“Content marketing is easy.” Said no one who’s actually in the field. Or who’s produced quality content, for that matter. Problems that frustrate content marketers—and what to do about them—have dogged creatives since the first human put pen to paper to promote a product.
In fact, screenwriter Matthew Weiner tucked this little gem into his hit drama Mad Men—that featured content creators in a Sixties Madison Avenue agency. In response to a junior copywriter’s content suggestion, “sex sells,” creative director Don Draper replied, “The people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this. They…[are] completely unaware that success depends on something more than their shoeshine…They can’t do what we do. And they hate us for it.”
Bingo. Here’s how to do what you do even better.
- Conquer content challenges with quality work.
- Overcome ROI problems by using comprehensive data analysis to target likely customers.
- Pay extra attention to sales-marketing alignment.
- Automate whenever possible to solve “no time to publish” issues.
Out of all the challenges we face as content marketers, a few stick out as particularly vexing. Here are seven of them:
1. Management (or Client) Demands for Less Than Top-Quality Content
The challenge: Whether it’s due to a client’s demand for tacky content (as Weiner must have been intimately familiar with, given his “monkeys” reference) or a CEO’s demand for keyword-stuffed content or untargeted email blasts to everyone within 25 miles of your business, it’s no wonder that content marketers wince when they see certain people stride into their office.
What to do: There are times when one needs to confront and times when one needs to back off. In general, though, gently point out data showing that quality, targeted content produces more revenue for less investment in the long run. Try to bring them on board, as SmartBug’s Mike Wolfe points out. If not, see if they will agree to a “mix of strategies.” If they agree to allow you to produce quality content in addition to their capital letter-filled, keyword-stuffed e-blasts, simply let the data from your future content analytics on each type of content make the point for you.
2. Getting the Right Data
The challenge: With today’s technology, there’s a wealth of data available—even a data overload, according to many marketers I talk to. Sifting through it, though, to come up with actionable data to inform your content production is another story.
What to do: Dig into your existing customers’ data, as Content Marketing Institute’s Carmen Hillpoints out. Look at their behavior, their demographics, their goals, and their pain points. Use that data to create customer personas. Next, use those customer personas to create content that satisfies the itch they can’t scratch—content that solves their problems and helps them achieve success. Finally, look at the data that shows how they respond to your content—and use the best-performing content as a springboard for future publication.
3. Motivating Sales and Marketing Departments to Operate as One Team
The challenge: There’s often a huge barrier between the sales and marketing teams in all too many companies, said Workfront CMO Heidi Melin in a June 2019 interview with our own Brian Carroll. Traditional silos, unfortunately, create a gulf between the two teams. Sales teams often focus on short-term gains, while marketing teams look at long-term relationship building that produces lasting revenue and referrals.
The solution: Align both the numbers and the conversations. No one has better insight into the behavior, goals, and pain points of any given customer than your sales teams. Imagine if those sales teams could collaborate with your marketing teams to create personalized content that reaches even those who say “no” to the initial sale, building the goodwill and trust that is likely to produce sales success. Collaboration—making sales and marketing function as a cohesive team—is key to both sales and content marketing success.
4. Blending Storytelling with Actionable, Informative Content
The challenge: Storytelling, say researchers, stimulates the brain like nothing else. How content marketers can use stories to communicate actionable, informative content, though, is a challenge, as Vertical Measures CEO Arnie Kuenn points out in his SEMRush interview with Becky Shindell.
The solution: As Kuenn advises, unless you’re Ken Burns, it’s tricky to insert a story into informative content or vice-versa. The great news? You needn’t do both in the same piece of content. Although you can incorporate some elements of storytelling in informative content—such as sidebars or examples—keep the main thrust informative. Conversely, when you tell a customer success or brand story, you’ll need to provide some facts to support your claims of how your product solved a customer’s problem—but keep the focus on the story.
