Why Marketers Abandon Their Content Strategies Too Soon
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The line gets at something most people can appreciate, regardless of whether they’ve been in the ring.
As the SVP of enterprise content marketing at POP, a digital agency, I often think back to Tyson’s words. No matter how many marketers you speak to, no matter how many articles or books you read, nothing can really prepare you for how difficult it is to create excellent content that an audience cares about. Because of all the hype surrounding content marketing, sometimes we expect too much too soon. In the face of mounting expectations, we question our strategies—and too often we abandon them before they’ve had a chance to succeed.
While the difficulties associated with content marketing aren’t as daunting as taking an uppercut to the mouth, they still can be significant enough to get in the way of your long-term vision.
Here are seven reasons why marketers give up on their content strategies, along with some advice on how to overcome them.
1. Finding good content creators is too difficult
If you’re an agency, or work with an agency, you may start out using your in-house copywriters. Or, you’ll use a company like Contently to help source your writers. Or you’ll call a friend who edits a local newspaper and get some referrals.
All are logical paths to follow, but just like brain surgeons, fighter pilots, and dog whisperers, the talent pool in any craft follows a bell curve. You must continuously strive to find writers who are two or three standard deviations to the right. If it happens right away for you, great—but it usually takes time.
If the portfolios of your potential contributors aren’t filled with work you love, take a pass. “Good enough” never is. Eventually, as you refine your voice, you’ll have a team of freelancers you can trust every time.
2. They underestimate how much time great content takes to produce
When you commission a 50-page e-book, don’t expect to generate your first draft in a week and then go through two revisions before you can publish. These content projects aren’t going to have the same workflow as a promotional email or a banner ad.
The amount of time it takes to write an article or an e-book will depend upon a number of variables specific to your organization. For instance, if you belong to a regulated industry like pharmaceuticals or insurance, legal reviews will consume much more time than they might for a retail brand. If your content will be repurposed internationally, you’ll need extra time for localization.
Over time, you will figure out your “normal.” Until then, if things take longer than expected, lean towards asking yourself, “How can we be more efficient?” not, “How can we fix our strategy?”
3. They don’t have the right tools
One day you’ll probably get an email from a writer or designer asking, “Would it be possible to have one document with consolidated feedback rather than wading through comments and questions from 14 different people on different drafts?” You might also get a call from an attorney who will only look at printed documents. Different coworkers may post documents to Basecamp, Dropbox, and a company intranet, depending on which department they’re in.
If possible, minimize the confusion by prioritizing one or two platforms, and make sure everyone is willing and able to use them. More often than not, however, you won’t be able to determine the best tools and process for your team until you’ve created content for a few months. That’s okay. Learn and adjust.
4. They underestimate how difficult it is to talk about clients and influencers
Reports and quotations in the public domain are fair game, and you can cite them at will. However, if you want to publish stats or insights from buyers or internal employees, that freedom disappears.
The case studies that seem straightforward on your end could get held up for weeks or months. So aim to set up a structure that simplifies the approval process and keeps the client happy. If you’re quoting someone, make sure you let them review so they feel properly represented. Same for stats. There have been a number of times when researchers have written to me to say, “You have permission to quote us, but your interpretation of the results are slightly off.”
Keeping your contacts in the loop can help you avoid conflict and it usually leads to them sharing the content on social when it’s complete, which gives you an advocate who can trust you. That’s an easy way to build rapport with industry influencers.
5. Salespeople prematurely pressure them to generate conversions
You are focused on the long game of building relationships with prospects and keeping them engaged over the sales cycle. Your sales team, on the other hand, is compensated for generating shorter-term revenue results. It’s only natural that tension might arise and you’ll receive pressure to create more sales enablement content to generate leads.
That’s fine, as long as your long-term content strategy doesn’t devolve into a short-term sales strategy. But if the quarterly numbers fall short, you may find yourself drifting from your original content plan to satisfy other demands.
By all means, gate those e-books and one-sheets that highlight your services. But also make sure you keep up a steady cadence of useful content that’s not self-promotional. You can’t expect to revolutionize your sales funnel with one piece of content. The more high-value content you create, the greater your return will be.
6. They have a hard time building a steady audience
Large quantities of fantastic content creates what I like to refer to as a “center of gravity” that attracts organic search traffic. But getting to that gravity takes time. You need to build up trust with an audience. And you may need to promote your content initially to generate traffic. Waiting for that initial content to yield results can take months, and the knee-jerk reaction may be to abandon your focus for flashier clickbait.
In our experience, clients can spend up to two to three times as much on distribution as they do on creation. Social selling tools like Linkedin Elevate and Dynamic Signal can help, potentially driving more traffic than content shared by branded social accounts.
Eventually, as your reputation develops, you’ll be able to spend less on promotion and more on creation. Tweak the balance as necessary, but stay the course on your strategy.
7. Measurement is an afterthought
Prior to creating content, you’ll have discussions about what to measure. Readers, shares, likes, engagement time, finish rate, and so on are all KPIs to consider.
If your content only appears on one platform—say, your blog—measurement will be manageable. But if your content spans multiple platforms and channels, that’s when trouble starts. Perhaps you have to gather data on blogs, native campaigns, paid social campaigns, social engagement, and email responses. It’ll take time to get everyone on the same schedule and all of your data onto one report.
Unfortunately, in the absence of reports that prove your content marketing is effective, people will second-guess your strategy. You’ll save yourself a lot of angst if you decide what to measure in advance and create a template for your monthly or quarterly reports. Share the template with your team and partners, and agree about who will generate what data. Then, make sure you go to management and get their buy-in. That way, when you are inevitably asked, “Is our strategy working?” you’ll have a good answer.