Do you feel overwhelmed with content marketing? As simple as it sounds, it’s easy to forget that there’s just as much marketing involved in promoting your business as there is content creation. Typically, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing department. If this sounds like the track your content marketing strategy is on, it could be costing you more customers than it’s gaining.
So, how can you make sure you’re developing a solid, actionable content marketing plan? Well, you’ll first have to avoid the following mistakes as they will derail your content strategy. Here’s what to avoid:
Mistake #1: Relying completely on the marketing department
The first and most common mistake is dumping everything on the marketing department. Compared to other departments in the company, the marketing department would be the most logical choice for the job if look at it from the outside. If your company does this, you’re not alone:
Content marketing, however, shouldn’t be thought of as purely an extension of marketing, editorial or public relations departments. It should pull from various departments, including design, engineering and even sales, to name a few.
Why? Because the marketing department won’t always know what the best type of content you should be creating. For example, at KISSmetrics, our engineering and design departments recommended various types of content:
- How to track people – one of the most common questions we get at KISSmetrics is “how do we track people?”. The marketing department can’t write a piece like this as it would require a deep understanding of our technology.
- How design affects conversion – a lot of our ideal customers are trying to boost their conversion rates. The design team is not only better suited to write a piece like this, but they can also create design examples.
As you can see from the examples above, the marketing department wouldn’t be able to write all of those content pieces. For that reason, it’s important to have many departments in your company involved in your content marketing strategy. Here’s how you can get the other departments involved:
- Encourage other departments - tell them the benefits of content marketing for the company and for them personally such as increasing their personal brand. An easy way to do this is to also look for people in the company who are already communicating to customers as they are going to be more open to blogging.
- Create an editorial board for all content pieces – this will act as both a springboard for ideas and a way to keep the brand and voice consistent through all content marketing channels.
- Create an email alias or Skype group – add all these members so that you can easily communicate with each other the moment an idea hits or a concept piece is finished.
Mistake #2: Running out of steam
Now that you have a team together, you need to focus on the content itself. When a strategy is just launched, it’s all too easy to churn out tons of great ideas and get right to work making them a reality. But at some point, you’ll run out of ideas, and the quality will suffer.
When that happens, here’s what I do:
- Storytelling – people are attracted to certain kinds of stories: stories of triumph, stories that challenge and stories that inspire. How will your content play a role in helping to tell the kinds of stories that get shared? Just make sure you aren’t mistaking storytelling with storyselling.
- Answer the questions your customers don’t know how to ask – what are some of the greatest challenges people face with your product? How can they be more successful with it?
- Add personal touches – one of the biggest problems with most content marketing formulas is that they subtract the person completely and focus entirely on the company and it’s actions.
- Pay attention to the competition – one of the easiest ways to get new content ideas that are hot is to keep an eye on the competition. You can check out my process of researching the competition in order to come up with creative ideas here.
Now, to check that you were paying attention to the four bullet points above, here is a question: do you know what’s wrong with this example of content marketing from GE?
It’s all about GE and its technology, and not about the people they’ve helped or the impact they’ve made. Or better yet, they should have created content that benefits their ideal customer.
Mistake #3: Marketing content only via the company blog
By now, you should know that marketing content on your blog alone isn’t going to cut it. You need to reach out and broaden your focus to include the channels your customers are using.
You need to look at all the possible ways in which content can be shared: social, video, document, slide, infographic and more. Content marketers are often so laser-focused on social media that they completely forget that their audience may also be reading other sites. You can leverage this knowledge by creating other forms of content.
You should try the following:
- Turn your video into a guest post
- Turn a blog post into an infographic and post it on someone else’s site.
- Interview industry experts via a podcast and try to get them to publish it on their blog.
Once you create the above content pieces, you can then use the following email outreach templates to publish your content on industry related blogs:
Subject: you should blog about [insert your guest blog post topic]
[insert their first name], as an avid reader of [insert their site name] I would love to read about [insert guest blog post topic], and I think your other readers would as well.
Your content on [insert existing post from their website #1, insert existing post from their website #2, and insert existing post from their website #3] are great, but I think you can tie it all together by blogging on [insert guest blog post topic].
