Content marketing is the new black. Businesses are all dressing their marketing up in content. There is no better way to educate, connect with and influence prospects in becoming clients. Content is also a key component in lead nurturing and engagement with existing clients. Yet, according to the Content Marketing Institute, only 40% of marketers feel their efforts are successful. Is content marketing just a fad that will go out of season next year? Nope – content marketing is justifiably here to stay. If your content strategy isn’t eliciting that paparazzi-level attention you had hoped, check out this post for 10 reasons why it might end up on the worst dressed (content marketing) list.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a marketing strategy that involves the creation and distribution of relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Content marketing is the art of communicating with your clients and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. It focuses on helping your prospects make better, more informed decisions and minimizes or eliminates overt sales pitches about services and products. The premise of this strategy is founded on the “quid pro quo” philosophy: if we provide consistent and valuable information to our audiences, they will return the favor with their business and loyalty. And apparently, they do. Content marketing works.
Traditional “interruption” marketing is no longer effective on its own. Today’s consumers fast forward through ads on TV with their DVRs, ignore online banners, and turn the page on magazine ads. Content marketing is the “pull” to the interruption marketing “push”. Hundreds of thought leaders and marketing experts from around the world, including the likes of Seth Godin, are expounding the fact that content marketing is not just the wave of the future – it is the best way for businesses to be successful today. Inbound marketing via an organized and structured content strategy is the only way to get your marketing on the best dressed list.
So if your hot little content marketing strategy is not attracting the kind of star-struck, paparazzi-level attention from your audience that you had anticipated, make sure you’re not engaging in any of these content marketing fashion “don’t”s.
1) Don’t skimp on its quality.
Content marketing is all about providing relevant, educational, engaging, compelling, and entertaining information to your clients and prospective clients. Quality content comes in all different shapes, sizes and colors – be sure to vary your content wardrobe with different media and distribution channels for maximum impact. Include video, blogs, newsletters, social media, webinars, emails, press releases, podcasts and other forms of communication in your content strategy. Ensure that your audience can clearly see and easily find the value of your content. If your content lacks quality, so will your return on investment.
2) Don’t clad yourself in logos and taglines.
Content marketing is about avoiding overt sales pitches. Assuming that there is a market for your service or product, and therefore all you have to do is push your message out to enough people to generate sales, is a faux pas. Egocentric marketing focuses on you, your products and your services and fails to live up to the basic content marketing philosophy: relevant, informative, compelling content. If your content strategy isn’t working, take another look in the mirror and check to see how many “me, me, me” references are reflected.
3) Don’t wear a ball gown to a picnic.
Knowing who your target audience is will certainly help you craft the most effective content strategy. If you show up at a picnic wearing a ball gown, you’ll get some attention, though probably not the kind that you want. Similarly, if you send the wrong type of messaging to your pool of prospects, you might elicit a few responses, though (again), probably not the kind you had anticipated. The surest way to become irrelevant is by not being relevant to your recipients. If everyone in your database receives the exact same messages as everyone else, you are likely alienating a percentage of those prospects with each and every launch. Make sure that your target audiences are clearly defined, and identify the needs and communication preferences of each group. Then customize your messages, frequency and method of distribution accordingly.
4) Don’t assume it is attractive to everyone.
Not all clients will like the same thing. When you create content, you must keep in mind what will attract and engage customers and prospects, as well as their friends. If you’re not getting the response from your targeted content that you expected, conduct a focus group study or send out a poll/survey to see why your message might be missing the mark. Testing your content strategy before launching into a full-scale campaign will help you identify duds early on as well. If content strategy is new to you, consider hiring a consultant to help you develop and implement your plan. Or create a committee of multi-disciplinary professionals from your firm to weigh in occasionally so that you get multiple perspectives. Learn to see things through the lenses of your prospects and clients, and not as only as the business owner or manager.
5) Don’t try to disguise a drab personality with dapper clothes.
