This post originally appeared on startupnation.com/grow-your-business
Having just embarked on your entrepreneurial journey, you’ve thrown yourself into content marketing. Everyone is telling you that it’s essential for building your audience and growing your business. But there’s so much work involved, and you’re barely keeping up. What’s worse is that you haven’t been seeing the results you were promised, and you’re starting to worry that this is all a massive waste of time.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Let me assure you right off the bat: Content marketing can lead to spectacular results — much better results, in fact, than traditional marketing methods. But your success isn’t guaranteed. And there are many content marketing mistakes that may be sabotaging your efforts.
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These are the most common content marketing mistakes, and how you can avoid them
- You start without a plan
According to the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Research report, 97 percent of the most successful B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy (compared to only 47 percent of the least successful).
Your end goal for content marketing is to grow your business. But if you want to succeed, your content strategy should align with your business objectives.
Are you hoping to increase sales of a particular product or service? Is your goal to grow a specific audience? The right content marketing plan can help you do that.
- You make assumptions about your audience
You can’t produce content that resonates with your audience if you don’t understand who that audience is, what they’re trying to accomplish, and the challenges that they’re hitting along the way.
Case in point: I created great content in the early days of my own blog around striking font pairings that you can download for free. The post was extremely popular among amateur graphic designers. The only problem? Amateur graphic designers are not at all likely to buy my services.
Your content should do more than just attract visitors. It should attract the right visitors — visitors who have the potential to become customers.
I recommend developing at least one buyer persona to represent your dream customer, and then choosing content topics to help that person. Personas aren’t just great for choosing blog topics, either. They’ll also help you produce more engaging content. While you’re writing your post, picture your persona and write specifically to that person to make your writing more natural and engaging.
- You ignore your persona’s customer journey
If you don’t understand what a prospect needs to know before they make a purchase from you, then you’re likely missing out on some great content opportunities.
Try to uncover the questions buyers have on their path to purchasing a product or solution like yours. Then, create content to answer those questions and nudge them along their journey.
There are at least three stages to a buyer’s journey:
- The awareness stage: Prospects become aware of a problem they need to solve. For example, if your company sells payroll software, your content topics for the awareness stage may include posts about “common payroll errors and how to fix them,” or “the cost of government penalties for filing payroll taxes late.”
- The consideration stage: Buyers become aware of the different types of approaches they could use to solve their problems, and the pros and cons of each. For example, if you provide SEO services, your content for this stage may include “the pitfalls of doing your own SEO” or “why you should outsource your SEO.”
- The decision stage: At this stage, buyers are validating that you’re the best option for them and are putting any doubts to rest. If your company makes interior design software, your content for this stage might include topics like “must-have features in your interior design software” or “how to choose the right interior design software” or “is interior design software worth the cost?”
Crafting content for each step of the buyer journey will help you go deeper with your content and connect with prospects earlier in the process.
- You talk about yourself too much
It’s certainly fair to produce some content around your specific offering. In fact, that type of content is essential to convert prospects and retain existing customers. (Think tutorials, how-to guides, demo videos, etc… all examples of perfectly useful content!)
But, if you want to be successful in content marketing, you also need a lot of content that focuses primarily on serving your audience, not your brand.
In fact, studies show that 90 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers give priority to the audience’s informational needs over their own promotional messaging.
By contrast, the same studies indicate that only 56 percent of the least successful B2B content markers do the same.
Here are just a couple of reasons why educational content is essential, even when it never mentions your offering:
- It creates brand authority
- It builds trust with your audience
- It helps you connect with prospects earlier in their buyer journey so that they’re thinking of you when they’re ready to buy
- You try to achieve too much
So many content marketers make this mistake. I’ve met content marketers who, right out of the gate, set out to create original content every single day and maintain a presence on every social network. It’s a bit of a recipe for disaster, and too often leads to the next two mistakes: poor-quality or inconsistent content.
- You produce poor quality content
There is no point in creating content if it’s of low quality. Poor quality content won’t resonate with your audience, build trust or win you customers. Plus, Google weeds out low-quality content in its results.
To elevate the quality of your content, make sure it:
- Offers real value to its readers
- Fills a gap in the information already available on the topic
- Isn’t poorly written or riddled with typos (Use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway for additional proofreading)
- Use enticing headlines and introductions to capture your readers’ attention (You’ll find great tips over at Copyblogger)
- You’re inconsistent
Consistency is key when it comes to content marketing. It creates a habit and builds anticipation with your audience. You’re better off publishing less often but on a regular schedule, than starting with an aggressive and unrealistic publication calendar that you just can’t keep up with. Sticking to a schedule means your audience knows what they can expect from you and can look forward to your next installment.
- You skip the visuals
If you’re not absolutely convinced that your online content should include visuals, these 45 stats from HubSpot might change your mind.