I know you are probably busy and won’t blog on it. so I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. How about I write it for you? Don’t worry, I’m a great blogger and have had my posts featured on [insert previous guest post URL #1] and [insert previous guest post URL #2].
Let me know if you are interested. I already know your blogging style, plus I understand what your readers love… as I am one.
Look forward to hearing from you,
[insert your name]
The reason you should guest post on a regular basis is that it can do wonders for your search traffic. For example, I wrote 59 guest posts, which help build an extra 117 links into 30 posts on Quick Sprout.
As you can see from the image above, the posts I linked to from my guest posts received more search engine traffic than the posts without many external links pointing to them. If you add in the number of leads and sales those guest posts generated, the ROI was huge.
Mistake #4: Not winning customers over
You have the content, but is it really winning customers over? One very common content marketing mistake that’s made with even the best of intentions is to put a positive spin on every piece. For one, your customers aren’t buying it. You and they both know the product or service has flaws or isn’t right for everyone. Every content marketing effort feels more like a sales pitch.
To help avoid this, you may want to invite users to participate in your content marketing efforts. A Vermont ski resort Jay Peak did this by encouraging their users to tag Jay Peak in their instagram photos describing what they love about the mountain. The mention of Jay Peak is secondary to the users emphasizing what they love about skiing there, but the campaign does a great job of sharing the enthusiasm without hyping up the location.
So, how do you do it? You could:
- Encourage users to pose with your product or showcase your brand name in an unusual way. Nylabone invites their users to post pictures of their dogs using the product, with captions, providing real social proof in a way that marketing videos or photos can’t.
- Give a shout out to the submitters when you do post their content, since they’re very likely to show both the content and your response to their friends.
- Focus on feelings rather than the brand itself. Coke’s Happiness is… Tumblr page and Chobani Greek Yogurt’s Pinterest Page don’t always mention the products themselves, but by interacting with the pages, customers grow to associate the brand with those feelings.
Don’t make the mistake of relying completely on user-generated content. Make sure that you check the sources of uploaded pictures or videos before posting and let the customers know upfront that any content they submit becomes the property of your company to do with as you wish. This will help prevent any controversial or legal issues that could crop up if the campaign truly takes on a life of its own.
If you really want to harness the benefits of user-generated content, you should ask for (and respond) to reviews, both good and bad. For many users, knowing that the company cares and is willing to work with them to resolve the issue will diffuse any anger or frustration, which can be the spark that leads to other disgruntled customers jumping on the bandwagon.
Mistake #5: Not measuring the results
The easiest way to gather usable content marketing metrics is to figure out which pages or promotions have the biggest impact on customers, and why. Measuring things like the click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors are all sales-focused metrics. You should also look at:
- The type of media customers engaged with the most – this is a simple metric and boils down to the number of pages, downloads or other raw data. You can use basic tools like Google Analytics to determine this.
- Where and how the content was shared socially – you can use services like Hootsuite to track the number of social shares and the channels used to share the content.
- Whether or not content converted into customers – all your content marketing efforts are wasted if your visitors are not turning into paying customers. Start off by learning who’s doing what on your site, how often they participate, and how soon they made a purchase.
Here is an example of what we track on our KISSmetrics blog:
As you can see from the image above, content URLs are placed on the left and number of times people visit the blog after reading one of those URLs is at the top. So the higher the percentage, the better the content. If you are writing content that causes a low return visit percentage, it means that you are publishing content that people don’t care to read.
At KISSmetrics we try to optimize our blog for return visits because we know it helps create brand loyalty. In the long run, those visitors are more likely to turn into customers.
It’s never really easy to create a content marketing strategy that works well, but if you avoid the mistakes above, you will be better off.
Out of all the mistakes I’ve listed above, the most common one is not measuring the results. You can’t just dump tons of hours or dollars into a content marketing strategy if you can’t produce a positive ROI. It’s not just about the number of downloads or shares, but about the number of customers who have been gained from consuming the content.
What are some other content marketing mistakes you see being made today? How would you handle them?