A man reading a burning newspaper, in black and white - content strategy concept
PHOTO: Jake Skyler/Unsplash

In the digital age, content is currency. Governments, brands and personalities the world over leverage content in a myriad of forms to shape opinions and shift paradigms. 

It’s no wonder then that content marketing is the most established form of digital marketing, even in the B2B space, where 91% of B2B companies said they use content marketing to engage with prospects and clients. And yet, the very same study shows that only 23% of companies are either having no success at all, or “minimal success” with content marketing. Furthermore, 53% consider their marketing efforts to be just “moderately successful.” 

Some industry experts reveal the five most common mistakes content marketers make — and tips on how to overcome them.

1. You’re Not Listening to Your Audience

First things first, be sure that you aren’t producing content aimlessly. Identifying the right people to target is critical to get right as it will have a big impact on the content you create.  "Too many B2B marketers are producing content for the sake of producing content," said Andy Zimmerman, CMO at Evergage. He believes many content marketers overlook how the content they produce will drive engagement and convert customers. "Even if you're producing a ton of content — and even if it's great content — it doesn't matter if the right people aren't seeing it when they need to," Zimmerman said. It's essential that you focus on creating content that's relevant to your audiences.

"While it may not be glamorous, organizing and tagging content — based on topics, categories, products, pain points, stages of the sales cycle, etc. — is critical." He said combining well-tagged content with behavioral analytics is essential to match assets to specific visitors effectively.

Related Article: 8 CMOs discuss what the Voice of the Customer Means to Them

2. You’re Selling Too Much

Ensure you are creating content for each part of the buyer's journey. Creating content that converts is important but so is addressing each part of the sales funnel. Alex Birkett, senior growth marketing manager at HubSpot, sees far too many content marketers focusing too much on content with hard sells. "You often see small businesses leaning too much on bottom of the funnel content," he said. "...they only want to produce content that drives sales."

Topics at the bottom of the funnel explain why to buy your product or why your product is better than competitors. "These are really bottom of the funnel topics that no one is really searching for," Birkett said." You also need top of the funnel content like thought leadership pieces that are interesting and informative enough to bring in readers. He said hard sell topics significantly limit the outreach potential of your content.

3. You’re Not Selling Enough

On the other hand, and far more common, said Birkett, "there are content marketers who focus way too much on the top of the funnel." These topics may be informative and bring in readers, but they barely touch upon the fact that you're selling something. He believes these content marketers are "driven by this apprehension or this fear of being too pushy or 'salesy'." 

That's why Birkett said, "It shouldn’t be a well-guarded secret that the company is trying to sell a product or service." You need bottom of the funnel content to convert readers and drive real results. 

Related Article: The 3 Flavors of Content: ToFu, MoFu and BoFu

4. You Don’t Have a Content Strategy

Before you publish a piece of content, you need to know who you’re targeting, which keywords you’ll include, and how that content fits into your sales funnel.  "One of the most common pitfalls we see in B2B content marketing is a phenomenon that I [call] blind blogging," said Chris Mechanix, CEO of WebMechanix. Many content marketers produce a lot of content, but see minimal SEO gains because they don't have a content strategy.

Mechanix said, "you have to start with [a] strategy and the basic building block of any strategy is keyword research, so before you ever put pen-to-paper, you should be doing pretty extensive keyword research." From there, he continued, "you want to categorize them in certain themes," and then focus on one theme for an entire month working top-down along the sales funnel. If you follow this strategy, you send a "really strong signal to the search engines that this website is very relevant for this topic," he said.

5. You’re Not Repurposing Content

Your content’s lifecycle shouldn’t end when you hit the publish button, it should begin. "If you're not repurposing your content, then you're not investing your time and money very wisely," declared Zimmerman. 

If you follow the content strategy Mechanix revealed earlier, you can go back to those "four or five pieces and stitch them together and repackage [or] repurpose them into a more premium content piece, which you can then promote and advertise on each of the individual pieces."

Birkett, on the other hand, thinks rehashing content "adds noise and it's generally not as effective as case studies make it seem." While reusing content may be essential, he believes you need to use your best judgement and doesn't recommend doing it just because everybody else does.

6. You’re Not Using the Latest Tools

Marketing technology (martech) alone won’t make your content succeed, but it can certainly help. Birkett recommends "taking advantage of the latest tools, which leverage predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), and can comb through all available content to surface the most relevant items for each individual visitor." Rather than sharing content with your audience indiscriminately, Zimmerman adds, you "can drive better engagement and more conversions by using AI to figure out, in milliseconds, which item(s) to present to which audience members across channels."

"This is the future of content marketing — applying leading-edge technology to map the type of content and even the format of the content to the individual visitor," Zimmerman said. Follow these strategies, and get on board with new technology, and you can avoid the most frequent content marketing mistakes and provide a better digital experience for your audience.

7. You Don’t Have C-Suite Buy-In

As Paige O’Neill explained during Sitecore Experience 2019, C-Suite buy-in, communication and support are absolutely vital to content marketing success. Yet, “80% of CEOs either don't trust or are unimpressed with their CMO,” she said. 

So, before you worry about martech tools and bottom-of-funnel content, ask your C-Suite about each department’s commitment to content marketing, their take on the content marketing budget, and ensure they’re aware of how content can help them achieve their departmental goals. 

8. You Simply Haven’t Done Enough (Yet)

The Content Marketing Institute study mentioned earlier also found that as an organization grows in content marketing maturity, its level of content marketing success is likely to increase. 

In other words, you may need to factor in the age of your content marketing campaign. Have you been publishing content for more than a year? Have you experimented with video content, Instagram, webinars and other forms of content marketing? Do you have dedicated team members or agency partners producing, distributing and repurposing content regularly?

If you’re responding negatively to the questions above, the answer to your content marketing woes may just be, “do more.”

So, take more time to mature your content marketing strategy by publishing more content, experimenting more, getting serious about your investment into content marketing and analyzing the results.