead of developing content that would be of interest to such women in general, break down the content for each phase of the funnel.

At first, at the top of the funnel, while the soon-to-be moms are still pregnant, they will likely be thinking and researching baby names. During that process, women often spend a lot of time searching online with their spouses, and they often chat about ideas with friends, neighbors, and family. So why not produce a baby-name generator for your audience? Perhaps it will be crowdsourced to add an element of community to the experience. Or, make it a multiplayer game among friends and relatives, transforming the real-world fun into online entertainment that has a serious purpose.

Immediately after they have a baby, your audience of new moms can sometimes experience what's referred to as "mommy brain," where even the most basic things are overlooked. At this point, they might turn to Google for answers. So, for the middle of the funnel, why not create the ultimate resource calendar they can find online to help them remember what they need to take care of as a new mom? The resource could cover health (both physical and mental health) tasks, breastfeeding, sleep, baby clothes, babyproofing the house, things you'd never think of like how to cut a baby's nails and other month-by-month items that she'll need to take care of.

At the bottom of the funnel, you can create content tied to coupons, offers, and special promotions. Sell diapers? How about a competition in which a set of winners receives a year's supply of diapers? Or, create an interactive tool where the new mom can enter information about her baby's skin (sensitive skin, prone to rashes, eczema, etc.), and the tool recommends the right diaper along with helpful complementary products and advice. At the bottom of the funnel, you want your content to be highly product-specific; this is the time she'll make buying decisions.

3. Lack of Focus on Outreach, Promotion, and Distribution

Many content marketing teams spend 90% of their time on content production and merely 10% on outreach and distribution. Their promotional efforts are extremely limited.

To achieve content marketing success, you should instead be spending most of your time on outreach, promotion, and distribution.

For example, an event management company organically engaged 1,600 influencers and publishers in the promotion of various content pieces, ultimately resulting in 42 million social impressions. The company experienced a 1,356% increase in the number of keywords driving organic traffic over the previous two years, representing literally millions in new monthly visits from organic search.

A challenge with outreach is that you may find it time-consuming, cumbersome, and onerous to engage 6 influencers/publishers, let alone 1,600. What's a marketer to do?

Instead of conducting outreach in an individual silo for each piece of content, look to build relationships, systems, and scalable platforms. You'll want to build a process that will reliably work for your content marketing for years to come; achieving greater scale and a compound effect from your efforts.

How much time are you devoting to building long-term relationships? How much time do you spend nurturing those relationships? How much value do you bring to those relationships?

To maximize your content marketing ROI, it's critical that you focus a high percentage of your efforts on outreach and spreading the word. It's not a question of sending a few emails. It's about establishing a team dedicated to content promotion and building a reliable win-win system, with everyone involved gaining value so that your few emails turns into hundreds or thousands of relationships.

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image of Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens is a digital outreach manager at Terakeet, an enterprise SEO company for Fortune 1000 and disruptor brands.

LinkedIn: Kevin Owens