Almost every business claims to have a content marketing program. But modern content marketing is not simply a matter of slapping up content as a part of your marketing program. Real content marketing is a modern thing, catalyzed by a combination of social technology, business analytics and the changing needs of customers.
A real content marketing program is developed in concert with the needs of both sales and marketing. It acts both as education and to generate leads. It should be interactive. And smart content marketers figure out ways to solicit ideas for content from the customers and from outside the business.
There are many ways to successfully operate a content marketing program. But, more often, businesses become ensnared by common pitfalls and their content marketing efforts fail to produce. Here are the six most common failures of content marketing – as a content marketer myself, I’ve seen each of them debilitate otherwise promising programs.
1. Fail to Respect the Opportunity of Content
The Internet era has led to a devaluation of “content.” The very term is demeaning to that which it describes and makes it a commodity. When it’s is viewed this way, there is no emphasis on excellence — “content” becomes fodder to be fed into the marketing machine. When content is not respected, your marketing program values the great and the mediocre as the same. And if you don’t value your own content, why would your customers spend their time reading it?
Think about it: if you had a museum filled with important paintings, iconic sculpture and historic photography, would you describe the museum’s artifacts to people you hoped to influence as “content,” or would you use a term that ascribed more importance to it?
The business world is stuck with the term “content.” It’s what we use to describe writing, webinars, infographics and videos. But get out of the mindset that the “content” you create is simply marketing fodder, something you need to check off a box on your marketing plan. Every piece you add to your content marketing arsenal is a chance to stake your place as the most creative and most insightful business in your space. If you don’t respect that opportunity, don’t waste your time on content marketing.
2. Treat Content Marketing as Another Form of Broadcasting
The previous generations of marketing had the benefit of a one-way conversation with customers in a world relatively devoid of competing conversations. Because of that, much of the content was based around the conversation that marketers wanted to have. Often, that was about how great their business was. But who wants to read a sales pitch? The answer then was “few people,” and the answer today is “almost no one.”
The conversation today is a two-way conversation, and beyond. The content you include in your program is subject to feedback via social media — are you paying attention to it? If you’re creating great content, the conversation may not include you directly — customers and potential customers will discuss and share your content on social media channels that you don’t control.
But many marketers operate as if they were mired in the past. They delude themselves into believing that they control the conversation and that everything they broadcast will be unquestioningly absorbed by a willing and passive audience. Not only does that insult the modern customer — who’s more active and informed than ever before — it’s a great way to guarantee your content marketing efforts are actively ignored.
3. Hide Everything Behind Registration
The old-school marketer will argue until the cows come home: “why have content if you can’t collect lead information from it?” These poor souls are convinced that all content should lead directly to a sale, which is a philosophy undercut by reality. Have any of these marketing pros ever bought something after reading a single white paper or infographic? Further, it suggests that every person who reads or views a piece of content is a potential customer. If you want to bury your sales team under a load of “leads” that are dead-ends, this is the way to do it.
If you live in the real world you know that the larger a purchase is, the more research customers will do. Ideally, your company can provide all the background needed to educate and inform the customer and position your business as a front-runner for the sale. But imagine being the customer and being forced to fill out a form every time you want to view something. It’s tiresome — and at a certain point, you'll seek your information from a vendor who makes it easier to access.
A better approach is to keep most content easily located and in the open, and be strategic about what goes behind registration. Focus on content that’s targeted at potential customers nearing the buying decision, because they’re the ones who your sales people really need to talk to, not the readers who are just learning about who you are and what you do.
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