When the 1998 Asian financial crisis hit there were massive layoffs in the communications business. There were jobless copywriters and designers everywhere. Senior talent were looking for jobs, willing to take half their last salary. Those who still had jobs had their salaries slashed. I had colleagues who suffered a 30% cut, then another 50% a few months later.
When the pandemic hit, every marketer worth their salt realised that digital channels are a crucial part of their marketing communications. I was a little amazed to see a sharp increase in recruitment for writers – both for full time and freelancers – to fill the suddenly exploding social media and content marketing space.
While resources are being poured into the digital space, I’m sure there are businesses who feel some level of disappointment because their content doesn’t seem to be getting the expected mileage. I’m sure there are also businesses who have experienced a positive impact from their content marketing efforts.
So does content marketing work or not? Well, yes and no. It all depends on what you’re focused on, and using effective content writing tools can definitely increase your chances of success.
That being said, here are 5 common reasons why content marketing doesn’t work.
1. No clear content strategy
Clarity is key when it comes to creating content. Like most things in life, if you don’t have a clear idea of where you want to go, you’re going to have a hard time getting anywhere. The same goes for content marketing strategy.
As Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.” That means you need to know what you want to achieve with your content marketing. Have a clear picture of where you are now and where you want to be, so that you can go in the direction and plan the right steps to take you there.
How to fix this
First be clear about what you want your content to accomplish, such as raising awareness, getting enquiries, increasing conversion rates. That will help you focus your efforts and money in the right direction, as well as give you an indication whether you’re making progress towards that direction. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Doesn’t provide value to target audiences
For content marketing to work you need to be clear about what your audiences really care about. I often hear clients say, “I want to write content about my company’s XXX services targeted at YYY audiences.” That’s not enough. Your audiences are ONLY interested if it’s worth their time to consume your content. If your content doesn’t address specific questions and concerns that they have, they’re just going to skip it.
How to fix this
Asking the right questions will help you a lot in this. Questions like:
- Who are your target audiences, exactly?
- What are they concerned about?
- What questions are they asking?
- What solutions are they looking for?
- What do they look for in a vendor?
Related: Understanding Your Customers Is Crucial For Business Growth
Once you have some clarity on this, you can move on to think about:
- What aspect of your services do you want to talk about?
- Why is knowing about those aspects important to your target audiences?
- Why are you a right fit for your target audiences?
Having an idea of what your audiences care about will give your efforts a big leg up. But you also need something more.
3. Not building a community
Let’s face it, we’re living in a time of oversupply of content. So, if you’re spending time and effort to produce content but you don’t know if it’s reaching your audiences or how they are responding to it, how will you know if you’re making an impact? If you’re not also spending time and resources to find, reach and engage audiences, your content might be disappearing into the internet without a splash.
How to fix this
Rather than just posting content after content, take the time and effort to build your community of fans. Find out where your target audiences hang out and reach out to engage them. Some things that you can do to build your community could be:
- Actively post on social media
- Start an email newsletter
- Pitch influencers in your industry to share your content.
- Pitch bloggers and site owners to share your content.
- Leave good comments on social media or other websites (and mention your content)
If you spend more time engaging your audiences, and less time creating content, you’ll probably be more successful than a company who does a lot of creating but very little community building. But we’re not out of the woods yet.
4. Unrealistic expectations
In my experience, one of the biggest mistakes businesses make is having unrealistic expectations. The unconscious expectation is often for every piece of content has to generate great sales, or bring in lots of good leads, or get fantastic views, etc.
The truth is, content marketing is a marathon not a sprint. You can’t wake up today and start winning every marathon. Just like you need time to build up your ability to run marathons, content marketing takes time to succeed. And just like you won’t win every marathon, not every piece of content will deliver amazing results.
How to fix this
Set specific and realistic goals, and give your content strategy time to gain traction. Don’t expect results in a matter of a few weeks or even a few months, especially if you have longer term goals like brand awareness, reputation building, and community building. Which leads me to my final point.
The internet is one place where the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” does NOT apply. “Out of sight, out of mind” is more like it. And in internet time, this can be a matter of weeks, days or even minutes (the lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes, while the reach of a TikTok post decays immediately). So not consistently producing content and engaging your audiences, is the fastest way to become irrelevant and forgotten.
How to fix this
Set up a content calendar and plan your promotion strategies. Again, this comes back to clarity - make your plans as specific as possible: what are the specific content titles, where and how are you are going to promote them, when are you going to post / repost / promote them, etc. Make sure you set aside enough resources to carry out the plan in excellence too. With the deluge of content out there, audiences have no patience for mediocre stuff.
So does content marketing work?
Simply put, for your content to work, you need to stand out from the crowd and make people remember you. There are really only two ways to do that - consistently producing outstanding content and regularly engaging your audiences. Both of these need a long-term commitment in terms of time and effort to deliver results. (Remember, content marketing is a marathon).
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Whether your content marketing is going to work or not depends on how well you build in the success factors and avoid the mistakes.
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