You may have spent hours selecting the perfect font, headline, call-to-action and message. But no matter how handsome your email is, it won’t matter if your content is boring. The solution? Be creative and dress your message up with appropriate glitz and glamour to ensure that it creates a stunning first impression, and then make absolutely sure that the content measures up to the red carpet fanfare. You will only have one or two chances to disappoint your readers before they stop reading your materials altogether. Style disguises simply do not cover up substance inadequacies more than once. Style is important for branding and attention getting, but substance is what will earn you the long-term business opportunities you seek.
6) Don’t pretend it’s cerulean if it’s really just plain blue.
It’s an all-too-common and dangerous assumption that people don’t pay attention (see number 5, above). If you hook people in on a certain topic, don’t change the agenda once they arrive. You’ve probably been conned by a marketing ploy or two, yourself, such as signing up for an informative webinar that is, in fact, a product demonstration. Don’t fall into this pattern of poor communication. Promising in-depth, exclusive tips and strategies in an upcoming article or whitepaper that really only delivers a surface-level summary and well-known statements of fact will harm your credibility and reputation, resulting in lost opportunities. Deliver what you say you will deliver. Or give them even more than they expected. It’s all comes back to quality once again.
7) Don’t over-accessorize with flashy pieces.
Look here! Look there! If your content strategy involves too many different calls to action (whether through one distribution channel or multiple media), your audience won’t know where to look or what to do. In addition, if you flaunt too many calls to action simultaneously, you won’t know which ones are the most effective. Keep your accessories (calls to action) simple – switch them up on occasion to see if one is more effective than another, but rarely mix-and-match them unless you segment them by target market and are able to truly measure the metrics of each effort throughout the campaign.
8) Don’t confuse matchy-matchy for style.
If you think that having consistent branding and color-coordinated messages equals great content style, think again. The best content marketing style is to write custom content that specifically addresses the needs of your targeted, segmented audiences. The perceived value of the content within those branded, matching messages is what will earn you loyal clients, interested prospects and future business opportunities. Again, substance wins over style in content marketing every single time.
9) Don’t wear the same thing over and over again.
If your content looks the same, reads the same, and sounds the same, it is the same. Your prospects will certainly notice. Sending out the same message repeatedly (even with a different title, headline, graphic or introduction) will, in effect, train them to ignore you. Is it acceptable to recycle content? Absolutely. It is even highly recommended so that you can get your great content to your various audiences in the format they prefer. However, be aware that re-delivering a three-year-old whitepaper (unedited) is not the proper way to repurpose it. Articles can turn into whitepapers, whitepapers can turn into videos, videos can turn into podcasts, podcasts can turn into online presentations, which can, in turn, turn into articles. And any variation therein. The reincarnation of content is essentially limitless. But with each reinvention of the content, be sure to triple-check it for relevancy, timeliness, accuracy and quality. Update it. Give it some new flavor. Enhance it. Make it bigger, better, bolder. And definitely make sure that you have more than one solid piece of content that you republish time and again.
10) Don’t walk out the door without your shoes.
Without your shoes, your outfit is incomplete. Without metrics and reporting, your content marketing strategy is incomplete. Not measuring a response to your content beyond opens and clicks means that you have no clue which content is working or why it is working (or not). Metrics that help you evaluate and analyze your strategy are as important as the content itself.
Successful marketers create compelling content (specifically, interesting and factual stories). They adapt best practices from experts in their field and bridge the gap between corporate interests and market needs for valuable information. Your goal is to establish relationships with the people who will buy your products and services. However you implement your content marketing strategy, the epicenter of your plan should be about providing value and quality material that your prospects and clients will value, appreciate and share with others.
Regardless of which industry you are in, your content should be conversational, factual, engaging and (this is an industry secret) it should tell a story. The story need not be a fairy tale, or overly emotional, or simplistic. It should, however, deliver the facts, include insightful nuggets of information and weave a tale of value in a compelling manner.
If you successfully avoid making these 10 mistakes, you will be well on your way to making the most out of your content marketing strategy. If you’re going to dress your marketing up in content, make sure the fashion statement you make is worthy of positive attention.