10 Content Marketing Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Thursday July 24, 2014

By: Tim Asimos

As content marketing continues to grow in popularity, companies everywhere are creating content to fuel their marketing efforts. But while content marketing is an integral component of an effective online marketing program, common pitfalls exist.

Many companies are jumping onboard the content marketing express, but not everyone is mindful of common mistakes that are easy to make and challenging to overcome. Here are 10 pitfalls to consider:

Pitfall #1: Jumping in without a strategy

Research from Content Marketing Institute has found that having a documented content marketing strategy is one of the key distinguishing characteristics of an effective content marketing program. But many companies make the mistake of skipping past the strategy and starting with the tactical. The fact is, buildings need blueprints, meals need recipes and your content marketing efforts should be tied to a strategy—first.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Defining content marketing’s role in your overall marketing strategy
• Identifying internal staff and/or outside resources to run the program
• Determining specific goals for the program
• Defining what metrics will be used to measure success

Pitfall #2: Not focusing on your audience

The old rules of marketing put an emphasis on your company, your products, your services and your message. Content marketing is about publishing content that focuses on the prospect and customer and what they are actually interested in, as opposed to talking about your company and what you sell. So to be successful in content marketing, you must understand your target audience’s wants, needs and interests and view content creation through their lens, not yours.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Developing buyer personas or customer profiles
• Identifying problems or knowledge gaps your prospects might have
• Gathering ideas from frequent questions your sales and BD team are asked
• Aiming to be helpful to your audience above all else

Pitfall #3: Selling, not sharing

Many companies make the mistake of putting out content that is nothing more than thinly veiled sales propaganda. There is a time and a place for selling, but if you’re promoting a webinar or eBook as educational, make sure that’s all that it is. Remember, content marketing is not about pitching your products and services.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Removing typical “salesy” content from your content marketing
• Answering your audience’s questions and problems through content
• Making sure you create enough top and middle of the funnel content
• Ditching the token “30-second elevator speech” in educational content

Pitfall #4: Failing to address the entire customer lifecycle

Many companies make the mistake of thinking of content only in relation to the sales funnel. But content should be created to continuously engage your audience throughout the entire customer lifecycle, past the point of sale—from awareness to advocacy. Because ultimately, the end goal of content marketing and the reason for addressing each stage of the customer lifecycle is really quite simple: to continuously deliver valuable content that solidifies profitable, long-term customer relationships and brand advocates.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Not focusing your content efforts solely on the sales funnel
• Addressing your audience’s needs at each stage of the customer lifecycle­
• Creating content that is helpful to existing customers
• Becoming the go-to resource of both prospects and customers

Pitfall #5: Concentrating on quantity and not quality

One of the biggest content marketing challenges marketers face is creating enough content. But don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. There is no shortcut for creating quality content, so don’t throw together content with fluffy copy and sloppy graphics. Instead, put in the necessary time to create magnetic and compelling content. In the end, pushing out a lot of content that lacks quality will not produce the desired results and will only hurt your content marketing efforts in the long run.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Doing your homework—make your content informative and compelling
• Proofreading and spellchecking all content before it goes out
• Choosing or creating quality images and graphics
• Delivering tangible knowledge and benefit to readers

Pitfall #6: Lacking originality and differentiation

Content has been all the rage in the marketing world for the last few years. And the growth of content marketing has resulted in a flood of content that starts to look and sound the same. If your content doesn’t stand out from the competition, your company is not likely to stand out either. So aim to bring new ideas and new approaches, don’t just settle for “me too” content.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Looking to cover some new or slightly different territory
• Putting your own stamp on topics that have been covered by others
• Going above and beyond the rest of the pack with quality and substance
• Making your content visually stand out from the competition

Pitfall #7: Inconsistent/infrequent blogging

While many companies like the idea of having a blog and the potential website traffic a blog can bring, some haven’t committed the time and resources necessary to blogging consistently. When visitors see big gaps in your blog frequency or it’s been a while since your last post, it sends the wrong signal to your audience and will certainly not help you achieve your content marketing goals.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Making blogging a priority
• Committing to blogging at least once per week, every week—NO excuses
• Recruiting help—don’t put it on the shoulders of one or two people
• Keeping a running list of blog topics and ideas to keep you inspired

Pitfall #8: Viewing content marketing as SEO

Too many companies (and SEO agencies) view content marketing simply as a new way to increase search rankings. While Google’s latest algorithms do place an enormous emphasis on rewarding publishers of high quality and relevant content, that doesn’t mean that content marketing is purely an SEO exercise. Yes, it’s true that content marketing done right can and will increase search rankings and drive web traffic. But SEO is an ancillary benefit of content marketing—a subset of your program—it’s not the primary goal or purpose, nor should it be your sole motivation for creating content.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Creating content for people, not search engines
• Viewing SEO as a means, but not the end goal or purpose
• Following on-page SEO best practices but not making SEO the focal point
• Remembering content marketing is all about the prospect and customer

Pitfall #9: Becoming paralyzed by your editorial calendar (or lack thereof)

Planning is essential, but some companies are so concerned with creating finely detailed editorial calendars that valuable time and resources are spent planning the content and notcreating the content. In addition to the time loss, it also leaves little room for adjustments along the way. On the flip side, not having a roadmap for your content can be equally dangerous.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Creating a quarterly plan for topics and formats to use as a guide
• Keeping a running list of ideas and revisit regularly
• Being agile—allowing room in your calendar for adjustments and additions
• Developing your own calendar—with as much or as little detail as you need

Pitfall #10: Expecting immediate results

If you’re expecting to “start” content marketing and immediately get results, you’re likely to be disappointed.  Some companies fail to realize that content marketing is not a quick fix to boost sales in the short term, instead it’s a long-term strategy that takes a while to build. So if your company is going to take up content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy, you have to be patient and willing to commit for the long haul.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Committing to patience and a long-term mentality
• Being diligent to push forward even if results don’t immediately pour in
• Continuing to focus on your audience and your strategic objectives
• Adopting a program mentality and ditching the campaign mentality

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Content marketing is not without its challenges and difficulties. These are several of the more common mistakes that marketers can make when it comes to content marketing. What are some others that you’ve experienced or noticed? Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments below.

Tim Asimos is Vice President and Director of Digital Innovation at circle S studio. He is a syndicated blogger and regular speaker on the topics of B2B online marketing, lead generation and content marketing strategy. He has served on the AMA-Richmond board since 2008 and is currently President. Follow on twitter @timasimos.