It takes a lot of time to come up with a content marketing strategy. It then takes a considerable amount of money to execute the strategy. Unfortunately, many businesses waste time and money by investing in strategies that ultimately fail. Why is this? And what can you do to increase your chances of success?
Why is a Content Marketing Strategy Necessary?
You know you need content in order to thrive in today’s fast-paced digital marketplace. But do you really need a formal strategy? Couldn’t that time and creative energy be put to use in another area?
Well, not so fast.
Ignoring the strategic planning phase of content marketing is a grave mistake that has come back to hurt many businesses in the past. Content for the sake of content is worthless – even damaging.
For starters, the sheer amount of online noise means you’re highly unlikely to stand out. Roughly 90 percent of all data in the history of the world has been created in the last two years. Every single minute, here’s what’s happening:
- Snapchat users share 527,760 photos
- YouTube users watch 4.15 million videos
- Twitter users send 456,000 tweets
- Wikipedia users publish 600 new page edits
- Americans use 2.66 million GB of data
- Tumblr users publish 74,220 blog posts
- Google conducts 3.6 million searches
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The world internet population has grown nearly 10 percent over the past five years and is continuing to grow today. In other words, it’s not going to get any quieter. And if you’re just randomly publishing content here and there with no rhyme or reason, you’re just going to be part of the noise. A strategy gives you a chance to rise above and stand out amid the mess.
Secondly, a content marketing strategy gives you more control over what you publish. It allows you to control your brand’s image, rather than letting those outside of your company paint the picture of who you are and what you stand for. We live in a world where the internet “thought police” will call you out for something, twist your words, and cause your brand to go viral for all the wrong reasons. At the very least, a strategy helps you avoid situations such as these.
Finally, a content marketing strategy ensures your money is being spent in a cost-effective manner. Content is expensive – whether you’re writing it on your own time or hiring someone to do it for you. A strategy helps maximize your financial investment by giving calculated thought to publishing, sharing, marketing, advertising, SEO, and other key elements.
7 Reasons Most Content Marketing Strategies Fail
Understanding the need for a strategy isn’t enough. Lots of brands have content strategies, but many of them produce diminishing returns. If you’re going to have success, you must avoid the following fails:
Lack of Clear Goals
A content marketing strategy stands an extremely high chance of failure if it doesn’t have clear goals. Many brands are under the impression that any goals will do when the truth is that there are right and wrong ways to develop objectives.
When developing your content strategy, try to stick with SMART goal principles. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. If your goals don’t live up to each of these elements, something needs to change.
Limited Understanding of Audience
It’s amazing how many brands think they know who their audience is, only to eventually come to the realization that they were way off the mark. If you’re creating content under the assumption that you know your audience, yet you haven’t actually done any formal research, you’re probably off the mark.
The best approach is to use a combination of social media, demographic information (usually sourced from website analytics), and one-on-one interviews with existing customers. With this information in hand, you can then develop customer personas that help you get a crystal clear picture of exactly who your readers are.
Failure to Research
You’re going to have really creative content marketing ideas from time to time. Don’t make the mistake of immediately implementing them without any checks and balances. All you have to do is study some blunders from brands over the years to see why this is necessary.
A few years back, DiGiorno learned this lesson the hard way. They launched a new marketing campaign and used the hashtag “#WhyIStayed” as part of it. The only problem was that the same hashtag was already being used to explore the topic of domestic violence and why victims tend to stay with their abusers. A few seconds of research would have kept DiGiorno from making a huge PR blunder.
Levi, the popular blue jeans brand, has made its fair share of mistakes as well. Most memorably, it launched a campaign with the tagline “hotness comes in all shapes and sizes.” The only problem was that the printed image accompanying the tagline had three skin models that looked virtually indistinguishable. It made the rest of the content seem rather tone-deaf.
Pizza, blue jeans…it doesn’t matter. Whatever industry you’re in, you need to do some research before you act on creative content ideas. Get opinions from multiple sources and always think two steps ahead.
Lack of Deadlines
A lot of brands have issues with follow-through. They have great content goals but have trouble developing a plan that gets them from beginning to end. In most cases, this inability to see goals through from start to finish is directly tied to a lack of deadlines along the way.
Simple Machines Marketing advises its clients to have more than just the final “hard” deadline. They propose coming up with an eight-part editorial process that looks like this:
- Initial draft reviewed by the creative team
- Edits made
- Another review by the creative team
- Any other necessary edits made
- Sent to the designer (if needed) for initial design
- Any edits made
- Final design
- Sent to the team and head editor for final review
When you have your content strategy segmented into mini-deadlines, it makes the challenge of creating content much more digestible. You’re less likely to become overwhelmed by the big picture and more likely to keep meeting the necessary goals that move you from where you are now to where you need to be.
Inconsistent Brand Voice
When you think of familiar brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, Chevrolet, Costco, or Best Buy, you know what you’re going to get. You can walk into a store, buy a product, read a blog post, or call into the customer service hotline and the experience you have will be consistent with the brand image you’ve been exposed to over the years. And whether or not you love this brand image, you at least know what to expect. In this sense, you trust the brand.
If you want your content to seem authentic and trustworthy, it needs to be consistent. More specifically, it needs a consistent voice. Whether you have one content writer on your staff or 15 freelance writers that you assign projects, everything you publish needs to sound like it’s coming from the same source.
You can develop a blog post worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, but it’s not going to do you much good if it isn’t visible. Unfortunately, many brands don’t think their content strategy through to completion and end up limiting their success by not developing concrete sharing strategies.
Social media obviously plays a big role in sharing content and getting clicks, but it’s not the only option. Platforms like Scoop.it, Triberr, LinkedIn, industry websites, and guest blogging websites can further boost your reach.
It’s also worth noting that you can share one piece of content multiple times. The key is to slightly repurpose the content so that it’s fresh each time. This might look like developing an infographic based on a white paper, turning a podcast into a blog post, or even transforming a live stream video into a webinar.
Unwillingness to Iterate
One extremely troubling mistake brands make is being unwilling to iterate, change, or evolve after a strategy has been put in place.
“It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get your strategic plan 100% perfect at the first attempt. Smart leaders constantly have their ear to the ground, listening to threats and opportunities and moving quickly to adjust plans accordingly. Your strategy should be no different,” explains Cascade, a leading provider of project management solutions.
Content strategies don’t exist in a vacuum. The digital ecosystem is constantly changing and you must view your strategy as a living, breathing thing that must adjust to its surroundings.
“All of that said, you do need to avoid changing the plan so much or so regularly that you lose credibility with your people,” Cascade continues. “Changes should be iterative rather than dramatic. On only very rare occasions should you be looking to make changes to your Vision, Values or Focus Areas.”
Put Your Brand on the Right Path
Your content is too important to not have a plan. If you’re going to invest the kind of time, money, energy, and effort it takes to develop compelling and effective content, you need a strategy that will help you realize a positive return on investment. By avoiding the aforementioned failures – which are quite common among both small and large brands – you can enjoy more success, more wins, and fewer costly errors.
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