Five common content marketing mistakes

Do you know your audience? You might think you do, but I ask you again: Do you really know your audience? Do you know their behaviours, spending habits, interests and media consumption?

Marketers need to answer these questions in greater detail than ever before. If you can’t provide deep analysis of your audience and customers, you’re in real trouble.

From time to time, I hear marketers comment that content marketing doesn’t work. They say, “We tried it once but we didn’t get any results.” Then they decide not to invest in content marketing and to continue with their traditional marketing approaches, which I find amazing, and I think, “Well, good luck with that.”

However, when I dig deeper into why their content marketing didn’t work, I find these common mistakes being made:

1. Not clearly understanding your audience

Don’t try to reach as many people as you can without looking at a clearly defined audience and creating very specific and targeted content based on audience need. I love this quote from Beth Comstock, CMO of GE: “Sometimes you might want to connect with four million people. But sometimes maybe you really only want 4000 … or 400. It’s about getting it right with the right audience.”

2. Ill-defined user journeys

You may have audience profiles, but have you mapped out their user journey? A user journey goes beyond someone visiting your website and contacting you or purchasing. You need to map out the information and research they’re conducting before they even consider your product or brand. Google refers to this as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). It allows you to create relevant content during the discovery phase. You also need to map out the experience after the user has become a customer. You need to build trust and credibility with your customers, with the goal of turning them into brand advocates.

3. Weak content amplification

You invest in and create content, and then you sit back and hope your audience will magically come to you. When there’s a lack of traffic to your content, you assume content marketing doesn’t work. It’s an all-too-common scenario. For every piece of content you create, you need to plan out how it will be amplified and you need to make sure the content is repurposed for those channels. This can be difficult, especially for large organisations with several marketing divisions, as you need to work closely together to make sure your content is amplified correctly.

4. The wrong content types

You may have defined your audience and their journey, but it could all be for nothing if you’re not utilising the right types of content. It can be tempting to go cheap and put together a standard blog article. Don’t get me wrong – this might be the right approach. But, more often, content such as video and infographics can be pushed aside purely based on their cost to produce. Also, it may require you to venture into new areas such as snackable video for Vine and Instagram. You need to create the right content for the right audience; the type of content that a young audience consumes will be completely different to that of an older demographic. You may have a two-minute video for one audience profile and create a 15-second video for the other.

5. Lack of integrated marketing tools

To maximise your content marketing potential you need the right marketing technology. This can be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s unavoidable. You need to integrate your marketing platforms if you want to deliver targeted, effective, automated content to your audience. You will need a CRM, and it needs to integrate with your email platform, hook into your website and campaign sites, integrate with your social tools and provide a deep level of reporting. You need to be able to track your customers and provide relevant, real-time content. The mistake isn’t that you haven’t set this up yet. The mistake is you haven’t started investing in automation – and if you don’t, you’ll be well and truly left behind.

Content marketing requires an investment, it takes time and, yes, it requires constant analysis and adaptation. But what reason do you have not to invest? It works and it has been proven to work, time and time again. Personally, I think laziness or fear is a core component of why content marketing doesn’t get off the ground for some brands and organisations. Content marketing requires a highly integrated approach, it requires marketing divisions to work together, it requires that you have a deep understanding of your audience, it requires you to put the focus on your customers’ needs, and it requires you to try different tactics and take risks.

For brands trying to catch up, GE’s Beth Comstock offers this advice: “It starts by knowing who you are and what you stand for – without that, you are all over the place. And try a lot of things. You know who are (sic), but you need to experiment. It doesn’t cost a lot of money.”

GE – which, for me, is the benchmark in content marketing – sees content marketing as a journey: “We’ve been on a five-year journey, and we are still trying to figure this out.” But while GE is ‘figuring it out’, it’s seeing a definite ROI. GE conducted research on its marketing and found it gets 30 per cent extra value on every dollar spent on content marketing.