Content marketing is still a hot topic, but when I first heard of it, (don’t ask how many years ago, I was hiding in a corporate marketing job, we didn’t only use jargon, we invented more of the stuff.) I groaned inside. Why? Because every marketer started repeating parrot fashion:
Content is the way to sell.
No, no, no, it’s not.
The way to sell technology and complex services is to meet people, understand people, call them back, find out what their pains are and solve them. Or make their dreams come true. But how do you that? And more importantly, how do you show your ideal customers that you’re capable of making their problems go away?
Bottom line, before anyone will buy from you, your brand has to instinctively ‘feel right’ for them. You have to share stuff: values, style, life-experience, conversations, time – oh, and your marketing (whatever you use) has to appeal to them, not repel them. But so many businesses are missing the mark by making these six mistakes with their content. What are they? And how can you avoid them?
1. Your content doesn’t resonate with your audience
The first is obvious. Your client doesn’t recognise themselves in what you wrote. Nothing about the article convinced them you understand their problem. So spend more time understanding them. Find out how you can serve them. A customer avatar, or customer persona, or profile is not a work of fiction. Ask your existing customers, ask your customer-facing teams, get third party perspectives, but fill your customer profile with facts. Lots of them.
2. It doesn’t reflect your real values
The second is easy to avoid when you’re Nike or Apple. But smaller businesses don’t have the budget to refine, create, build and share advertising and consumer content where every word is synonymous with the brand values. What happens when you’re busy, you don’t take time to reflect on the business values at all, the company grows organically, people working there like their jobs, but the leaders don’t or can’t articulate ‘why’ they will continue to like it and why customers can be proud to buy from them.
Get together, take time out, figure out what you want your potential clients to see. Then put ‘that’ into your articles – or if you haven’t got time to write them, brief your copywriter properly. Adam Brooks reminded us of this in his Customer Lifetime Value talk, thanks sir. And yes, one of my favourite books is “Start with Why.” If you don’t share enough content about the business values, why it was formed and what you want to help people with, they won’t feel anything at all. Guess what, we buy with feelings. Which vary at different times of the day, week, month, year.
3. Your content isn’t shared often or widely enough
Thirdly, if you’re a sole trader or freelancer, you might have heard that bit about including your values in your blogs, so you’re busy writing them every week and sharing ‘behind the scenes’ information about yourself. Phew, it’s hard to keep that up. Perhaps one a month will do? Some statistics tell us companies who blog get more leads than those who don’t. But read Hubspot’s detailed analysis: for business to business audiences, it talks about blogging 11 or more times per month to generate more traffic and having a back catalogue of over 400 posts. I’m not suggesting give up, but instead, share a story when you’ve got something valuable or important to say. And share it everywhere, not just on your website. Don’t write a rubbish article because you’ve been told consistency is key.
4. It isn’t consistent
Oh wait. The fourth mistake – consistency IS key. Sticking to a content plan or schedule does work better than publishing random content for most businesses. But there’s a bigger problem for small and medium sized businesses. Most marketing content doesn’t flow well because they haven’t thought through an overarching set of themes, topics and events which all fit together. The reader doesn’t come back to read your blog again because they don’t know what to expect.
5. It isn’t about them – it’s about you
Fifth. Avoid oversharing, it becomes boring fast. I may know you, trust you and like you already, so don’t blow it. Your email newsletter doesn’t need to ‘chat to me’ about all your internal workings. Yes, I’m happy to read your news and customer success stories, but only if I can see what I’ll get out of it. You’ve got a new team member: great, tell me how they’re going to improve your services because they’re an awesome hire. Educating me works better, especially if you’ve figured out exactly what I’m struggling with or want to learn more about.
6. It isn’t really your voice they hear
The sixth mistake is more subtle. I’ve written this blog today under the influence of hearing some brilliant speakers at StroudNet and Dent recently. But does this article sound like me? The same Debra who shows up at networking and smiles quietly when you show much you care about your customers?
Being congruent with who you are, what you stand for and how you want people to feel after they’ve bought your service is a challenge when you’ve got other people writing on your behalf. What I’m learning, is how important it is for a business to have a separate personality from the founder, even in infancy while you’re a sole trader. I’m not suggesting the managing director HAS to write every blog or marketing article, but the leaders do need to take an interest and make sure the ‘company’ personality is clearly represented. We call it ‘tone of voice’ and it matters because your ideal clients can spot BS a mile off. They’re human, they have strong instincts too.
Good news, all these mistakes can be fixed quickly:
Treat your content marketing plan like a jigsaw. Look at the big picture before you start.
Bring other people in to explore your plan. Your perspective might be wonky.
Know who you are you writing it for. Or read about mistake one again and go do your research.
Pick three key adjectives for your business or go back to your values and include those within every single one of your articles.
Storytelling in your content works – but make it easy for the readers to take the next step.
Call to action, terrible piece of jargon. Here is mine: I offer a free consultation to help businesses diagnose whether their content is hitting the mark with their customers and how case studies can help reach more of them. I spend a lot of time calling other people’s customers and my filter is ready. Sadly, sometimes I get a brief and I have to write what the client wants. Don’t be that client. Ask me what I really think, and I’ll tell you.
Footnote: Did you spot me using words like ‘instinctively’ and ‘feeling’ and ‘client’ instead of customer? I want my clients to know I’m here to help them grow, but also to support them longer term to make their marketing resonate more. I’m developing my superpower, empathy. What’s yours?