Content marketing makes a lot of promises.
Make a few blog posts and suddenly an avalanche of raving fans will be scouring your website and begging you to take their hard earned dollars.
That’s rarely how it plays out.
More often than not your business will make a few sporadic posts, receive a few likes and clicks, and then underwhelmed and demoralised the team will quietly get back to whatever is urgent and important that particular day.
There is no silver bullet that will make your business an overnight success.
Having said that, I am a big believer in establishing trust, credibility, and preference with your prospective customers BEFORE they need you to makes a lot of sense to your long term success.
Effective content marketing can definitely go a long way to achieving this.
Where things tend to fall down is in the execution.
With that, I’d like to share some reasons (and solutions) to why your content marketing strategy failed.
Mistake 1: Your Content was Self-Serving
“7 Reasons Why You Should Do Business With Us” isn’t content marketing. It’s a pitch document.
I rarely spend my downtime reading pitch documents, and my guess is that you don’t either.
Stop creating resources about what you want (usually more sales).
Instead, make your focus on creating content that informs, entertains, inspires, or is useful, for your audience.
In this way, you can build awareness, trust, and preference with your audience through your regular positive interactions.
Using the recruitment industry as an example, the creation of salary surveys has long been an effective way of producing useful and interesting information for their audience (employers and employees) and has been a big focus of content marketing for many large agencies for decades now. It’s a nice example of content marketing that has been around for a long time and is consistently produced because it works.
Take the time to provide something valuable that your audience cares about and can actually use.
Mistake 2: Your Distribution Strategy was Weak
All of your effort creating is wasted if no-one sees or engages with your content.
The average half-life (the amount of time it takes for more than 50% of views and engagement to occur) for most social media posts is less than an hour. That means that only a very small portion of your total audience will ever see a single post.
If “Content is King”, then Distribution is Queen, and she wears the pants in the relationship.
The solution is a robust distribution strategy for each piece of content that includes:-
- Sharing new content across multiple platforms
- Share your new piece of content in multiple posts on the day that it launches at different times across the day
- Optimising the timings of your posts for higher levels of audience and engagement
- Repurposing the same piece of content across multiple mediums
- Build a strong email list to notify your fans when new content comes out to help it gain initial traction
As a rule of thumb, put at least as much time into distributing your content as you do in creating it. A multi-channel, multi-sharing approach is best.
Mistake 3: You didn’t Create a Customer Avatar
Many people when deciding to take some action on creating an audience for their brand, the first thing that they do is get to typing about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
The error in this is that you end up creating for yourself, rather than for your audience.
This creative self-expression approach might work if you are Lady Gaga, but for those of us that aren’t artists, we are best off spending some time thinking about our audience and actually creating for them.
To help you keep your ideal customer firmly in mind, a key tool is the creation of a customer avatar, also referred to as a customer persona.
An avatar/persona is a fictional, generalised representation of your ideal customer. They help your business visualise the ideal customer that you are trying to attract and connect with. By having a deep understanding of your customer avatar, you can stay focused on creating content and marketing that actually resonates with that exact person.
For a masterclass in buyer persona’s (and to check out some smart content marketing) then check out this page from HubSpot on creating persona templates.
Take the time to get clear on who you are speaking to and create your content just for them.
Mistake 4: It was an Event, Not a System
Most content strategies fall down because they are treated as an event. I know many businesses that wrote precisely 3 blog posts, as that’s how many posts their web developers needed to fill the Blog section of their website.
Sporadic and inconsistent sharing of content is very unlikely to work, and the lack of momentum means that your efforts and very likely to never get off the ground.
You need a specific content plan with goals, metrics, tracking, responsibilities, timings, etc. to actually have an impact and it needs to be delivered over a realistic timeframe.
Create a system around content creation and distribution, and set some goals and metrics that you actually track over time.
Mistake 5: You Only Paid Attention to the Bottom of the Funnel
People will naturally move through an Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action process when we make purchasing decisions.
For simple, low-cost decisions we can move through this cycle quickly – an example might be the chocolate bar at the supermarket checkout.
For important, high-value decisions like career changes, five-figure consulting services, and who we marry, this process of Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action happens over a period of months and years.
If you are focusing all of your efforts on creating and attracting resources for people at the “Action” stage of their decision-making process then you are ignoring the vast majority of people who are not actively at the “buy now” phase. This means you are failing to create trust and credibility with your audience much earlier in the process. If you have enough trust and credibility with someone before they need you, then it’s very likely that you will be their main focus and consideration when they do start moving into later stages of the funnel.
Example: If I was a sales recruitment agency, I might produce some articles and videos containing advice from world class sales managers on building high-performance sales teams, and I shared this with sales leaders in my industry/geography that might one day be potential clients. The people that have gained value from this content are FAR more likely to work with your agency (perhaps exclusively) due to the trust and credibility that you have established with them long before they were making commercial decisions around which recruitment agencies to work with.
Ensure that you are creating for value at the awareness stage, and then paying attention to signals as they move through the funnel.
Mistake 6: You Expected Immediate Results
To quote Pantene in the early 90s, “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”
Trust is established by acting consistently over time.
The results of an effective digital strategy are driven by the compound effect.
To help understand how the compound effect might play out for a digital content marketing strategy, let’s use a (very) rough example of a business that begins with 1000 subscribers/followers.
The digital strategy can grow their subscribers/followers by 10% each month, and each month they receive a lead from 2% of their followers about purchasing their services. How do the results grow over time?
You can see here that a compounding audience with a steady level of engagement and likelihood to purchase from your business can become incredibly powerful if it’s a strategy that you commit to for a period of years, rather than months.
The impact of the same digital marketing strategy at the end of year 2 sees it delivering almost 10x the ROI that the same content may have been delivering during month 1.
Or for a more fun visualisation of the compound effect of building an audience, check out the lessons in motivation from the dancing guy!
Success equals consistency over time.
So there you have it! These will be the main reasons why the best-intentioned content marketing strategies can fail are around the failure to get clear on your audience, consistently produce content that serves them, and give the strategy a long enough time frame to be successful.
The good news is that with a bit of focus on the early stages, you can definitely still create a successful content marketing strategy that can transform your business.
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