Strategy

6 Common Problems Holding You Back from Content Mastery

My friend is a web engineer for a large media company, and whenever we talk shop, I’m always surprised at how big of an impact his tinkering can have on the content we read. From my perspective, he noodles around in some code for an hour, and then the next time I see him, his company’s traffic reaches a new high.

If your marketing team churns out content but you have the nagging sense your process isn’t as efficient as it could be, chances are you’re not grappling with an insurmountable obstacle. Take it from my friend: The hard part is identifying the problem. Because once you do, the solution becomes a lot more tangible.

At Contently, we mapped out the path to content excellence in our Maturity Model. No brand wants their content strategy to stall at Phase 0, a hectic and emotionally stressful state we call content chaos.

Maybe your team doesn’t have enough time to create the right assets. Or maybe your company doesn’t even know what content you create in the first place. Sound familiar? To help you identify the issue before it hurts your team, here are the most common symptoms of content chaos.

1. Ignoring the customer experience

Brands like to pay lip service to the customer experience, but if marketers want their content to make a real impact, they have to commit. Shift away from the scattered ideas your team comes up with on the fly, and focus instead on the problems your audience battles on a daily basis.

Content marketing isn’t just a constant stream of advertisements. You want to anticipate some of the questions that might lead someone to your brand, especially ones that involve the keywords and concepts people search for on Google. When they search the web while considering their next purchase, your brand will become a familiar and trustworthy presence to them over time—if your content is useful.

2. Not defining your target audience

If your target audience is still undefined, take some time to reflect with your team on your mission.

Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, you can answer the same set of core questions to learn more. Who are these consumers, and where do they typically find the articles they read? What are their job titles? What terms do they search? What challenges do they face (at work or home)? What are their responsibilities?

If those questions sound interesting but you have no idea how to answer them, your homework is to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. A great place to start is talking to your customers.

3. Ignoring freelance talent

You can’t expect your content program to thrive if one person is doing all the work. Yet we often see brands new to content leaning too heavily on one or two individuals to handle all strategy, creation, editing, and data analysis.

Some of those pillars like strategy and analysis call for full-time oversight. But if those fundamentals are strong, letting freelance talent create your marketing content frees up the core employees to focus on the big picture. going rate for an article that doesn’t require a ton of research or interviews starts at about $400. (Visual assets like infographics are more expensive.) Once freelance contributors get to know your brand, they’ll be able to pitch directly and save you more time.

4. Using too many tools

According to Scott Brinker’s 2018 supergraphic, there are 6,829 marketing technology solutions. Clearly, choice is not an issue. However, with such a crowded market, it’s tempting to buy a bunch of different products that offer the latest bells and whistles for topics like personalization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

If you have a large team and a ten-figure budget, maybe you can handle all of those products. But using the wrong tools can cripple smaller content marketing teams. You’ll want the solutions in your marketing stack to work well together because it’ll be easier to track how your content performs and how your team can be more efficient. Doing that with a dozen core pieces of software is a lot easier than managing 30.

5. Analyzing the wrong data

Bad decision-making can occur if a content team has access to marketing automation programs but hasn’t figured out how to correctly use it. It’s a familiar old adage in content marketing that content creators can’t do anything with big hunks of data. They need someone to sift through, analyze, and contextualize it all for them. If you’re collecting data without pursuing insight, you’ve really got your hands tied.

For some context on how to avoid this pitfall, read what John Fox and his team are doing at athenahealth (which is a Contently client). As Fox writes:

As we collaborated with our marketing teams, they began featuring athenaInsight regularly in campaigns. The desire to push our content out in print campaigns compelled us to create a quarterly print edition of the pub. It soon became clear that measuring the effectiveness of our content required measuring more than engagement stats. Now, we’re starting to capture data in SalesForce to track response rates for campaigns that feature our content. The lesson? Be agile and adjust your KPIs to keep pace with how and where your content gets distributed.

6. Struggling to work with other teams

Finally, if you feel that you’re toiling away creating content that your organization doesn’t use, it’s time to change the way you activate your work. Per SiriusDecisions, more than 60 percent of content goes unused. To remedy this, consider folding internal comms into your content strategy or asking experts in other departments to participate in the brainstorming process. The point isn’t to drastically alter what you’re creating—it’s to give more visibility to your process and assets.

No matter what your issues are or how big they might seem when you’re ruminating, taking baby steps toward a more functional content system will help. Sometimes solving a problem isn’t about making a giant declaration or tossing out your entire game-plan. Content mastery is ultimately about gradual improvement. If you trust the process, you’ll get there eventually.

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