You’ve decided to adopt a formal content marketing program to help generate more leads, build awareness and close sales faster. All the marketing gurus swear by the benefits of content marketing — it’s a sure way to get the results you’re not necessarily getting with more traditional marketing communications.
But before you dive in, it’s important to take the time to develop a content marketing strategy. Why? Because even if you have a vision for creating engaging content that prospects and customers will eat up, your best-laid plans will inevitably go awry. Creating content for multiple channels and audiences, regularly over time, is complex enough. Then add in all the other variables that arise in corporate America. The many cooks in the kitchen. The reorgs. The changing owners and multiple reviewers. If you don’t start with a strategy, it’s virtually impossible to pull off a content marketing initiative successfully.
The worst-case scenario handbook
Companies often see their content marketing programs go off the rails for a number of reasons. Here are five things that could go wrong if you try to start producing content for lead gen and nurturing without a content marketing strategy.
1. Trying to “boil the ocean.”
In other words, you try to become everything to everyone with your content, the definitive source for everything related to your audience. Unfortunately, not only is it hard to achieve such a lofty goal, but it starts to confuse your audiences as to what you’re trying to communicate. For example, if you’re a company targeting startups, you may think it’s wise to become the go-to resource for everything related to starting and growing a business. But what is it that you as a company really bring to the table that’s different from everyone else? Figure out what your unique point of view is, and what you uniquely can contribute that your customers need.
2. Producing content that’s uninspiring.
Content needs ideas. Even if you’re talking about something really technical, there has to be an underlying idea that makes people care. Every thing you write about needs to have that kernel of vision, that sense of why someone should pay attention and change their perspective on a topic, as well as how it fits into the big picture. It can be subtle, but your content always needs to tie back to a big idea. If it doesn’t, people will feel indifferent to it — and will ignore your content.
3. Creating a hamster’s nest of content.
You spend a lot of time and money to develop videos, white papers, case studies and webinars. What happens to it all once it’s created. Do you throw it all into a big Resources section with a ton of downloadable PDFs, turning it in to a big laundry list of “stuff?” The content isn’t useful to customers because they don’t know it’s there, and they have to go hunting for it to find what’s relevant for them. All that time, money and brain power goes to waste because it immediately gets stuffed into a big pile that busy customers don’t bother to sift through. You need to think about how to serve that content up to people contexutally, at the point in their journey when it’s most relevant to them. A lot of careful thought must go in to surfacing content throughout a website experience, or delivering it through email or social channels based on where people are in their buying cycle.
4. Building content graveyards.
Your blog hasn’t been updated in three months; your Twitter feed goes dark. Why does this happen? Sometimes it’s because companies treat content marketing the same way they used to approach ad campaigns — as a short-term endeavor. Once the campaign is over, marketers walk away from the content platform, leaving their “space junk” behind. Other times, it’s because marketers bite off way more than they can chew, becoming so ambitious at the outset of their content marketing aspirations that they start sinking and abandon ship. Either way, the outcome is the same: it’s damaging to your brand when people stumble upon these content graveyards and start to wonder if the lights are still on at your company.
5. Getting the voice wrong.
Figuring out how you want to talk to your audiences from the beginning is so important, because you’ll need to set boundaries for what to do and not to do. A lot of brands adopt a more conversational tone when blogging or posting to social media. Decide how far to go with this, and whether it sounds authentic if the rest of your brand is more conversative-sounding. And set parameters to make sure your content developers don’t take it too far — with off-color humor, for example. Quality is a huge part of your voice too, which means you need to be professional at all costs: style, consistency, clarity and accuracy matter very much!
A content marketing strategy helps you establish guidelines for focus, sustainability and standards, to avoid these five common pitfalls of content marketing. Don’t launch your content marketing initiative without one!