Insights - Brand & Marketing

5 Cardinal Sins of Content Marketing

Getting your content to stand out is hard. Why make it harder? Avoid these 5 mistakes and make content marketing easier on yourself.

cartoon with man and woman talkning about content marketing

The final goal of content creation by brands is to decrease Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC).

There, we said it.

This could be in the short term, or over a longer period where the content starts by fostering brand awareness, establishing a brand personality or creating brand associations – but finally, it must deliver. Otherwise, you’re needlessly keeping a team busy and creating content for yourself.

(Also, CAC could refer to any audience you are targeting – including employees and investors, as long as you are clear about that).

We speak to a lot of brands, and these are the top 5 mistakes that make us facepalm.

#1. Not Creating for Sharp Personas & Objectives

What we heard: “Fintech is so boring – we wanted to make it cool. But our comic strip doesn’t seem to be working.”

Any act of creation brings with it the danger that the creator will be so caught up in it that they forget the audience. This is fine for art – not for brands.

If your key customer is the CTO at a PSU bank, we’re not sure if a comic about your team antics is the best way to impress them.

Yes, we know that everyone does case studies and whitepapers, but that doesn’t mean they have to be done the same way. Could you serve up a case study in a new mobile-friendly format? Could the key points in a whitepaper be presented in a pithy short-form video? This approach may serve your brand better than a creatively-fulfilling – but zero impact – dance reel.

We also know that everyone reading this today, is saying, “But what about the Rocketlane video….”

SaaS company, Rocketlane released this rap-style video about its $24 million fundraise and it went viral, racking up millions of views according to the founder’s tweet.

We love the video, but remember that all Rocketlane wanted from this was to create buzz and establish a certain brand personality – they weren’t selling anything or explaining their product or competitive edge.

So before you rush to get your shades and flowered shirt on, think clearly about the objective with which you are creating content, and the persona it seeks to influence. Do not make it boring, but do make it relevant and impactful.

#2: Misalignment Between Content and Brand Growth Stage

What we heard: “Our purpose is to make the world a better place and we’ve been creating content around that. But when we surveyed our TG, none of them knew what we were doing.”

Different stages of a brand’s life demand different content strategies. Yes, Coca-Cola can get away with “Open Happiness” because every human on the planet is aware of them and what they do.

If you’re at a stage where you are trying to create awareness around your offering, then communicating at 30,000 feet is not the right way to go.

Instead, get sharper, get granular – and answer the questions, “Why should the customer care?” and “Why should they choose my brand over the competition?”

Do not swing the other way into a feature overload. Instead, stay focused on the value you are delivering to the customer.

#3: Building Content Without Understanding Distribution

What we heard: “Our fashion e-commerce brand created some beautiful and expensive posts on style trends, but we’ve hardly got any engagement.”

There is a hard fact that all content creators must swallow: Content may be king, but distribution is kingmaker.

Algorithms today are much tougher to crack, and there is a lot more competition for eyeballs. No matter how wonderful you think your content is, only a fraction of people will engage with it.

Which means that unless you have built a sizable distribution, you will reach very few people to start with – and only if they share your content can you hope to increase organic reach.

Our advice is to figure out distribution and have a clear-eyed view of reach before you invest too much in expensive content creation. Basic things to think about:

  1. The shape of your database: From capturing first-party data on your website to capturing leads from offline events, how are you growing and segmenting your database? Do you know who your high-value customers are, do you know who lapsed and why?
  2. Get a grip on social media: This is not about number of followers. Today’s reality is that most people will check your profile on the relevant social media channel, before they engage deeply with you. Does your page communicate what you want it to?
  3. Piggyback on others who already have distribution. We cannot emphasise this enough for small and big brands. Focus on collaborations to distribute content. Don’t launch a podcast, first appear on one.

#4: Not Building Attribution

What we heard: “It’s getting very expensive to create and distribute content for so many channels.”

Without proper attribution, it’s impossible to know which content efforts are driving results and which are wasting resources. This leads to inefficient spending and missed opportunities for optimisation.

To avoid this sin:

  1. Implement robust tracking and analytics: You are probably already using tools like Google Analytics, UTM parameters, and custom tracking codes to monitor the performance of your content across different channels. But we find that most people forget the follow-on step of a periodic review and course correction.
  2. Set clear KPIs: Define what success looks like for each piece of content and each channel. This might include hard metrics like engagement rates, lead generation, or direct sales. On the other hand, your objective just maybe to create buzz. As long as you – and your team – are clear.
  3. Regularly analyse and adjust: Use the data you collect to inform future content decisions, doubling down on what works and cutting or improving what doesn’t. This requires collaboration between cross-functional teams, and perhaps that’s why many brands don’t do it effectively enough.

For example, a B2B brand I spoke to, was investing equally in blog posts, YouTube videos, and LinkedIn articles. By implementing proper attribution, they discovered that their YouTube videos drive the most sign-ups, while their LinkedIn articles are most effective for nurturing leads. This insight allows them to allocate resources more effectively, potentially increasing their budget for video production while optimising their LinkedIn strategy for lead nurturing rather than acquisition.

#5: Focusing on Unscalable Channels

What we heard: “Our blog did very well to start with, but it’s slowing down now.”

While it’s important to experiment with different content formats and channels, relying too heavily on tactics that don’t scale, can limit your growth potential.

Remember that the personalised approach that brought you your first 500 customers will probably not be feasible at 5000. 

To avoid this pitfall:

  1. Diversify your content mix: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Experiment with a variety of content types and platforms to find what resonates best with your audience and scales effectively.
  2. Leverage user-generated content: Encourage and showcase content created by your customers or community, which can provide authentic perspectives and scale more easily than purely brand-created content.
  3. Repurpose and adapt: Find ways to repurpose existing content across multiple channels. For example, turn a popular blog post into an infographic, video, or podcast episode.
  4. Invest in evergreen content: Create timeless pieces that continue to provide value and attract traffic long after their initial publication.

Did we miss a sin? Tell us in the comments.

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