5. Building Engagement Among Non-Marketing Employees
The challenge: Sure, your marketing team is the company’s cheer squad. After all, that’s what they pay you for. However, the real challenge is to get everyone from the building janitor to the C-suite excited about telling everyone how your company has solved its customers’ problems, is a great place to work, and produces quality products.
The solution: Get content input from employees across all departments. Elicit feedback on content you’ve produced. Implement their ideas in your content. When they see their ideas come alive in rich, informative content, their own engagement with the company will grow. Align them with the company mission, and they will become brand evangelists.
6. Automating Content Marketing
The challenge: Where can your team find the time to post all the content you need to put out at the right time and on the right channels to catch your target audience’s attention? Chances are, you can’t find that time—even if you’re an enterprise team.
The solution: Content market automation allows you to schedule content publication when and where you need it without your having to lift a finger—except for programming the automation tools themselves. The bonus? Most automation programs have powerful analytics programs that allow you to see which pieces of content perform best—so you can create similar content to publish in the future.
7. Unrealistic Content Calendars
The challenge: You’re on board with the need to pump out content. But you don’t have time to keep up with the volume you believe you need to publish, so you push your team to achieve your goals. And then, you end up with rushed, low-quality content and stressed-out team members.
The solution: Quality trumps quantity—especially in content marketing. In fact, as WordStream’s Dan Shewan rightly points out, it’s “better to publish one truly excellent post per week than post five mediocre posts per week.” Not only does quality content rank better in user searches, but it builds authority and trust in your company—which is the primary task for a content marketing team.
8. Your Content is Too Promotional
The challenge: Nearly three in four editors said that promotional content is the biggest problem in the pieces they receive. While there is a time to be promotional, it’s typically not in the thought leadership space.
If you’re in talks with a hot lead who’s deciding between your company and another, you’re better off clearly explaining the details and benefits of your service. But if you’re writing content for an external publication to help you reach a larger engaged audience, self-promotion will absolutely hinder your efforts.
The solution: Use this rule of thumb: If your article sounds more like a press release than a piece of educational content, it’s too promotional. Avoid unnecessary or forced mentions of your products and services. Instead, focus on creating content that provides educational information to your audience, not a list of features.
9. Your Content Isn’t Professional Written or Edited
The challenge: Professional and relevant content is key. Seventy-one percent of editors surveyed said that sloppy copy is a problem.
When it comes to internal Slack messages or emails to the members of your team, a misspelled word or dropped punctuation mark isn’t going to bring down the company. But your external thought leadership content reflects your brand. It communicates your ideas and positions you as an influencer and resource for your audience. When that copy lacks flow and includes misspelled words, your audience members will notice. And how will they trust you — as a resource or as a potential partner or vendor — if you can’t even take the time to clean up your work?
The solution: One option is to work with professionals to assist you in writing or editing your content. If this is out of your budget right now, you can certainly take advantage of editing tools that help you write in a more active voice, scan for plagiarism, check for grammar and spelling mistakes, pinpoint cliches, and verify text.
10. Your Insights Aren’t Original
The challenge: While it’s not the biggest issue editors face, this is still a concern. There are a lot of brilliant, insightful leaders willing to share their experiences and advice; your job is to stand out from that crowd. Unfortunately, 59 percent of editors say the content they receive offers insights that just aren’t original or unique.
Even if you’re posting your own content to your own website and not working with publication editors, your audience is still looking to you for a relevant, unique perspective. It’s easy to regurgitate the same popular ideas you’ve come across a hundred times, but don’t fall back on this method.
The solution: Challenge yourself and your team to create useful, original content. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with each article you publish, but do keep it fresh and valuable to your readers. Take a stance on a topic, humanize your brand, and deliver original insights to your audience.
If your content isn’t delivering the ROI you need, it may be time for a change. Before you pull the plug or get discouraged, examine your efforts. If you’re guilty of any of the above mistakes, don’t give up just yet. Dial back any overt self-promotion, hire an editor, and embrace the insight that makes you unique. Hopefully, that will positively affect your content marketing.
One way you can get more consistently published, quality content that brings more traffic to your site is with our Content Builder Service. Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.