Seventy-eight percent of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing, which means more budget is being designated to content marketing and with that, bigger and better results are expected. But here’s the truth: Success in content marketing is hard. When you hear about hugely successful content marketing campaigns or a company that does it really well, what you don’t hear about is the all the failures it took to get there. Below are some content marketing failures you may experience on the road to success and what you can do to fix them.
FAIL: Using Outdated Personas to Develop Content.
The success of your content depends on its ability to connect with your audience. Are you creating content with your buyers’ pain points, needs and psychology in mind? To create effective content, it’s important to keep your personas current. Buyers needs are constantly changing and to grab your buyers’ attention, you need to address problems, issues or trends they’re dealing with now.
FIX: If you find your content is falling flat and its point of view, subject matter or key messages are based on buyer personas or a messaging document created from personas, enlist the help of your sales team and some friendly customers to help you re-evaluate your personas to ensure your content is relevant to buyers NOW. General rule of thumb is to update buyer personas at least twice a year to keep them fresh, but if your content is not resonating as well as you anticipated, you may need to refresh them more often. Making tweaks to your content based on persona or messaging updates could give your content the relevance it needs to grab your buyers’ attention and keep it.
FAIL: Lack of Original Content or Point of View.
As mentioned in Fail #1, to grab buyers’ attention, you need to stay relevant to what they care about now. Unfortunately, many other marketers know this, which means a lot of content on the same topics flooding the marketplace at the same time. It’s unlikely your/your author’s thoughts on a topic are completely original. However, you can and should have a unique perspective, delivery method or opinion on your topic. Think about your content like you would the remake of a movie or cover of a song – only do it if you can add to or improve on the original.
FIX:If a quick google search reveals multiple results similar to your content, your buyers have probably been exposed to those as well. Brainstorm ways to change the delivery, the format or the perspective to offer a fresh take on the information. Could you turn your whitepaper into a video, your eBook into an interactive game, your video into an infographic? Could you cover your subject in light of new facts, statistics or use cases? Seventy percent of marketers plan on creating more content than they did the year before, so competing for mindshare is only getting more difficult. You’re not going to be the first person to discuss your subject, so be the best.
FAIL: Low Response Rate.
If you’ve validated your content is strong, unique and on point but you’re still getting a lower response rate than you anticipated, the problem could be in the amplification and/or delivery of it. According to Rand Fishkin, founder of online marketing and SEO firm Moz, content amplification falls into three buckets: 1. Broadcast: social media, email, events, etc.; 2. 1:1 Outreach: social media, in person, personal email, etc.; 3. Paid Promotion: PPC, advertising, boosted posts, etc. To optimize response rates, you need to have the right mix of amplification techniques and be targeting the right audience.
FIX: Spend some time analyzing your strategy for each of these buckets to determine if one or all of them are producing a weak response. It could be that you’re using the wrong channels. For example, if your content is intended for a business decision makers and you’re relying heavily on Facebook for your paid promotion and outreach, you could be missing your target audience as Facebook is typically more optimal for consumers. Consider re-allocating your dollars and efforts to LinkedIn, an industry-related community forum, or trade publication. Identifying the best channels and amplification strategy for your content takes trial and error and getting to know your audience really, really well.
FAIL: Lack of Shareability.
The rise of social media has taken the importance of content marketing and its shareability to a new level. Social networking relies on sharing content and consuming content shared by others. For content to be shareable, it needs to be relevant (see Fail #1), compelling (see Fail #2) and easy to share.
FIX: If your content isn’t being shared on social networks, examine how it scores in the three areas above. Make sharing on multiple social networks as easy as possible. Consider shareability when choosing a title (length and descriptiveness), accompanying images (visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared), and preview text (the first 2 – 3 sentences of your content or landing page). Gating your content is going to diminish shareability, so consider creating another “teaser” piece to share on social networks if your content is gated. Optimizing shareability takes practice, brainstorming and lots of tweaking so don’t give up before going through several rounds of edits aiming to increase it.
FAIL: Low Lead Quality.
If your content is based on updated buyer personas and messaging documents and you’re still experiencing low lead quality, it could be due to lack of an effective lead nurturing program or a mistake in bucketing your content into a designated buyer stage. Many marketers make the incorrect assumption that a lead that views a certain type of content is automatically ready to talk to Sales. As a result, Sales sends the leads back to marketing deeming them as “unqualified” or “not Sales-ready”.
FIX: Re-evaluate your content if it’s designated as a “conversion piece” by analyzing what content is downloaded when among won opportunities in your CRM. This will help determine if you’ve correctly identified the buyer stage in which your content likely falls. Just because leads view a webinar doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to go to Sales. If you’re able to spot trends on the mix of content downloaded among won opportunities, use it as a basis for creating a lead nurturing program that produces high-quality leads.
Your content marketing efforts may not produce the ROI you’re expecting or hoping for immediately. Don’t give up. Every success story includes failures. What makes you successful is the bravery to face your failures, evaluate and learn from them, and then fix them. Set expectations for your CEO or board to think long-term. Content marketing is a process. It takes patience, analysis, and hard work to get it right, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will reap the benefits.