Content marketing is a long game. A successful initiative involves a great strategy, clear goals, and high-quality writing. But above all, your content needs time to create a ripple effect. Thought leadership isn’t built in a day, and it’ll take a little time to see content marketing ROI. But how do you know when it’s not a matter of time so much as it is a problem with your content? If your content is underperforming, a few common problems could be derailing your success.
My team at Influence & Co. recently released “The State of Digital Media,” a comprehensive research report, to help content marketers and thought leaders understand what drives results. The research is based on survey responses from online editors at leading publications and an analysis of more than 4 million published articles.
The findings uncovered qualities that help content perform well, as well as the issues that cause content to underperform. Before you waste any more of your content marketing budget — or, worse, ditch your efforts completely — review these common mistakes that could be costing you your thought leadership:
- Your content is too promotional.
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.
A good 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.
- Your content isn’t professionally written or edited.
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?
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.
- Your insights aren’t original enough.
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.
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.
Feel free to share any tips you have in the comments below!
Kelsey Meyer is the president of Influence & Co., a content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.
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