Why Your Content Marketing is Failing (and How to Fix It)

May 31, 2013

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The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has released benchmark research projects in North AmericaAustralia, and the United Kingdom. One overwhelming consistency across all the marketers we've surveyed relates to content marketing effectiveness. Across the board, only 33% of marketers deem their efforts as effective. Now, if that was a batting average, we'd be all-stars, but...

There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that this whole content marketing thing, even though hundreds of years old, is still relatively new to us marketers. After all, who told us that we'd actually have to be content publishers at some point in our career? 

While each of us has our own challenges that we need to bear and break through, here are a few particularly troubling ones that have been on my mind: 

  1. Your content is all about you: Remember, customers don't care about you; they care about themselves and their problems. We often forget that point when we describe how wonderful our widget is (which no one cares about).
  2. Your fear of failing paralyzes you: Taking chances with your content and experimenting a bit reveals the possibilities for your content marketing, and uncovers new and valuable customer stories.
  3. You're setting the bar too low: Your content marketing should be the best in your industry - better than all your competition, and better than the media and the other publishers in your space. How can you be the most trusted expert in your industry if your content marketing doesn't reflect these high standards?
  4. You're not sourcing correctly: The majority of brands outsource some portion of the content marketing process. Don't be afraid to find internal content champions - as well as outside journalists, writers, and content agencies - to help you tell your story.
  5. You operate in silos: Are you telling different stories across your efforts in PR, corporate communications, social media, email marketing, etc.? Do all your departments follow a consistent corporate story line? Epic content marketing means that your company is telling a consistent story.
  6. You don't seek out discomfort: In his book, LinchpinSeth Godin states that if we don't consistently step out of our comfort area, then we are doomed to the status quo. Do something completely unexpected with your content from time to time.
  7. You do not have calls to action: Every piece of content should have a call to action. If it doesn't, at least recognize this, and consider the real purpose behind why you developed the content.
  8. You are too focused on one particular channel: Stop thinking "email newsletter" or "Facebook." Think about the problem you are solving for your customer. Then tell that story in different ways  -  and tell it everywhere your customers go to seek authoritative information.
  9. Your content isn't owned: Someone in your organization (possibly you) must take ownership of the content marketing plan. Yes, there are many content owners in the organization, but there needs to be someone to help bring coordination to the process.
  10. Your C-level doesn't buy in: Organizations without C-level buy-in are three times more likely to fail at content marketing.
  11. You are not niche enough: You need to be the leading expert in the world in your niche. Pick a content area that is both meaningful to your business and attainable and create content around that subject.
  12. Your team's too slow: As much as I hate to say it, speed beats perfection in most cases. Figure out a streamlined process for your storytelling.
  13. You execute inconsistently: Your content marketing is a promise to your customers. Think about the morning paper (if you receive it): When it doesn't come on time, how upset are you? You need to have the same mindset with your content marketing. Distribute content consistently and ON TIME.

I'm sure you've just thought of a few more reasons that are holding you back. Whatever the reason, nothing is insurmountable. What's great about where we are as an industry is that there are so many amazing case studies and industry leaders helping us get to the next level. Identify your key challenges, tackle them, and move on to tell your story. You can do it!

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