Visuals will make your content easier to digest. And as an added fringe benefit, your in-post images can also help people find your content, thanks to Google’s image search.
In addition to adding images, you can make your content easier to digest by foregoing run-on sentences and dense paragraphs of text.
- Short sentences
- Bullets and numbered lists
- Headings and sub-headings
- You stick to the same format
If your audience has a preference for a particular content format, then that’s the format you should favor.
- Are your visitors analytical types that get juiced on data? Feed them infographics.
- Do they spend their days clicking through YouTube and IGTV? Make videos part of the plan.
Prioritizing certain formats doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dabble in others, though. Everyone likes variety! Test out different content formats and measure your audience’s reaction to them. You may learn some valuable lessons.
- You over-rely on original content
It can be difficult (read: unrealistic) to create high quality original content every single time. You can lighten the load for yourself by mixing in some additional types of content, such as:
- Guests posts from other writers (but keep your quality standards high!)
- Repurposed content. For example, you can:
- Turn an old blog post into a SlideShare
- Transcribe a podcast episode into blog post
- Create a hefty “ultimate guide” from several smaller posts
- Updated content. You can breathe new life into old content by giving it an update, and boost your search engine rankings in the process
- You skip out on promotions
It’s a mistake to think that if you create quality content, the rest will take care of itself. Many a great piece of content have lived and died in obscurity.
Once you’ve created your content, follow these essential steps to make sure it gets seen:
- SEO each new piece of content
- Promote it on social media
- Use social share plugins to make it easier for readers to share your content
- Share your content with the people you cited in the piece, as well as with influencers who’ve shared similar content
- Write guest posts on popular websites and link back to relevant articles on yours
- You make it too easy for visitors to leave
Give readers of each of your posts a reason to stick around and see the other great content you have to offer by strategically linking between posts. Internal linking can be a very effective way to gently nudge your prospects through their buyer journey.
For example, let’s assume again that your company produces payroll software.
You’ve created these two posts:
- “Why you should buy payroll software instead of developing your own” (for the consideration stage of the buyer journey)
- “How to choose the best payroll software for your small business” (for the decision stage of the buyer journey)
You can help your prospects move from the consideration stage to the decision stage by adding a link from the first post to the second.
- You don’t nurture the relationship
When you’re creating top-of-funnel content, you can expect that many of your visitors won’t be prepared to purchase on their first visit. But once they leave, they may never come back.
Unless, of course, they sign up for your email list. If they do, you can continue to nurture your relationship with them, one-on-one, via email.
How do you get them to sign up? Produce free, high-quality resources (or lead magnet) that are so irresistible that your visitors can download in exchange for their email address.
- You miss the opportunity to plug your offering
I know, I know. I said that you shouldn’t talk about yourself too much. But, that doesn’t mean you should miss the chance to drop a passing mention of what you do, so that when visitors are ready to make a purchase, they think of you.
Within each post, try to include:
- A link to one of your product or service pages
- A call to action inviting them to contact you for more information
- You try to re-invent the wheel every time
There’s no denying it: Content marketing can be hard work.
What’s more, the results are great but not immediate. You have to be able to tough it out long term. Look for ways to make the work more efficient and manageable, without compromising quality.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Batch create your content
- Accumulate a bank of content ideas in advance so that you can get right down to writing when it’s time
- Create quick-reference checklists around repeatable tasks
- Automate tasks whenever possible (for example, for sharing and re-sharing evergreen content on social media)
- Create reusable templates (e.g. for your social images)
- Delegate what you can so you can focus on what you do best
- You make assumptions about what’s working and what’s not
You know what they say about best laid plans. Even if you think you’ve done everything right, you’ll face some surprises along the way. Some good (“who knew that post would be such a huge hit?”) and some not so good (“I never knew a bounce rate could be that high!”)
Those surprises are a gift. Learn from them, and use them to up your content marketing game.
Here are just a few examples of valuable insights you can glean from monitoring your web analytics:
- Identify high-performing content so that you can produce more content like it
- Identify low-traffic content that converts really well… and drive more traffic to it
- Find long-form content that some visitors are spending a long time on but that has a high exit rate. Create a downloadable PDF version that people can read later… after leaving their email address
- Identify landing pages with a high volume of organic traffic but a high bounce rate and look at the queries that are driving the traffic. Can you improve the post to better answer those questions?
Customize your web analytics dashboard to answer these questions and more on a monthly basis.
Your content marketing strategy will not be perfect on day one. What’s important is to get started, learn from your mistakes and improve as you go.
Do you have any other common mistakes you’d like to add to the list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
The post 16 Content Marketing Mistakes You May Be Making (and How to Avoid Them) appeared first on StartupNation.