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Why Content Marketing Fails – And 10 Tips to Fix Yours

Wasted Marketing Dollars

With content marketing all the rage, businesses are creating more content than ever before: 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content this year than last, according to a new survey.

But CMOs are increasingly unhappy with the results. Only 2% believe their content effectively generates leads, according to a recent survey by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and NetLine Corporation.

90% of marketers have a content strategy, according to the poll of 200 senior marketers. But only 40% believe their organization effectively develops content. One reason: only 12% of feel their content is focused on their audience and marketing goals.

So what can marketers do, to fulfill the promise of content marketing, and deliver content that effectively generates leads? Here are 10 pointers

1. Forget Brand and Leads

Most content marketers focus excessively on marketing, and not enough on content. Rather than thinking about content, they’re only thinking about branding and lead generation. Let go of that.

Look at the best-selling nonfiction books on Amazon.com. They’re bestsellers because a) they address a problem that interests readers, and 2) they provide useful solutions for that problem. When developing content, act as if you’re writing a bestseller.

2. What Do They Want?

Have a clear understanding of your audience’s needs and goals, and what type of content they consume. What problems do they have? What solutions are they seeking? Start with their problems, and offer answers.

“You need to understand what your audience wants and needs, and how content can help them in their day to day jobs,” says Elena Sukacheva, managing director of the global content solutions unit and events at The Economist Group.

3. Slice and Dice

You have many types of customers, leads and personas. Since they have different problems and goals, it’s essential to segment, and create content targeted to each of those individual personas.

4. Laser Focus

Content often tries to be everything to everyone. Instead, laser focus on micro targeted content. Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail includes the tagline, Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Your leads are best served when you laser focus on solving a specific problem.

5. Be Different

Too many marketers turn out the exact same content. Like The Long Tail, create content for which there is demand and little competition. “We try to avoid producing digital experiences that feel like clutter and don’t improve the life of the user in any way,” said Ben Winters, founder of Seattle-based design and technology company WINTR.

6. Forget Sales

The vast majority of content marketing comes across as a thinly veiled sales pitch. That causes visitors to abandon your content and site. Turn down the sales pitch, and put front and center your story: the problem and solution.

7. Useful

Create content that is useful. Again, this concept is so overstated it’s often forgotten. Create content that people actually employ and utilize, that will make an impact on how they do their work. Make stuff that people feel is absolutely essential to doing their jobs better.

When you do this, business often follows. NEC launched its Safe Cities micro-site, a purely informational resource that rates 50 cities around the world. It includes lively, interactive content such as infographics and videos. By focusing on useful information, NEC generated more than 250 leads in the month alone.

8. Inspire Interaction

Marketers too often focus on impressions – which are fleeting at best. Rather you need to aim at engaging your prospects. This means create content that your audience wants to read, download, highlight, interact with, play with, quote, recommend to friends, and more.

WINTR creates content like “How Would Russell Do It,” a gamified interactive experience and educational tool for financial services client Russell Investments. It’s different.

9. Get Personal

Marketers have become obsessed with outbound marketing and one-to-many communication. We forget that our leads are individuals. At Black Ink, we recently went back to basics, with a 40step process: defining our ideal target organization, listing such organizations, identifying key decision-makers at each, and making personal contact.

10. One-on-one

I then emailed each of these decision-makers, inviting them to a one-on-one meeting to review a case study relevant to their business. The response? Overwhelming. We immediately generated 20 appointments with key decision-makers at organizations with revenue of more than $1 billion.

Summary – content is not Styrofoam peanuts to fill the box. Done correctly, content is priceless information that helps your leads improve their lives. Keep that in mind at every stage of content marketing, and your work will generate unprecedented leads and sales.

By Jeff Winsper

Jeff is the President of Black Ink and offers more than 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, serving companies ranging from Fortune 500 to start ups.

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