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The majority of marketers, 71 percent, are increasing their investment in content marketing. Even with this increased investment, however, few will find success in their content marketing endeavors as a result of this investment. Unfortunately, the root causes for this lack of success vary significantly based on your content strategy, staff talent, organizational structure, content marketing processes and technology infrastructure.
Below I’ve included some of the top ingredients to this content marketing death wish, as well as some ideas on what you can do to avoid creating a potion for disaster.
#1: Publishing Boring Content Simply to Meet a Deadline
It may have worked for the Dunkin Donuts “time to make the donuts” guy to simply bake the same donuts day after day, but when it comes to your blog, this mentality just won’t do. You’ll never rise above the cacophony of online content noise by consistently publishing the same form and type of content day after day – your content must inspire your audience into action. This doesn’t mean that all of your content should be complex and for the most advanced of your readers; but content you publish must be entertaining, digestible, high quality and relevant for your audience.
How to Avoid this Trap
- Tap into the voice of the customer: Stay connected to your audience and the market by reading up on industry blogs & trends and staying tuned in to your audiences’ comments and questions. Are you going on to an industry conference?. . . Find out if any of your customers will be there and grab a coffee with them or have lunch. Don’t forget about your sales team! No doubt they will have some insight into your customers’ pain points and challenges. The best content will answer your buyers’ top questions and help them with their everyday activities. (If you sell to marketers, here’s an Ultimate List of Marketing Events to consider)
- Do not publish content unless it’s great! Gotta meet a deadline and you’re not happy with the blog post or infographic that you’ve created?(e.g., not enough visuals, subject line needs work, content is uninspiring) Then don’t publish it yet. Have you ever watched Chef Gordon Ramsey of Kitchen Nightmares in action? If a $50 lobster is overcooked and the meal is long overdue to the customer, he’ll throw it right into the trash and recook the meal rather then risk delivering a poor product. You have a reputation to uphold, and your audience has the advantage of being picky in our world of online content today.
- Entertain your readers. Add humor to humanize content and make it more personal. No one is going to take the time to read through a lifeless post they can’t relate to. Use images to help get your point across and make content more digestible. Offer your content in unique formats like infographics, quizzes, video or SlideShare. (e.g., Content Marketing History infographic; Quiz – What’s your Content Marketing Animal Spirit; SlideShare – Why Content Marketing Fails by Rand Fishkin)
- Inject new perspective into your content through content curation. To publish high quality, relevant content on a consistent basis, especially if you don’t have a large staff or time to write, liven it up with curated content. Curation gives your readers unique insights from diverse sources and on various topics. (5 Simple Steps to Becoming a Content Curation Rockstar)
#2: Publishing Product-Focused Content
Ok, 20+ years ago it was “OK” to have a plethora of 40-page white papers about how great your products are and how your customers use them; and the picture above of a person getting excited about reading a whitepaper has always been a product marketer’s dream. However, the most that may get you today is a fine by the EPA for wasting paper. Today’s buyer 2.0 does not get ecstatic about such a piece of content, especially when they’re not even ready to consider buying your product. Not that your product marketing and product management teams don’t have a lot of expertise and great insight to offer, but the best marketers are creating content that engage buyers long before they’ve even begun to think about product purchases. (Buyer’s Journey Demystified by Forrester) And the worst tactic you can use is to condense your traditional product management driven white papers or related content into a blog post. Bottom line?. . . STOP egocentric content marketing and climb the 4 steps to marketing enlightenment.
How to Avoid this Trap
- Get your company to admit that it has a content problem. Much like an addiction, the first step is admitting that you have a problem before you’ll be able to develop a solution and a plan of action to resolve it.
- Realize that your buyers’ interest needs to be earned. Ok, so most people reading this post already get this. The action item is to get the rest of your organization on-board with the new content marketing mentality.
- Let your audience do the heavy lifting. For example, solicit feedback from your audience on your current content offerings.
- Share with your executive team what your competition is doing from a content marketing perspective.
- Bring in a content marketing consultant to build the credibility of your new strategy.
- Keep your customers in mind when writing content. . yup, that means using personas, identifying key segments, etc. Product-centric content isn’t always going to answer their questions – plus it’s best practice to avoid being egocentric. Seek to provide value for readers by writing content that addresses their needs and interests. Start by creating an informative piece of content, such as an eBook, with actionable information, best practices and examples that they can start using to improve their business. Then, use the content marketing pyramid method to break down this eBook into more digestible pieces – providing value for your readers, enabling you to consistently publish quality created content, and getting the most mileage out of your information packed eBook.
