Like most other content strategists, I spend a lot of time writing about what well-planned, well-executed content marketing can do for you, your brand, your product, etc.
But content marketing isn’t a magic potion. If you set it up to fail, it will. Here are five situations where failure is almost guaranteed:
You hide your blog
From a content strategy perspective, this is one of life’s greatest mysteries. I’m constantly baffled by how many businesses don’t include a link to their blog in their site’s navigation bar. They spend all this time and money writing posts only to play hide-and-seek with would-be readers. And it’s not just little mom-and-pop businesses — it’s brands that should know better.
Don’t believe me? Go to Payless Shoe Source and try to find their blog. It’s there, but they make you work for it.
Still not convinced big companies are missing the mark so badly? Try these:
Search engine competition is brutal. It’s also tough to grab attention on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. But those are the only ways people will ever find their way to your blog content if you don’t include a link in your navigation bar.
Your content is more fairy tale than fact
Your product stinks
Mama was right: Lying leads to the Dark Side. Or maybe that was Vader.
But you get my point: Slapping lipstick on a pig doesn’t fool anybody. People still know a pig when they see one, and no amount of content can make up for that.
If your product has no value, good content might fool people for a little while. But they’ll soon realize that there’s no “there” there.
When they do, they’ll draw some unflattering conclusions. Because there are really only two explanations for why you would lie about your company and its products or services: Either you’re too dumb to realize that the stuff you’re publishing is no more than really bad fiction (bless your heart), or you think your audience is too dumb to catch on. Neither makes you look good.
The bottom line? Don’t use content to camouflage a bad product. Fix your product first; then worry about your content.
Your customer service stinks
Have you ever been “ghosted” by a company? I have. They act like you’re the most important person on earth until you make a purchase. And then they make it as hard as they can to reach support.
That creates a couple of problems. For one thing, you wind up with angry customers who will see it as their mission to warn their friends and family. And then there’s the potential for a public airing of dirty laundry. If people can’t get help in private, they’ll take it public, reaching out on Facebook and Twitter, where the whole world can read about how badly you messed up.
Life is about choices, and this one is pretty simple: Make sure customers have a way to reach you when they’re having a problem, or risk having them call you out in front of 300 million Twitter users.
Your content’s only purpose is to take up space
Not all written content needs a purpose. Some writing is like art: It’s there to be enjoyed and admired. There are lots of places to publish that kind of content, but your blog isn’t one of them.
Every single post on your blog should have a purpose. Identifying that purpose isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Fortunately, there’s a magic question that will lead you to the answer: What do you want people to do, think, or feel after reading this?
Don’t stop there, though. Once you have that answer, ask, “Why is that important?” It may take a few rounds for you to peel back all the layers and get to the real purpose — but, when you get there, you’ll know it. And your customers will thank you for not wasting their time with content that doesn’t matter.
You’re talking to the wrong people
This is another one I see all the time. In fact, I did it myself. When I first started my blog, my posts were targeted to other content writers. But I eventually realized how dumb that was — after all, I was aiding and abetting the competition.
Your content should target people who buy what you do rather than people who do what you do.
This also applies to keyword research. The terms you use have to match the knowledge level of the people who are searching. If your primary keyword, for example, is “GDPR,” you’re going to attract people who already know what that is. And that’s fine if those are the people you’re targeting. But if you’re targeting online merchants who are just now trying to figure out the rules that govern an online store, you’re not going to attract them with a keyword they’ve never heard of.
Well-executed content marketing is incredibly powerful, delivering three times as many leads as traditional marketing for approximately 30% of the cost. But, if it’s not based on a solid business model — and exceptional execution of that model — it’s no more than lipstick on a pig. Get the basics right so that your content can do what content does best: reach the right people at the right time, with the right message.