Fluffy. Nice to have. Surplus to requirements. Content marketing is sometimes seen as all three. Why? Because all-too–often it’s delivered without any kind of strategy in place. Rachel Barber explains how to avoid some common pitfalls.
‘I’m about to start developing and implementing a content strategy in my new role – but before I get going, any advice on what to avoid? Where do marketers most commonly tend to go wrong?’
Pitfall 1: Skimping on internal stakeholder buy–in.
‘Stakeholder buy-in’ sounds dull, doesn’t it? But it’s critical to your success when developing a content strategy. An end–to–end strategy involves analysis, planning, content creation, distribution and measurement, and these disciplines usually span multiple roles and teams.
Here’s the reality: if you don’t invest time and effort getting team members onboard, you’ll find yourself rowing upstream alone. Be transparent with your team about what to expect. Listen to them and address their concerns.
While you’re engaging with stakeholders, you should also devote time to building a strong business case and speaking to decisionmakers and budget holders. Get them excited about the value the strategy will deliver and outline how it ties into their overarching objectives. Content strategy requires a long–term commitment, which can ultimately drive value, both in terms of engagement and ROI.
Pitfall 2: Assuming the ‘B’ in B2B stands for ‘boring’.
B2B marketers are sometimes reticent to unleash their creativity and flair. ‘We have to build trust’, ‘We have to speak with authority’, ‘Our customers have to take us seriously’ are just a few of the statements we hear in defence of ‘safe’ B2B marketing.
But if you take one thing away from this blog, let it be this: you’re not marketing to a business. You’re marketing to a person. A person like any other, with a limited attention span and a preference for entertaining, unique, human communication.
As part of the ‘planning’ and ‘creation’ phase of your strategy, you should challenge yourself to not only add value to your customer but to be unique. Surprise and delight – after all, ‘engaging’ and ‘credible’ aren’t mutually exclusive. As a brand, you can entertain without relying on slapstick humour and big-budget celebrity cameos.
Pitfall 3: Making content creation king and forgetting all about distribution.
If content is king, then distribution is definitely queen. Picture the scene: you’re on holiday, you’ve written your postcards and you can’t wait for them to land on the doormats of your friends and family back home. But then – for some inexplicable reason – you forget to send them.
The result? Your friends and family learn nothing of your adventures and don’t ask you all about them (despite the deep tan).
The same is true in content marketing, where the distribution element of a content strategy is often overlooked. Don’t fall into this trap: without a clear idea of your paid and organic distribution plans, you run the risk of spending time and money on content no-one will see.
What’s also often overlooked is the abundance of content that already exists in most organisations. Don’t underestimate the power of a content audit: it can unearth assets and material suitable for repurposing, which is great from both a budget and resource perspective.
Pitfall 4: Creating purposeless content.
Let’s be real here. As marketers, we’re all guilty of thinking: ‘Hey! I’ve got a great idea for a piece of content!’ But can you clearly articulate how it aligns to business objectives – whether they be brand awareness, newsletter sign-ups or a product demo request?
It’s easy to get caught up in who we think our audience is and what they want – but digging into the data to work out what’s performing well and ensuring your content is meeting business need is crucial.
Unless your ideas are based on real audience insight, your creative mastery is worth little. Content strategy’s all about finding that sweet spot between audience and business need. These should be the spring from which relevant themes, topics and content ideas can be developed.
And it shouldn’t be complicated: a simple content plan incorporating these components should be accessible to all concerned. Ultimately, your aim is to plan and create content that keeps both audience and key stakeholders happy. Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to success.
Pitfall 5: Talking to the masses (the bigger the better, right? Wrong.)
In B2B marketing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating briefs that target chief marketing and technology officers, IT managers, and everyone in between. But it’s important to remember that the wider your audience, the more difficult it is to find that all-important sweet spot.
A CMO at one company, for example, will have different needs, challenges and interests to their counterpart at another. What research can you do to dig deeper? Think about focus groups, questionnaires and online research tools.
Social media can also be a good way of finding out what your audience is inspired by and interested in. Do different themes emerge across different types of roles? Create content mapped to a marketing funnel to ensure you’re meeting the needs of those at the ‘awareness’ stage as well as those further down the funnel.
Follow this advice, and you’ll avoid five of the most common content marketing pitfalls out there. Creating an effective strategy is key: do that, and the world of content marketing will be your oyster.
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