I Dare you

4 Reasons Your Content Marketing Strategy Sucks

When you're trying to do your own content marketing and online outreach, you never know if you're doing it right.

So, you broke down and paid for a course. You learned that content marketing is the wave of the future and that with great content your profits will explode; all your worries will be over. You spend some time each day researching and writing. You’re doing it all right.

Except, your list isn’t growing. No one forwards your emails. You don’t have more comments on your blog posts. Worst of all, your sales are flat. Is it time to throw in the towel and rent a billboard?

Before you do, take a second to look at these common content marketing mistakes. You might be on the brink of exploding profits without even realizing it!

1. Your list isn’t targeted. Just who are you writing all that great content for, anyway? It’s far better to have a small, carefully targeted email list than it is to have thousands of email addresses of people who will never, ever do business with you.

It isn’t about the numbers. Two hundred people who open your email, read your content, click your links and at least occasionally buy your stuff will always beat a list of 2,000 people who don’t know you, don’t care about you and wouldn’t spend a dime with you.

I hear you. You’re wailing, “But how?? How do I find the right people?”

Talk to your customers, even if you only have 3 of them. Ask if they would like to receive your newsletter. Let your friends on Twitter know about your newsletter. Share your blog posts on Facebook, Stumbleupon and Digg. Be, you know, social.

Getting people to ask to receive your stuff is the first crucial step.

Randomly grabbing email addresses from your shopping cart software will equal failure. Pulling email addresses from directories you are a member of will equal failure.

Those tactics will frustrate you and possibly get you blacklisted because your fabulous content amounts to spam if you are sending it to people who don’t want it.

2. You don’t post (or send) on a regular basis. Some folks say you should only post on your blog when you have something brilliant to say. However, when it comes to your customers, you need to be useful and informative. Brilliance is optional.

There are things you know that your customers don’t. You can tell them stuff that will make their lives easier or more interesting.

  • Keep a running list of questions your customers ask you.
  • Write down any kind of specialized knowledge you have.
  • List any odd tools you use regularly that people might not know exist.
  • Write down weird ways your business is like other businesses.
  • Take note of industry lingo that outsiders don’t know.

Those lists can serve as an almost endless source of ideas for posts and articles.

3. You over-sell. This one is just awful. I can’t even count the number of newsletters I’ve unsubscribed from because all they did was say what was on sale. Please, tell me something. Make me laugh. Teach me something.

If every post you put on your blog has a sales pitch in it, try making every other one informational. Then make every third one a sales pitch. Add in one or two articles that are purely for fun. Make them relevant to your business, of course, but also entertaining.

The temptation to over-sell is understandable. Maybe you got a great response to your first couple of posts and you want to see those numbers jump again, so you keep on selling, week after week. Maybe your first newsletter caused a spike in your sales and you think “If I’d had three or four “buy now” links in there sales would have been even better!”

Do you tune out commercials on the radio? Do you read the “sponsored tweets” on Twitter? We are all so used to being bombarded with sales pitches we have all – including your customers! – learned how to block out the noise.

4. You under-sell. Do you worry that if you try to sell something on your blog people will leave in droves and your list will drop to nothing? Do you fret over each un-subscriber from your newsletter?

Let them go. If they don’t want to hear from you and they aren’t interested in buying anything, you don’t want them on your list. They are not your target. If you want to make money, you must sell stuff. Don’t be afraid to do it and, if people leave because you are selling, they are not the people you need to share your informative, entertaining content with.

If (after checking to make sure you aren’t committing one of these errors) you still aren’t making any headway with content marketing, get a second opinion. There are lots of professionals who will review your strategy (you do have a strategy, right?) to help you figure out what’s going wrong.  Then, if that doesn’t work, maybe you should consider renting that billboard…

Guest post by Dava Stewart | Smiling Tree Writing | davastewart

Dava owns and operates a small freelance writing company out of Tennessee, but don’t let the “small” fool you. She’s a powerhouse copywriter. We enjoy her writing, and hope you do, too. Welcome, Dava!


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7 Responses

  1. Thanks for the feedback. You’re absolutely right: content marketing done well does take time. However, as Joe sagely mentioned, even small steps will get you moving in the right direction. Start with what you already have in place, and work toward a process that’s tied to your priorities – for instance, customer retention vs. generating new business.

  2. Spot-on advice, Dava!

    It’s exhausting hearing people whine about how the methods (blogging, social networking, electronic newsletters) are at fault when they’re actually trying to target everyone with scattershot, unfocused content and an over-reliance on sales pitches. (I have to admit, I’m a bit guilty of #4, focusing on content to the point of almost ignoring the pitch. I’m working on that.) Thanks for a clear reminder of the non-billboard path. 🙂

    1. Down with the whiners! It can be really difficult to put that sales pitch in there when you aren’t comfortable with it. I have seen people put their sales pitch in as a “ps” successfully. That way, you don’t have to struggle to write it anew every time.

  3. You know what? The first two reasons you listed are exactly why I’m failing. Not posting regularly is certainly a major concern for me. I must force myself. 🙂

    1. Dean, one way to overcome that “issue” is to have a schedule. Even if you are just writing an opinion piece on things you’ve heard, seen, read somewhere. Sometimes looking at your Google analytics/alerts helps with inspiration. But insist on posting a (number) of times a month. Do this for three months. It becomes more discipline than inspiration… mix the two and you have a successful blog 😉

    2. Yes, Dean, as Gabriella says, a schedule is a key. I find that keeping all those lists really helps too because there’s always something to write about. I’ll admit that sticking to a regular posting schedule is probably where I struggle most as well.

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