11 content marketing mistakes ambitious brands make

We’re biased but it’s true; content marketing is cool! That said, don’t let the glitzy world of content lure you into these common traps.

With its focus on brand storytelling and emphasis on eye-catching deliverables, content marketing is often more enticing to marketing directors than the many ‘necessary-but-dull’ corners of the industry (no offense, PPC).

However, you can’t build a strong content strategy off enthusiasm alone. To get the results you want, avoid these beginners’ mistakes.

1. Having no plan

We see this a lot. Ambitious brands are often keen to dive straight into content production before there’s a formal strategy in place. Part of the reason for skipping the planning stage is cost. It’s never easy to pay for something that you can’t physically see. The other reason is simply underestimating how important strategy is to content marketing.

But before you come out guns blazing, take the time to form a detailed strategy. Start with a thorough ‘Discovery phase’, including taking inventory of your existing content (and channels) and outlining your target audience.

2. Not knowing when to outsource

You may be an expert on the subject matter, but what about copywriting? Design? Outreach? Ask yourself whether content production is really in your wheelhouse, and be honest with your answer.

Remember, even if you can do it all, it’s unlikely that you have time to do it all. 'Lack of time' was sighted as the number one content marketing challenge in a 2014 survey by the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community. Unless you have a dedicated content team in house, working with outside contractors and agencies will be crucial to developing a thoughtful strategy that gets results. 

3. Ignoring the basics

Sure, you’ve splashed out on some killer copy for your website, but when’s the last time you reviewed your transactional content? From ‘order confirmation’ emails to ‘service renewal’ letters, the less sexy content is all too often overlooked.

As part of an overarching content marketing strategy, it behooves brands to invest in clear, concise copy for both email and snail-mail correspondence that, let’s face it, probably hasn’t been updated in years.

4. Editing by committee

Perfecting a piece of content is one thing, editing it to death is another. Ambitious brands are often eager to involve everyone in the editorial process, but the truth is, not everyone understands what successful content looks like.

For content that’s refined, engaging and consistent with your overarching strategy, reduce your stakeholders and cut back on the number of review sessions. Resist the urge to CC everyone in the office on feedback emails. Instead, trust that your content experts will put their expertise to good use.

5. Presenting an inconsistent tone of voice

Ever come across a website that seems to be suffering a massive identity crisis? If your copy reads like the script for Aladdin's Genie, take a breath and invest in a set of guidelines outlining your brand’s unique tone of voice.

Key to developing your voice is remembering who you’re speaking to. Identify your target audience to ensure your tone appeals to their sensibilities and suits their reading level.

6. Forgetting to promote

If a blog falls in the forest and nobody’s around to read it, does it make an impact? Not the best analogy, but you know where I’m going here. Content isn’t going to read itself! If you’ve invested in fantastic content, don’t forget the crucial sharing stage.

Keep in mind that a single piece of content can generate loads of engagement. Get more mileage from your infographics, blog posts and videos by sharing them multiple times on social media, linking to them from other content and reaching out to influencers who may be interested in sharing them with their audiences.

7. Overextending resources

Here’s a quiz for you. What’s better?

A) A Facebook page with no posts

B) No Facebook page

The answer is B! If you don’t have the resources to manage social media accounts, follow up with outreach campaigns, produce a weekly podcast or complete a video series, then don’t start in the first place. Be realistic about your resources. It’s better to deliver one impressive project than 10 mediocre ones.

8. Writing for search engines, not people

Once upon a time, SEO was easy. Hire a tech-savvy contractor to stuff keywords into website footers and spam articles to databases across the web—simple! But those days have long past. Google’s algorithm changes over the past decade have all but eliminated the spamtastic SEO tactics of yesteryear, and that’s a good thing.

If you’re still fussing over keyword density and sketchy link-building tactics, STOP. Put your energy into producing informative content that serves your audience and bolsters your credibility. Quality content is good for Google, good for your customers and, ultimately, good for your brand.

9. Fixating on ‘going viral’

The main problem with ‘viral marketing’ (and there are lots) is that you can never truly predict what’s going to tickle the Internet’s fancy. Some businesses and ad agencies think they can, but the brutal truth is, you’ll never be able to guarantee viral success. The entire essence of ‘going viral’ is that it’s unexpected.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t hope to become an Internet phenomenon—a clever video that happens to strike exactly the right chord may take you from obscurity to fame (Dollar Shave Club comes to mind). But why target the world when you could produce content that will definitely interest your target audience?