#3: Not Curating Content
Ok, let’s say that you do have the most amazing content in the entire world: Do you really think that people will want to give up reading everyone else’s content to spend all of their time on your site? Even if you do create amazing, unique, high quality content, people are still going to seek various opinions.
Almost 1/3rd of marketers today are creating 90% or more of their own content, while hardly curating or syndicating external content. The good news is that this number will drop to about 10% of marketers in the next 6 to 18 months as more companies increase their use of curated content to complement their created content. This will enable them to better engage with their audience in a less egocentric manner, not to mention getting more return from their content marketing investment. Best-in-class content marketers will strive for a mix of 65% created content, 25% curated content and less than 10% syndicated content, as prescribed in Curata’s Content Marketing Tactics Planner.
How to Avoid this Trap
Content curation offers you an opportunity to not only better use your resources, but also to rise above the content noise. In fact, 48% of companies intend to increase the use of content curation in their content marketing mix in the coming year. Here are some places to start:
- Learn the basics of content curation.
- Content curation is when an individual (or team) consistently finds, organizes, annotates and shares the most relevant and highest quality digital content on a specific topic for their target market.
- Curation is intended to complement created content, not replace it.
- Attend one of Curata’s Content Curation 101 webinars to learn the basics of curation and see best practices in content marketing.
- See content curation in action. Some of the best content marketers in the world are using content curation to rise above the noise:
- Lee Odden (@LeeOdden) of TopRank curates content about repurposing from Intel’s Pam Didner (@PamDidner) at the recent Content2Conversion event.
- 360Chestnut, a Massachusetts-based company that connects energy efficient contractors and homeowners, once struggled to provide sufficient and relevant content for readers of their blog outside of Massachusetts. The company now uses curation to supplement created content and provide knowledge and incentives to readers across the country, resulting in a 40% increase in leads.
- IBM’s Big Data & Analytics HUB is a dynamic website that includes created and curated content about various aspects of technology. The site is optimized for social sharing and has experienced a 291% increase in social referral traffic since its inception in January 2013.
- Aternity, an application performance management vendor, uses curation to produce a destination site called EndUserExperience2Day. The site provides readers with valuable and pertinent information about the end user experience industry and is now a leading source of referral to the company’s corporate website.
- Xerox’s Jeannine Rossignol, VP of Marketing Services, has led a content marketing strategy focused on C-level professionals through their Chief Optimist Magazine. This magazine, which is a mix of created and curated content, is offered in both digital and print formats.
- Communicate the benefits of content curation to your organization to build support. Here are some of the benefits:
- Increases thought leadership: Demonstrates to your audience that you are connected with your market’s independent thought leaders, and that they support your company’s own messaging and direction.
- Improves lead generation: Content curation is a great way to nurture your audience and to better engage with them. Ultimately it will improve your site traffic and the length of time that your audience spends on your “owned” digital properties. According to Marketing Sherpa, Aternity increased their email list by 130% in 1 year as a result of content curation.
- Lowers content development costs. Content curation enables you to tap into the plethora of valuable content that others have created, yet your audience cannot possibly find in their current stage of content shock.
- Don’t believe me?. . . check out what others have to say about the benefits of content curation:
- Jake Sorofman (@jakesorofman) of Gartner:
- Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) of Marketing Profs:
- Pam Didner (@PamDidner) of Intel:
- Jay Baer (@jaybaer) of Convince and Convert:
- Lee Odden (@leeoden) of TopRank:
- Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen) of Riverside Marketing Strategies:
- Ryan Skinner (@rskin11):
- Sucharita Mulpuru (@smulpuru):
- Rebecca Lieb (@lieblink) of Altimeter
- Follow Fair Use and ethical practices when curating content; for example:
- Always give proper attribution to the original source, with a clear link back to the post you’ve curated.
- Add your own insights and opinions. If you don’t, it’s a simple copy and paste – bad for your reputation and adds no value for readers. This step will also add more “SEO juice” to your content piece.
- Give more than you take. If you quote a piece from the original article, make sure your annotation is longer.
- Use new titles and images so you don’t compete with the original post in search results.
- Don’t just curate from one source. This is likely to annoy the author and will limit diversity for your readers.
- See a comprehensive eBook on this topic for more information, The Definitive Guide to Executing an Ethical Content Curation Strategy.
Yes, identify trending topics and keywords and learn from the success of other content marketers to build your content creation strategy; but be careful not to tailgate too much. That is, abide by fair use and ethics standards when creating your own content or even using others’ content marketing tactics. Not only may it be perceived as bad taste to blatantly copy another person’s content or specific strategy, but you also risk too much similarity with your competitors and the rest of the market. Don’t forget, we’re trying to rise above the content noise, not add to it.
