Content marketing is the primary way companies and brands engage with their audience around the world. It’s also not a particularly new practice, but, remains far from refined. Moreover, time and cost pressures increasingly mean content marketers make simple, everyday mistakes that can have a big impact on business outcomes.
We’ve put together five common pitfalls that content marketers make, all of which have simple fixes that can generate big returns.
Astonishingly, the way that the vast majority of companies deliver their most precious materials hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years (that’s a quarter of a century!). Principally, content is still designed and published via PDFs, leading to a static, text heavy experience for users. And, whether its internal communications or external content pieces, no one enjoys reading documents densely compact with words. All the evidence suggests we consume information better if it’s displayed in short bursts with lots of visuals (see point 2).
The other key issue with utilising outdated content delivery formats is that they’re not mobile responsive. In an age where people spend approximately 3 hours and 35 minutes per day on mobile devices, marketers are not going to connect with audiences if content is published in a format that isn’t compatible with everyday life.
As every pre-school teacher knows too well, reading is not a genetically inbuilt skill, like talking. We need to be actively taught how to do it.
Historically speaking, when the first examples of human scripts appeared, they took the form of pictograms, illustrating the objects they reflected: an ear of corn, a scythe, a man. In the last few thousand years our brains have developed the connections required to move away from literal symbols and evolved to decipher and recognise words.
However, this doesn’t mean that images aren’t important. In fact, far from it. Our brains still retain a natural tendency to prioritise and engage with images over words. – it takes 13ms to process an image, but 4 mins to read 1,000 words. Which brings us to content marketing.
Implementing poor, often dull stock imagery is still a common mistake made by marketers in both the b2b and b2c sectors. This immediately makes content less memorable, less persuasive and generally just not visually engaging.
Marketers should be looking for eye catching imagery to the grip reader in the first instance, with images then used throughout materials to stimulate readers and avoid their minds slipping into the dreaded ‘passive’ state – in which we retain little of the information read.
Lack of audience awareness
Marketers not understanding their audience is, unfortunately, a thing.
Despite the digital era enabling access to an abundance of data, stats and metrics, marketers are not using this to paint accurate pictures of their audiences. This is because much of the data we do collect is unstructured and therefore unintelligible. In fact, a recent survey of b2b marketers found that 94 per cent of companies struggle to create meaningful insights from their content marketing.
By not being able to extract analytics from their content, due to outdated delivery methods, marketers don’t know enough about their audiences. As a result, when the process comes back to the content creation stage, marketers don’t know whether what they are creating will resonate with their audience because of a lack of insight from the previous campaign.
This leaves many marketers stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle that will be unbreakable unless we begin to embrace digital first content marketing platforms that offer more visibility of analytics and enhanced targeting options. In turn these are proven to provide lead conversions and retentions, increased productivity and clearer revenue attribution.
Previously, companies have relied on design teams and external agencies to execute their vision.
While this can create great campaigns, it can also lead to a lengthy process which creates huge bottlenecks throughout. Not only does it make getting content into the hands of users really slow, but in the worst cases, the back and forth can mean that the content is already out of date by the time it is published.
Content marketers should be empowered to create this content themselves. One of the beauties of technology is that it democratises skills, meaning that we are able to do a lot of things that have previously required specialist knowledge.
For example, creating a website in-house has never been easier. Likewise, modern marketing formats allows development and publication to take place in-house without any prior experience required.
This last one might seem to be in conflict with our previous point on bottlenecks. But, saturating our audience with messaging and content is something of a staple in marketing.
It is a readily available stat that the average person is bombarded with 10,000 corporate messages a day. Whereas, the number of messages we can actually process sits somewhere in the region of 10 – 15.
This begs the question of how marketers can achieve messaging cut-through in such a crowded marketplace.
One tactic we should not take, is to simply shout into the ether more often. Instead, we should be creating and honing our content, so that it creates a meaningful connection with the end user.
How we create this ‘meaningful connection’ can be found in basic psychological principles like reciprocity.
We need to allow people to consume our most engaging and interesting content before we ask for any further information from them. Research shows that this is a much better way to build a rapport/reciprocal relationships, which will mean our content is more readily and eagerly consumed by audiences.
Nick Mason, CEO & Founder, Turtl