No matter how many articles you read, there is no shortcut to a great content strategy. It involves a lot of hard work, and likely a few mistakes along the way. But one thing reading lots about content strategy can do is help you learn from the mistakes of others so you can avoid common pitfalls. That’s what we are here to do right now. Whether you are tweaking an ongoing content strategy or starting to write one, you should be aware of these 6 common mistakes companies make with their content strategies. And as if that wasn’t helpful enough, we’ll also tell you how to avoid them.
- They rush in
Elvis once famously said only fools rush in. He clearly didn’t have content marketing in mind when he said it, but the same applies here. Those that go from zero to 60 and rush the process tend to find that the wheels fall off and they end up back at zero again pretty quickly. Not spending enough time planning, researching, thinking about practical aspects like measuring success or how content will be managed in the longer term are all often forgotten by those who rush in, and there are a litany of examples out there to show you what happens.
Result: It all goes horribly wrong. No one reads your content, no one engages or shares it. This leads to no business results and the whole project is scrapped.
How to avoid: In a word: Patience. Plan, research your audience, look at how you will distribute your content, work out how you deliver on company objectives, think about how you will measure success, look at what the competition are doing and how you can be both different and better. Don’t like what you see and hear people in your industry talking about? In the words of Don Draper: if you don’t like the conversation, then change it. That’s how brands succeed.
- Lack of Editorial
Have you ever read a great piece of content that 90% of the way through suddenly turns in to a sales pitch? We’ve all seen it, and unless you love sales pitches you likely suddenly trusted that content less. That’s because there’s a lack of editorial oversight. Various pieces of research have come out lately showing the effects on trust and credibility when sales comes into content marketing, so it’s something you should be keen to avoid. Lack of editorial can also manifest itself when brands start going way off topic with what they’re talking about, that’s why we are seeing more and more high profile companies bring in reputable editors to their content efforts.
Result: It becomes about sales. Then no one is interested any more.
How to avoid: Have someone (either in house or in a trusted agency) overseeing the editorial efforts. If they’re good they’ll be able to look at messaging, strategy, consistency and ensure you don’t deviate to somewhere dangerous.
- No workflow/not enough resources
On the face of it workflow and resource don’t seem directly related, but if one or other isn’t in place you will feel it. Without workflow you get confusion. Who is writing each piece of content? Who is responsible for editing, uploading, publishing and distribution? Who, if necessary, is responsible for getting it through legal without the meaning changing? That’s not to say complicated approval process are good (they’re usually prohibitive to publishing on time and it’s a huge time cost), but a solid and pre-agreed work flow is essential. As is committing enough of the right resources. A good content strategy requires a lot of effort and resources, it won’t go anywhere without them.
Result: Confusion. Missed deadlines (or no deadlines at all). No consistent publishing effort. Poor content. All of which leads to limited or poor results.
How to avoid: This links back to point 1 – plan it in advance. Ensure clear processes are in place from the beginning [NOTE: this process will likely evolve as you get better, don’t think it’s set in stone] so that everyone knows what they’re doing and who is responsible for what. Know what resources you need and petition for them in advance – this is where senior buy in within your organisation will really help.
- No clear goals
The biggest mistake we see as consultants is people doing content for the sake of doing content. The core of a content strategy should be about being useful to your audience whilst fulfilling business goals. Not setting goals – or using goals like pageviews or Facebook Likes that don’t mean anything to a business – is going to result, sooner or later, in someone asking what they are getting back for all this money they are spending. It really is that simple.
Result: Poor funding, funding cuts, and limited/no buy in from senior management.
How to avoid: Set realistic, business orientated goals from the beginning. You are unlikely to get big sales or leads off single pieces of content, but building a loyal audience, larger email data bases and making your brand credible and trust-worthy will boost sales in the longer-term.
- Poor measurement
Another headache we come across all the time is companies either not measuring content, measuring the wrong things, or using horrible proxies for success, and it is 100% linked to points 1 and 4. How you measure success should be as much of a priority from day one as creation and distribution (yes, distribution is that important). It is only by measuring everything you need to know about the overall impact your content is having over time that you will get a true idea of the difference it is making.
Result: It’s hard to justify the spend and get buy in for more.
How to avoid: Plan your measurement from day 1. Think about what metrics really matter to the business (email database size, enquires where content featured in user journey, etc.) and your content team (what kinds of content do people engage with? What distribution and promotion is most successful? Which headlines deliver better results?)
- No long term plan
Last, but most certainly not least, we need to talk about long term planning. A good content strategy doesn’t last weeks or months, it will go on for years. If your company is looking to run a six week project then content isn’t going to work. It takes a long time to build a good, loyal, trusting audience that drives really good results; the biggest content brands today (like Coca-Cola, RedBull and GE) have been doing it for years. That’s why they are big now, they have worked on building a huge audience. If you are not planning to be in it for the long haul you will end up on the scrap heap. There’s a very good reason why no one says content marketing is easy.
Result: You’re content is deemed ineffective, it’s not producing results fast enough and someone high up turns round and says ‘Content doesn’t work for us’.
How to avoid: Be realistic and set realistic objectives. No successful content brand is built in six months, but in time and with consistent effort you can get there.
Getting results from content marketing is a long game, and the key to reaching the hallowed grounds of success is a robust and realistic content strategy. If you want to be the brand that – to miss-use another Elvis lyric – is always on your customer’s mind you will have to work for it and avoid the many pitfalls along the way.