How to Avoid this Trap
Here’s an example of the right way to do it.
- Rand Fishkin’s recent SlideShare, Why Content Marketing Fails, is an excellent piece of informative content. Sure, his title may have been inspired by other folks that used similar wording (such as Joe Pulizzi’s Why Content Marketing Fails Without Strategy), but that’s where the similarity stops. Rand created a unique piece of content based on his own insights and opinions.
Here’s an example of tailgating just a bit too close to another content marketer:
- HubSpot is, no doubt, one of the industry’s best-in-class content marketers, however, I’m going to use one of their recent posts as an example of tailgating too close: Why Content Marketing Fails[SlideShare]. This post is essentially a curated piece of Rand Fishkin’s Why Content Marketing Fails SlideShare. I’m ok with the fact that they curated Rand’s presentation. It’s an excellent way to bring value to Hubspot’s audience in a nonegocentric manner and to give Rand’s great work increased recognition through proper attribution; however, HubSpot has broken our #5 Content Marketing Done Right rule: Retitle Any and All Content that you Curate. There are three main benefits of retitling any content you curate that are beneficial to both you and the original publisher:
- You are no longer competing for the same title on search results.
- You can add your own value. (e.g., context, insight and guidance for your audience) Not to mention that it can be fun to retitle.
- You can incorporate your own keywords.
#5: Not Marketing Your Marketing
Creating content without promoting is like building a baseball stadium without telling anyone about upcoming games. Our most recent survey asked content marketers to rank their greatest content marketing challenges. It came as a big shock to us that promotion and measurement of content were cited as the lowest ranked challenge for participants.
How to Avoid this Trap
Promotion is instrumental to the success of content marketing efforts. Unfortunately for Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams,” the old adage “if you build it, they will come” does not apply to the increasingly crowded landscape of content. Here are some ways to ensure your stadium is sold out and your content is promoted:
- Make content a priority within your company.
- Without proper promotion content fails to reach it’s full potential. This is especially true in larger companies where social media teams are siloed and distant from their content marketing counterparts. They don’t hear about new pieces of content and lack encouragement to promote them across their own social networks.
- Make your content strategy known company wide – employ effective shared information tactics so that your next blog post reaches the social network of not only your content team, but also your product marketing and sales teams.
- Promote content across multiple channels. Be sure to utilize all channels – email, newsletters, various social platforms, blogs, microsites, third party blogs, paid channels, etc. in order to reach the widest audience. Readers consume content in different ways and from varying sources.
- Don’t forget about the masterpieces you have already created.
- Remember the content marketing pyramid method here as well. That next shiny object we create looks so good that we forget to squeeze that last bit of value out of our existing “works of art.” Repurpose and reuse that great piece of content you spent a lot of time on. Turn eBooks into webinars, webinars into blogs, etc.
- Measure the impact of your content to plan promotional efforts for future campaigns. If you don’t know the success of a certain piece how can you be sure if you readers love it or hate it? Take into account pageviews, shares, comments and overall feedback before creating and promoting content with similar topics or format.
#6: Not Innovating
What worked yesterday may not work today, and you’ll risk quickly sliding into the abyss of monotony if you’re not publishing innovative content in an inspiring manner. For example, publishing a blog post about how “Content is King” is less than noble these days, if you catch my drift.
How to Avoid this Trap:
- Embrace Google and its keyword and search tools such as the Google Adword Keywords Planner.
- Spend a considerable amount of time, or use a powerful discovery software, to find the highest quality, most relevant content to inspire your team and your audience.(i.e., through content curation)
- Identify innovative ways to communicate content to your audience.
- Identify and follow your industry’s influencers to help stay sharp on what’s hot and what’s not on the content front for your audience.
- Do the opposite of what everyone says you should be doing. We’re trying to differentiate here – following the herd like a wildebeest will not help your organization stand out.
- Start a multi-author blogging strategy
- Guest blogging is an excellent way to expand your horizons – new topics, new insights, new readers!
- Use tough editorial standards – just because you want outside insights doesn’t mean they don’t need to appeal to your quality standards.
- Editorial calendars will be your best friend when it comes to managing multiple authors, topics, editors, publish dates, etc.
Nobody said it was going to be easy being a content marketer; just ask any “old school” newspaper veteran. And I can guarantee you that rising above the noise of digital content will only get more difficult. That said, maintain a laser focus on your audience’s pains and needs, bring great content to your audience in a fun and easy to consume manner, and continue to experiment and take chances to avoid the Content Marketing Death Wish.