Your customers have all the control, and too many choices. Every day, they’re bombarded with this-or-that options, extra details and moment after moment in which they have to make a decision: debit or Visa? respond or wait? walk or taxi? cinnamon or syrup? online or in-store? They’re exhausted by information, and when it comes time for them to make a decision they want you to make life easier for them.
Content marketing is one way you can make things easier for your customers—and, specifically, make it easier for them to choose you when they’re deciding where to put their faith, time or money. Done well, it not only brings in leads (contact information for people who are interested in what you do) and helps increase sales, it also builds a community of fans and customers who are loyal to your brand and who associate you with trust, expertise, quality and good service.
Here’s that inevitable “but”: Do it carelessly, and you risk annoying your audience and being tuned out—for good.
A quick refresher for the unfamiliar: Content marketing is creating and sharing educational, entertaining or informative material—blogs, social media posts, videos, photos and articles—that builds interest and awareness around your business and the type of product or service you offer. It’s a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and distributing consistent content that is of value to your customers, and that they actively want to see.
See the difference? Advertising is something your customers suffer through at best, or ignore at worst. Content is something they want to see, and even seek out. And all you need to do to reap that potential is sidestep a few common content marketing pitfalls.
To help you do just that, here are 5 key mistakes you might be making with your content—and how to avoid each of them.
Selling: All about your product or service: where, how long, how much, what’s included, and so on
Marketing: All about the people: their needs, their wants, their desires
When most or all of the information you send out is about promotions, discounts and last-minute offers, your customers will begin to see your content as “spammy” and they’ll learn to shut you out. Your message becomes just that much more noise in the marketplace.
Here are the hard effects of irritating your customers with too much hard selling: poor organic web traffic, high bounce rates, low newsletter open rates, low or no conversions with your online ad campaigns—and a lot of frustration because none of your online efforts and spending seems to be working.
Content marketing, however, is not selling your product to your customers. It is offering your customers a moment in their day that delights, inspires or informs—whether it’s instructions for a fun free creative project they can try at home, an intriguing webinar that helps them learn a skill related to your business or an unbiased comparison guide that helps them make an informed choice between products. These types of posts, videos and downloads connect you with your followers, lighting them up instead of tuning them out.
If there is no cohesion between your social media posts, ads, website, landing pages, blogs and email campaigns, you don’t have a strategy that will lead each reader from your post to your website to your sales page right to your checkout form.
It means you haven’t created a schedule of what you are going to post for the week or months ahead, so that you can focus your time on responding to all the people who react to your posts or reach out for more information. It means you haven’t set realistic and specific goals for how your marketing strategy will increase traffic, improve SEO, drive leads, or create content that matters.
It also means you haven’t done enough homework around your target market to understand all of their needs, wants and desires.
A good marketing strategy is not just a plan for what you will post, it’s a pathway to creating campaigns that attract, engage and convert people, so that you are always top in their mind when they think about taking action.
Your content should fall into one of three categories: Inspirational, Educational or Entertaining.
Anything that does not represent at least one of these themes should be produced sparingly—or not at all.
Inspirational, educational and entertaining content creates an emotional buy-in from the people who experience it. While other businesses are jamming promotions and offers down their throats, you are piquing their curiosity, helping them feel more prepared and knowledgeable, fear-busting the concerns that may be keeping them from taking action (buying, reading, signing up—whatever it is you want them to do), and creating a bond that will set you miles ahead of your competitors when they’re finally ready to act.
What might these categories look like? Here are a few ideas to get your creativity going:
- Inspirational: A gallery of gorgeous, want-worthy photos of the best products out there, or of people engaged in your events. A true story that reflects why you are passionate about what you do. A roundup of quick and easy tips to help people stop dreaming and get started with something awesome. Video profiles of people whose lives are richer, better, easier because of their experiences with you, or with your field.
- Educational: A how-to video or webinar to help people expand their skills and level up. A biography of a cool person—historical or current—who made a real difference in your field. A timeline of the evolution of one of your top selling product types. An unbiased graphic comparison guide to help people understand the difference between different methods/approaches/products they might be debating between.
- Entertaining: Candid, off-the-cuff behind-the-scenes livestreams with you and your team. Some great photos or videos of people having fun at one of your events. A “best of the year” and “worst of the year” roundup of moments, products or happenings in your industry.
You get the idea! Just think about what you know—the expertise on your team, your own deep knowledge of your industry, the insider activity you encounter every day—and what interested people want to know and see and experience. Your content, whether it’s entertaining, educational, or inspiring, lies in that intersection.
When was the last time you bought something from social media? When was the last time you heard of someone buying something from social media?
No one goes to social media to shop. They go there to connect, share, laugh and kill time.
When you show up on social media and contribute to that good time, you win. If you show up to the party and fail to “read the room” by trying to get every person there to buy something off you, you’re going to find yourself alone by the metaphorical snack cart.
Every platform not only has its own specific type of user, it also has its own specific purpose for that user, and its own specific way of communicating common interest. That means you need to choose different content, and different ways of presenting it, for each platform you use.
Using every platform in the same way will frustrate your followers—and that means they’ll inevitably stop paying attention to you, or stop following you altogether. At best, maybe they’ll click “like” on your most inspirational posts… but they’ll never take the relationship further.
For each social media platform you use, take some time to simply watch and experience the flow of communication go by. Like I said earlier, read the room. Pay attention to how your followers and the people you follow are communicating with each other, and adjust your content to suit. And don’t worry—with practice and familiarity, you’ll find you can be yourself and be aligned to the platform, all at the same time.
Your analytics are a constantly updating report card on how well your content marketing is doing. This is critical feedback, and if you don’t pay attention to it, you are wasting valuable time and money.
Maybe you could fill a stadium with your fans and followers. Maybe you could fill a small nation. But if few of those people are buying from you, all of those likes are just vanity metrics.
If you aren’t seeing followers convert into customers, you need to find out why. What mistakes are you making over and over? Which posts are working and which are turning people away? What content is getting surface attention but not bringing people further in? What refinements need to be made? The answer is in your analytics.
By spending as little as 15 minutes a week examining your social media and web analytics, you can find out:
- What pages your followers spend most of their time on.
- Where your referrals are coming from.
- Which landing pages have a high bounce rate—and which ones are “sticky.”
- What types of content/wording/images/layouts get people reading, clicking, buying.
More than anything, you can find out where your money and energy should be spent, and what might be driving people away. And then you can change the game.
Need a brief review? Here are some quick fixes for all five mistakes:
—Make sure your content marketing focuses on your customers’ desires, wants and needs.
—Know exactly what you will be posting and when with a content marketing strategy. It will save you time and energy, so you can focus on engaging with your customers.
—Avoid the hard sell and focus on content that falls under one of these three categories: Inspirational, Educational, Entertaining.
—Do a little homework to understand how your audience uses each social media platform, so you can fit seamlessly into their online conversation.
—Set a few minutes aside each week to look at your social media and web analytics and see what content your fans liked most. That way you will always know what to create more of.
These five mistakes are common—so common that you will stand out far above the rest if you take the few simple steps needed to avoid them.
Elevate Marketing Summit is happening March 10 & 11 and it’s all about content marketing: how to create it, curate it, and collaborate on it for exponential results.
We have over 15 speakers and topics lined up over these two days with a mix of pre-recorded and live sessions.
The best part is, it’s completely FREE to attend.
Click below to learn more and to register!