10. Focusing on the company instead of the customers

Ever been stuck on a date with a guy who only talks about himself? Companies are guilty of this too. Although there’s room for a certain amount of ‘About Us’ chat, cut to the chase and tell your customers what you can do for them!

Startups are some of the most likely businesses to fall into the trap of detailing their process and boring the world with their creation myth. However, new businesses have an even more urgent need to clearly state what they can do for their audience (because they don’t have one yet!).

11. Thinking short-term

You’ve heard it a million times but it’s true; content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, many agencies now require clients to sign a minimum three-month contract, encouraging them to think in terms of ongoing content rather than the outdated campaign approach.

Successful business leaders are rightfully concerned with ROI, but expecting a massive boost in sales after two blog posts is unrealistic. A major part of content marketing is understanding—and accepting—that it’s a long-term commitment.

 

For more content marketing tips, follow us on Twitter, or get in touch to find out how high-quality content can engage your existing customers and attract new ones.

 

7 things Dr. Seuss taught us about content

His wacky rhymes have been embraced by generations of kiddos — but what can content marketers learn from the one and only Dr. Seuss?

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After reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ to my kids for the 400th time last night, it dawned on me: Dr. Seuss’ content strategy was on point.

Was he alive today, Theodor Seuss Geisel (as us superfans know him) could easily run his own content agency. Here are seven lessons Dr. Seuss can teach us about creating successful content.

 1. Know your audience.

Half the battle of content marketing is having an understanding of what your audience is looking for. Dr. Seuss has this down — his books are full of bizarre characters his little listeners want to read about over and over again.

2. Write with imagination.

Thing 1 and Thing 2, Sam-I-Am and Horton aren’t characters you’d meet every day. Yet they strike a chord with their audience. A crazy hat-wearing cat that comes to entertain you on a rainy day? A book all about a character refusing to eat a salty, protein-heavy meal? Yes, please, say thousands of kids. 

3. Be concise.

Get to the point! If you want people to actually read them, keep your words brief. In both digital and print copy, subheads, bullet points and call-out facts are much preferable to large chunks of text. Dr. Seuss used short words, simple rhymes and snappy sentences to deliver his message.

And don’t mistake his brevity for laziness. As many writers will tell you, writing isn’t the hard part — editing is. It took Dr. Seuss nine months to finish ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ Nine months!

4. Keep it simple.

One of the best things about Dr. Seuss? His books are simple. No meandering dream sequences or multi-layered characters. When it comes to your company's content, think Hemingway, not Joyce. Content marketing is a long-term strategy, but a simple one designed to continually bring your message to your audience. Be repetitive but direct — two things Dr. Seuss was a pro at. 

5. Have a clear tone of voice.

There’s no arguing Dr. Seuss had a strong tone of voice — his matter-of-fact sentences and quirky rhythms are instantly recognizable. Just as you’d spend time working with expert designers on a rebrand, take the time to craft tone of voice guidelines to ensure your organization speaks with one consistent voice.

6. Don’t be afraid to break the rules

Part of what makes Dr. Seuss’ prose so distinct is his clever use of the English language. And by clever, I mean incorrect. He broke rules! He made up words (“floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs”). He played with sentence structure and believed that there’s nothing a hyphen couldn’t solve (“Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find, for a mind maker-upper to make up his mind”).

OK, don’t throw all proper writing conventions out the window. But understand that rule-breaking, when done sparingly, is fine.

7. Be memorable.

Much as we might wish them gone, it’s impossible to get those legendary Dr. Seuss rhymes out of our heads. They last the test of time, something you want your company’s key messages to do. Think you don’t want green eggs and ham? Doesn’t matter — you’ll have them on the brain whether you like it or not!

There’s no doubt about it, Dr. Seuss’ style and tone show a deep understanding of content, audience and messaging.

Now, if you’ve understood, wouldn't it be good to apply these lessons to your work? Then, you should! 

(See what I did there?)

Cacadia Content — Launched!

Well, here we are! 

For years we've talked about combining forces to start an agency of our own, and today we're thrilled to announce the launch of Cascadia Content. Four sisters, one agency, a shared passion for producing high-quality, brand-enhancing content—that's the idea! 

 Sisters who get bowl cuts together, stick together.

Sisters who get bowl cuts together, stick together.

Have a look at what we do, find out more about us and please get in touch if you're in need of some top notch content. 

In the meantime, bookmark our blog for agency updates, fresh content marketing insights and cool content we've come across that we'd like to share with you fine folks!

Mahalo!