We have worked with tons of businesses, agencies, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs over the years producing content, assisting with developing content strategies, and building content management processes to support their content marketing goals and initiatives. Unfortunately, with some of these projects and engagements, we have delivered written content according to brand and style guidelines, formatting requirements, and other specs. After asking for feedback multiple times, clients either claim they are “reworking their strategies”, or ghost us completely…
For many years we have looked at our own processes to try and pinpoint where and how we can improve to better serve clients, provide more value to them, and help them reach their content marketing goals. However, through many trials, tribulations, and experiences, we have learned that in some cases, businesses, agencies, and entrepreneurs ask us to help them produce content without really having a firm content strategy in place—inevitably resulting in failure.
In this article, we will outline some of the most common mistakes businesses make with their content, why their content marketing plans have failed, and how to set up the right content marketing strategy.
Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy
Before we get started, it’s important to differentiate content marketing from content strategy.
Yes, there is a difference…
In fact, this is where many businesses and content marketers trip up before they even get started. There is a clear difference between the two, and it lies within measurement.
Here are the primary differences between the two:
Content Marketing is a larger-scale initiative that involves measuring things like inbound and outbound links, domain authority, content types and formats, and how those reach target audiences.
Content Strategy is a smaller-scale initiative that involves measuring the number of user sessions on a page or article on a website, the number of conversions, bounce rate, and overall readability.
5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
1. Data should inform—not rule decisions.
Data is great for becoming informed about your current markets and campaigns. While it’s always good to be able to determine trends, it’s important to remember marketing is an art—not a science. Social Media Marketing campaigns are a prime example of how the perfect campaign at the perfect time with the perfect audience can explode into an overnight viral success or fizzle out into the deep dark web.
No matter how much data you may have, you can never truly be certain how a campaign is going to blossom until you actually start planting the seed. Try to think of data as an excellent tool for your toolbelt; it’s there to help for jobs that require it but sometimes it’s not the right tool you need in order for a campaign to be successful.
Never underestimate your years of experience and good old fashion “gut feeling”. In order to get the results you and your company truly desires, use your full range of skills and abilities rather than focusing on just one piece of the puzzle.
2. An Editorial calendar is NOT a strategy.
Editorial calendars are great for keeping a marketing team organized and on track but do absolutely nothing as far as communicating the full game plan. When formulating a strategy, you need more than just a list of deadlines—you need to be able to ebb and flow with the market.
In the age of the internet, trends are ever-changing—and so is your audience. While once upon a time the ideal customer was one that we could swiftly push into a purchase, now audiences have more information at their fingertips enabling them to be more empowered with their choices.
Now more than ever it’s important to build relationships with your clients. (Think more engagement, more delighting, more personalization.) This means that having a “set it and forget it” calendar is not going to cut the mustard.
Additionally, think more long term: How can your company create content that will build trust over time? Having an editorial calendar is a great organizational start but there needs to be a strategy behind it that will allow for changes and flexibility. Think of the editorial calendar as your generalized road map but your strategy is the compass that guides you to alternative routes through all of the road closures and traffic build-ups.
3. No measurement, no reward.
You can’t very well have a content strategy without any real way to measure it. After all, how will you know what is working and what isn’t? How do you know if you’ve reached your goals if you didn’t have a baseline to start from? How do you know what content to create in the future?
If you haven’t taken the time to consider these questions then your campaign is doomed for failure. There is simply no way to be sure your efforts are seeing a positive (or negative) return unless you have pre-establish goals and measurements in place ahead of time.
The success of your content can be measured in a multitude of ways. Sometimes companies choose to focus on a range of exposure and conversion rates while others prefer to take a closer look at how their content has impacted their SEO and overall interactions that were generated from said content.
Regardless of *how* you measure your campaign’s success, it’s always important to have those goals established and consistent. This will both allow you to identify the true success of your campaign but also give you a path and focus for your brand.
4. Greatness doesn’t happen overnight
Despite what viral sensations may suggest, marketing takes time. Why? Because in today’s world, customers want to build a trusting relationship with the companies they invest in. Just like meeting a new friend at a party, each client needs time to get to know you before they’ll be willing to metaphorically buy you a birthday present. The reality is, if you’re looking for instant gratification, then go out and buy some ice cream.
5. Too Many Mit-sakes!
Even in a day and age when we rely on instant messaging, text, and social media to communicate, proper use of the English language has become more casual. Emojis, memes, GIFs, acronyms, and other short-hand communications have all become somewhat “accepted” ways of communicating.
However, regardless of popular belief, there are scenarios when those communication methods are appropriate, and when they are not—one area in which they are not is sales. Imagine walking into a doctor’s office wherein their informational pamphlets are riddled with typos and errors. Would you trust that doctor? While some may find such antics comical—and possibly appropriate, in some instances—most clientele would question the doctor’s credentials, or run out of the office screaming.
The same goes for building credibility with your clients…
Much like going to an interview for a job, you want to “dress your company to impress” by avoiding typos and using proper English writing techniques. This is not to say that mistakes don’t happen; in fact, we would argue they are inevitable. In some ways, small errors can make your company more relatable and “human”.
However, when it comes to building a rapport as an industry professional or even a thought leader, it’s critical to ensure your tonality and overall online persona remains within the guidelines of your organization’s brand.
What a Successful Content Marketing Strategy Looks Like
Content marketing is a bigger challenge than most businesses realize. As a business, agency, or fellow content marketer, it’s your job to create quality content that informs, builds trust, and eventually builds a loyal client base. In order to reach that last step, you have to have the patience and diligence to follow through.
Additionally, you need to be wary of overselling and under-educating in order to avoid being seen in a negative light or not seen at all. While data can help inform you of making the right decisions at the right time, there is no magical pill that grows your success overnight. Creating a strategy that uses data as a tool rather than the gospel is key to creating a successful campaign.
As far as our team, we are making a change: Rather than accept clients’ one-off or per project content orders and requests, we are going to work alongside them, and get to the WHY behind the content piece. We are also going to focus on working with clients to understand their content marketing goals, develop content strategies that are aligned with those goals, and even help brainstorm content ideas. We succeed when our clients succeed.