3 telltale signs your content might be crappy (Cut the Crap Series, 1)

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when practicing the beautiful art that is content marketing. In this series we’ll focus on a number of mistakes that are very common, and relatively easy to fix. Which is not to mean that they don’t require a lot of effort.

If you want your content to stand out and ‘do the work’, there are a number of pitfalls to avoid. When discussing content marketing with people on the business side of an organization, I find that the following three topics always come up:

1. It’s all about you

It’s not about you. It almost never is about you. It’s not about the (metaphorical) drill you manufacture, as much as it is about the (metaphorical) hole in the wall your customer wants. If you go on about your drill ad nauseam, everyone – except for a couple of drill fanatics – will stop paying attention. (okay, if your target audience = drill fanatics, you probably should talk about your drill a lot).

In content marketing, you need to put your prospect’s or customer’s agenda at the heart of what you do. It’s all about their issues, concerns, pain points, priorities and opportunities. They all want something, they all want to be something. It’s your job to find out what that is, before you start creating. Otherwise, your content will not speak to them. It will be bland, copy-paste and done-a-zillion-times before. They don’t want that. And neither do you.

2. It’s all roses

Content marketing is a long-term strategy. It’s all about sharing expert advice and in doing so, building trust and getting towards a top of mind position. One of the key components of trust is authenticity. Velocity Partners calls it “insane honesty” (in a slidedeck which I urge every marketer to watch) and points out that “total honesty is the best ruse – or policy – ever invented.”

Brands that don’t hide their shortcomings, brands that have the guts to expose their soft spots and how they are working to fix them, brands that openly admit that their solution is not for everybody … those brands are the best at building trust, because they are transparant.

Granted: you might lose a couple of customers when you practice “insane honesty”. But there’s nothing wrong with alienating less likely buyers and focusing on the ones that, yes, really really REALLY want to work with you, warts and all. In the long run, you will close deals faster and have happier customers.

3. You spent all your juice on creation

This is a classic mistake. It’s based on the belief that, if you build it, your customers will come. The scenario goes something like this: you have created this terrific piece of content, you put it online and pushed it through a number of your own channels. And then … nothing much happens.

Two reasons. First: one piece of content never ever does the trick (something which I explain in this blog post). Second: for every euro or dollar you spend on content creation, you need x times that for content activation or promotion.

How much that ‘x’ is, depends on your industry, but the general idea is that you should spend at least as much on activation, as you do on creation (but usually more). I have spoken to marketers in FMCG where the promotion budget is 5 to 10 times the creation budget.

Whatever your ‘x’ is, and you should do the research, don’t skimp on it. If you have awesome content, and it’s not out there, you’ll be the prophet shouting in the desert. And that would be a shame.

This blog post is the first in the ‘Cut the Crap’ Series. In these blogposts I will focus on a number of content marketing pitfalls, and how to avoid them. Stay tuned for more.

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