I’ve been working in content marketing for over three years now and in that time I’ve witnessed its dazzling rise to fame. Whilst it’s great to see more companies embracing content, it’s also frustrating to see content being produced for content’s sake or self-promotional sales material being touted as content marketing.
I’m not saying every piece of content has to be entirely unique and inspirational, but it should at the very least be thought-provoking. What it shouldn’t be is full of its own self-importance, heavily promoting a company’s own products or services.
According to a recent poll by the trusty Content Marketing Institute, 97 per cent of B2C marketers are using content marketing to reach their audience, closely followed by their B2B compatriots. That’s a whole lot of marketing types producing a vast amount of content… Is it possible all this content is valuable to its audience and capable of provoking a reaction? Of course not, but then that’s a pretty impossible dream to have. There will always be successes and failures – indeed, we can learn from these and adapt future content marketing strategies.
Content marketing fails
One of the biggest content marketing fails is being unashamedly self-promotional. Examples of this include pushing products/services within news articles or adding promotional material to the bottom of content.
The way buyers consume and share content has changed – they no longer want to be sold to, yet some marketers continue to use these pushy tactics that annoy their audience. Commercially-neutral, industry content is more valuable to potential customers and is a subtle marketing technique. Marketing doesn’t have to be brash and content in particular can help brands build a long-term relationship with their readers.
Another content marketing fail is not outlining goals from the outset. Are goals brand awareness-related? Or perhaps lead generation is the core aim? By setting out objectives from the outset, marketers can tailor content and ensure it meets prospects’ needs. Be warned, goals should match metrics. After all, it’s no good just measuring traffic and visits to a site via content if the ultimate goal is leads. Decision-makers will need to see figures to justify content marketing efforts, such as how many conversions content is providing or assisting.
What should content marketers be producing?
Marketers need to look at the sales funnel to help outline their editorial calendars. A website should have content to support prospects at each stage of the buying cycle, slowly nurturing them from awareness to purchase.
Industry news, infographics, webinars and blogs are great tools to engage readers at the awareness and research phase of the buying cycle. Avoid self-promotion here, as this is likely to turn off readers and do little to engender thought-leadership. In fact, trumpet blowing is really best left to the final stages, when prospects want to see cold hard stats, testimonials and case studies.
Audience research should be carefully carried out to define target personas. This is where social media monitoring and tools such as Google Trends come in handy. Marketers can research what their audience searches for, what content they like to share and discuss. Combine this with sales knowledge about target demographics and marketers can come up with a strong content marketing strategy that ticks all the boxes.
With more and more marketers jumping on the content bandwagon, it’s important for brands to become a trusted source of information. Producing content filled with marketing messages, not providing targeted content or spamming an audience with a raft of blogs/news/guides just isn’t going to cut it.