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3 Content Marketing Mistakes Everyone Makes

3 Content Marketing Mistakes Everyone Makes

Content marketing isn’t easy. If it were, there wouldn’t be hundreds (thousands?) of agencies nationwide vying to provide it as a B2B service.

Many businesses, large and small alike, don’t have the expertise to produce their own attention-grabbing, fascinating content. Heck, most don’t exactly understand what content marketing is. If you ask 4 people, you're likely to get different definitions. Is it a new kind of PR? Advertising? Journalism? What everyone can agree on is that it’s effective — when done correctly, of course.

People — be they B2B customers or end consumers — are suckers for details.

They don’t just want to know what your product or service is. They want to know who’s behind it, why it was developed, where it will lead them, how it will help them, how much it will affect their day-to-day lives. And, if you weren’t top of your class in creative writing, filmmaking, sound editing, or journalism, best of luck conveying all that in an interesting way.

Many companies try to do it all themselves. That’s fine, but it’s a path fraught with easy mistakes.

And, call us altruists, but we think you should know some of the hard lessons we content marketers have learned before you go charging off on your own and repeating them. Here are 3 content marketing mistakes that everyone makes (and that we can help you avoid).

1. Failing to make content a strategic priority.

So, in between your sales calls and e-mails, you’ve written a “blog piece.”

It’s two paragraphs long, fraught with credibility-murdering grammar mistakes, written in completely opaque insider jargon, and doesn’t tie back into the campaign you’re cold-calling and e-mailing to support.

It doesn’t clearly define or sensually describe your product or service, contains no clear call to action, and you don’t even know who your audience is, where they would read your post, or why.

Not good.

Content marketing must be developed strategically, never reactively. Your content can’t be something generated whenever you “find the time.” It can’t be piecemeal; it can’t be sporadic. It must be compelling, frequent and fresh.

For content marketing to yield sales dividends, it needs to be planned well in advance, according to an editorial calendar that was developed as part of your larger marketing campaign. Your content needs to lead customers, through thoughtfully placed and carefully worded calls to action, to your sales funnel.

It needs to be promoted at the right times, on the channels your customers are paying attention to, using proven brand amplification techniques.

And it needs, above all, to tell a compelling story. Your brand’s story. Your story.

2. Not putting enough effort into production.

Content marketing is a subtle art.

Poorly conceived or awkwardly executed content marketing can damage your brand: more than 70% of consumer respondents say that seeing content of poor quality causes them to think negatively about a brand.

For content marketing efforts to be effective, businesses must research their consumer bases. They need to develop meaningful segment profiles. They need to understand the psychographic factors involved: the interplay between demographics, preferred channels, customers’ motivations and the core cultural beliefs from which they’re derived.

Businesses need to understand the true value their products or services can provide to each of their defined consumer segments — those values, we assure you, can vary widely — and be able to talk about their products, under those terms, using language and images that their customers can relate to.

They need to understand how to stoke passions, reinforce beliefs, undermine doubts, generate curiosity, and cultivate e-brand-gelists (feel free to use that one) — by telling a ripping good story.

And that story — even if it’s told over a visual or auditory medium — must be produced by a strong writer. Whether a magazine piece, a short social post, or a scripted video, the writing ultimately does your heavy lifting.

Your brand is riding on your sentences. Quality will always trump quantity in the content marketing world.

3. Being too salesy.

You know why content marketing is effective? Because it doesn’t sound, or read, like advertising.

Old-school advertising isn’t empathetic or particularly helpful. A full-on barrage of:

SAY, FRIEND, YOU DON’T KNOW ME, BUT HAVE YOU SEEN THIS AMAZING THING I HAVE? BUY IT NOW, GUARANTEED TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE OR MY NAME ISN’T, LOOK AT ME ME ME . . .

Just like that. In all caps. Blech.

Consumers know this kind of “marketing” is disingenuous. It’s PT Barnum barking outside his big top. And they ain’t buyin’ it no more.

Effective content marketing is much more than advertising.

It concentrates on the consumer’s positive feelings, not his fears. It focuses on your customer’s needs and feelings, not yours. It seeks no validation; it reports from a thoughtful perspective.

Excellent marketing content gives the customer credit for having some intelligence; it doesn’t try to trick her into buying something she doesn’t want or need. It gives him or her a reason to believe. The best content proceeds from a place of honesty.

Show the consumer what you have to offer, tell her why you offer it, share the insights you’ve gleaned from being in the business, report on findings others have garnered (with proper attribution, of course) and then allow the customer to decide for herself. Be transparent. Speak ethically, with authority and authenticity.

That’s not advertising. It’s not PR. It’s more like frontier journalism, and your company has a responsibility to report the truth.

And, when you need help reporting it, well... have pen, will travel. You know where you can find us.

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