Your infographics may be beautiful, and your e-books may be educational. But if the content you create isn’t collectively moving you toward your goal—or your team is struggling to get that content out the door—your content strategy isn’t working.
Building a strong content strategy is the best way to make sure your whole operation is on track and on the same page, but according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Content Management and Strategy Survey, 64% of content marketers struggle to build a scalable content strategy. It’s no surprise.
Marketers can easily get derailed in both the planning and execution of their strategy. (We’ve seen it happen over and over again.) These missteps are usually rooted in simple oversights or a lack of big-picture thinking, but they can seriously affect your content strategy success.
The Most Common Content Strategy Mistakes
To help you avoid making any unnecessary mistakes, we’ve distilled the 15 most common issues we see marketers struggling with, along with our best fixes to get you on the right track.
1) Not Documenting Your Strategy
With small teams, small budgets, and a million things to do, it can seem inconvenient to stop and document your strategy. But keeping it “in your head” doesn’t do anyone any good. Without a real-life version to assess, adjust, and distribute, it might as well not exist.
The fix: Follow our simple process to get your strategy on paper—and into the real world.
2) Working Without Personas
We harp on this all the time—and for good reason. If you want to create compelling content, you need to know exactly who you’re trying to reach. What do they need? What do they care about? What motivates them? If you’re functioning off a vague assumption of who your audience is, your content probably won’t connect.
The fix: Follow this guide to create comprehensive personas. That means talking to your potential customers, asking questions, and getting inside their brain. (FYI, according to the CMI Content Management and Strategy Survey, only 51% of marketers do this—so you already have a leg up.)
3) Forgetting to Get Approval
You might be excited to hit the ground running with your strategy, but a content marketing operation requires a lot of people and resources. Without getting buy-in from higher-ups and stakeholders, you’ll probably struggle to get the budget for that new video or designated design time to help you knock out those social ads.
The fix: Content strategy should be a collaborative process. Make sure that you have conferred with your team and that you present a clear and cohesive plan to anyone who needs to approve it.
4) Thinking Too Big or Too Small
When you’ve put the work into a content strategy, it’s frustrating to change course halfway through when you realize it’s too unrealistic. Conversely, you don’t want to be limited by a plan that is too simple to really make a dent.
The fix: A good strategy provides a firm foundation with the flexibility to scale. If you prefer to run lean, consider taking a moonshot approach to crafting a strategy. We used this to tweak our own content—and increased our leads 78% in 6 months.
5) Making Scattershot Content
This is probably the number one problem we see when brands pursue content marketing. They may get excited about a certain project or format, but their overall content is created and published inconsistently. While a one-off piece might work for a bit, you need a cohesive content plan that provides true value.
The fix: Break your strategy down into content campaigns. That way you have contained messaging that you can tailor for different channels and people.
6) Not Measuring or Not Measuring Effectively
You can’t make any progress if you have no benchmarks—and you certainly can’t demonstrate your ROI. (By the way, a shocking 65% of B2B marketers don’t measure ROI, according to CMI’s 2018 B2B Content Marketers Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Benchmarks report.)
The fix: Tying your work to accurate metrics is the best way to find out whether your tactics are working. Try this 3-step process to help you choose the right metrics.
7) Ignoring Your Channels
Whereas channels were once an afterthought after you decided on your message and audience, media and social platforms have segmented so much that tailoring content for your channel is absolutely mandatory.
The fix: Think channel > audience > message as you craft your content campaigns.
8) Not Optimizing for SEO
SEO is such a huge part of content marketing, it’s shocking to see how many marketers ignore optimization—or forego targeting keywords entirely. Don’t get to the finish line and not take the final step!
9) A Weak Production Pipeline
The fix: Learn how to build a content marketing team that can really get stuff done—even if you’re a tiny team. Or if you need some help, find out what to look for in a content agency.
10) Content Isn’t Tied to a Goal
Too much content out there is total fluff, overly salesy, or completely random. There’s no cohesive story or supporting message. To be truly effective, every piece of content should directly map to a goal.
The fix: Focus on content ideas that provide true value, and try these 7 tactics to actually do it.
11) Not A/B Testing
This goes along with ineffective measuring. Your goal is to move away from guesses and hunches and look for more concrete answers. Always test your hypotheses. You think blue is the right color for that button? You might be surprised to see that red is the real winner.
The fix: Even if something is working, it might still be improved. Look for opportunities to tinker, tweak, and test wherever you can.
12) Not Mapping the Journey
The more granular you can get, the more effective your content will be. But if you’re using a one-size-fits-all approach, you can’t move people along the way you want to. (Unsurprisingly, CMI found that 46% of marketers say they need more education in how to map that journey.)
The fix: Get your crew together and map the journey on a whiteboard (you can digitize later), then find out how to make great content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
13) No Media Planning
Distribution is a huge part of the content marketing equation, but it takes time, energy, and nurturing those relationships. Forgetting to include your media plan or waiting until after you’ve created your content to figure out placement is totally ineffective. (That’s why we have our distribution team in on our kickoff calls.)
The fix: Consider your earned, owned, and paid strategies from the get-go. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution for more effective planning, and try this tactic to earn placement in major publications.
14) Not Making the Most of Your Content
It takes so much time and energy to make great content, yet many marketers publish it once and let it gather dust for eternity. This is a huge opportunity missed.
The fix: Identify opportunities to repurpose and reuse content from the first idea. For example, an e-book can easily be spun into a few blog posts and an infographic. Learn how a divisible content strategy can help you do this.
15) Doing the Same Old Thing
True, you don’t want to fix something that isn’t broken. But never mixing it up breeds stagnation—and that’s creative death for your content strategy.
For more tips on creating more successful content marketing:
- Try these easy fixes for your content marketing problems.
- Use these 100+ content marketing tools and resources to help you create better content.
- Find out how to make creative content that really tells your brand story.
But if you still needs some help, hit us up.