Content marketing has done wonders for demand generation. If done correctly, it can organically engage, educate and bring target buyers into your pipeline. However, as marketing departments established content marketing groups and processes, often times key concepts slipped through the cracks. This is particularly prevalent in larger organizations I work with where aspects of content marketing are handled across multiple departments.

After working with many companies on their content marketing, here is my list of the five most common content marketing mistakes I see and tactical advice for how to fix them.

Content Marketing Mistake #1: Ignoring Target Audience

Ideas for assets typically come from either a list that was the result of a brainstorm session during a planning meeting or it is just the flavor of the week. The problem comes when the idea isn’t grounded in your target audience. The writer doesn’t stop to consider: “Who am I writing this for?”, “Why will my target audience want to read it?” and “What value am I delivering to them?”

When the writer ignores the target audience and doesn’t consider the value of the piece, it is a waste of resources. It will either garner the wrong traffic or no traffic at all.

How to Fix: Before you take on a new piece whether it be a whitepaper or a simple blog post, write down the persona(s) you are writing it for and why they would want to read it. Make this a standard header to anything you draft.

Sample Header in the Draft Copy of an Asset

  • Topic:
  • Target Audience:
  • Key Points That Will Peak Their Interest:
    • Point #1:
    • Point #2:
    • Point #3:
  • Value to Target Audience:
  • Content Stage: (see mistake #2)

This requires having a basic understanding of your target, what their key day-to-day struggles are and how the topic you are writing on can help alleviate their struggles. Here’s a sample doc for defining your target buyer. If you can’t come up with a reason why your target would want to read what you are writing—don’t write it!

Content Marketing Mistake #2: Focusing on Features

Every technology content marketer has done this one—even me. I came clean in my article Confessions of a Recovering Feature-Promoter. Unfortunately, as more marketing departments share revenue objectives with sales, this problem is only getting worse. Content marketers feel pressure to mention product features and benefits in every piece of content.

Content marketing is supposed to gently lead your target audience on a self-driven journey to educate themselves on the problem you are solving and later, the way you solve it. Content has to be created with a concept of where in that journey it will be absorbed. Yes, further down the pipeline there is a place for feature promotion. But, there needs to be a healthy amount of earlier that engages by adding value and discussing the day-to-day issues of the target.

How to Fix: Start thinking about your content relative to stages in your marketing and sales pipeline. If you already have this, simply add this to your content header so that the writer is forced to identify which stage the content is being written for. If you haven’t yet started to align content to pipeline, start simple by creating just three categories:

  1. Engaging & Generating Demand: Thought leadership content that is value oriented – no features.
  2. Develop Opportunities: Content that describes the solution to a problem they are having – benefits, but still little to no features.
  3. Moving Opps Through Sales Cycle: Content that explains the exact features that solve their problems.

As you get more sophisticated, you can add various stages within the marketing and sales journey as well as add upsell/cross sell for customer marketing. Creating these categories and setting basic rules for what you cover in each category will keep your team from mentioning features in a thought leadership piece.

Content Marketing Mistake #3: Rushing the Landing Page

Anytime I do an audit of a decent sized content marketing engine, it’s a guarantee that I am going to find some pretty sad landing pages. They are either going to be 1) a copy/paste of the intro of the asset, 2) written by someone who hasn’t read the asset, or 3) simply doesn’t tell the target audience the value they will get from reading/viewing the asset.

The landing page is the gateway to your targets engaging with you and many times, entering your pipeline. Assets like whitepapers are not cheap. So why are content marketers putting so little time and expertise into the 150 words that can make or break a whitepaper? The answer is too much focus on production and process efficiency versus quality.

How to Fix: The goal is to have landing pages that specifically call out the key value for the target audience so they make the time to fill out a form and actually absorb the asset. There are two ways to approach this problem.

Approach #1: Have the author of the paper write the landing page. The author is the most familiar with the piece and can call out precisely why the target audience will care and the value they will get out of reading the piece.

Approach #2: Have the landing page writer read the asset cover to cover. If you choose this option, make sure you give them the time to do it. A process benefit to this option would be to have the landing page writer edit the asset as they are reading it. This is a way to incorporate an audit and ensure the writer actually reads the piece.

Content Marketing Mistake #4: Generic Promotion

Emails and social media are critical pieces of the content marketing engine that help draw your target audience to your content and into your pipeline. Unfortunately, many companies have these functions working in virtual isolation from content creators. Additionally, these resources often have little training on product messaging. All of this combined adds up to generic promotional messages that don’t have strong enough hooks to attract your targets.

How to Fix: Just like with landing pages, there are two approaches for resolving this issue.

Approach #1: Have the author take their message all the way downstream by also creating email copy and social posts. That said, most product marketers don’t like doing this , however, it can be managed with the appropriate tools. Here’s my recommendation for how to distribute this activity with a slick technology.

Approach #2: Require your authors to create value prop statements as part of the draft header. When they are listing out the value to the target audience, they should also create a bulleted list of the most interesting facts, stats or value props from the asset. Again, the author of the emails and social posts should still be reading the piece to ensure that they promote it well.

Content Marketing Mistake #5: Quantity vs. Quality

It’s not called a content marketing engine for nothing. For many companies it becomes an assembly line process whereby the number of blog posts a month and the number of whitepapers a quarter becomes the main focus versus the quality of the piece. Unfortunately, this fuels many of the above mistakes. Additionally, it leads to high employee turnover as content marketers use less and less creativity in their day-to-day.

How to Fix: Meet your new mantra “We won’t write anything unless it adds value to our target audience”. As with any guiding principle, this is easier said than done. Marketing leaders need to back this up with processes and appropriate resources that help ensure your team is successful with every piece of copy from a social post to an asset. Where you find gaps, you can fill those with trusted contractors from the gig economy.