As a concept, content marketing is a relatively straightforward strategy. You write content that people want to read, publish and syndicate it often, and eventually you’ll build a loyal audience who like your content, loves your brand, and buys more products and services from you. Unfortunately, the mechanics behind this process aren’t always as simple as they seem on paper. It’s not uncommon for content marketers to hit major obstacles along the way, disrupting their workflows and leaving them with inexplicable gaps in their results analysis.
These are seven of the most common roadblocks I see in the content marketing world:
1. Topic troubles
The first pain point usually comes before you’ve even written an article. A great article must start with a great topic, so if you can’t think of any great topic ideas, you can find yourself in a difficult position. The same can be said if the topics you do come up with fail to have an impact on your target audience—you can measure this based on how many clicks your headlines are getting. In either scenario, the solution is to look in new places for topic inspiration. Start with industry news sources to stay up-to-date and discover new information about your niche, then move onto the blogs and websites of your competitors. Learn from what they’re doing—what do their customers like to read about?—just don’t copy their strategy exactly.
2. Voice inconsistency
Many content marketers underestimate the importance of brand voice consistency. Your entire company’s identity is represented by its brand, and it’s up to you to showcase that brand accurately. If you deviate from the characteristics that define your brand, or publish blogs with inconsistent tones, your audience can quickly become alienated. However, diagnosing these problems can be difficult even for experienced content marketers. Address the problem by gathering all your writers together and doing collective exercises that highlight what is and what is not appropriate for the brand. Make sure everyone is on the same page by the end of the meeting, and use one focal editor to do a final review of all subsequent articles before they’re published.
3. Publication rhythm
Too many business owners and marketers think that content marketing is about writing articles whenever you have time and publishing them whenever you think about it. This approach almost instantly vanquishes the possibility of building a loyal audience. If you want people to keep coming back to you for more, you have to have a reliable, predictable schedule. Create an editorial calendar with clear and consistent publication dates—if you’re just getting started, one post a week may be enough for your purposes—then assign responsible parties to ensure that those deadlines are always met, no matter what.
4. Distribution constraints
One of the most important stages of content marketing is distributing your material so the greatest number of new people can see it. Typically, that means shopping your content around to different offsite publishers and syndicating your content through various social media channels. If you’re having trouble getting your work published offsite, do an audit of the types of sources you’re pursuing. Start off with local and industry-specific sources to build your reputation, and make sure your topics fit in with their respective niches. Then, work your way up to more authoritative sources. If you’re having trouble syndicating your content consistently, try scheduling your posts in advance, and use the time you save to engage with your audience in one-on-one interactions. Communities can only develop through engagement.
5. Resource allocation woes
Content marketing is a demanding strategy. Two posts a week doesn’t sound like a lot until you’re in the thick of things, scrambling to get your posts published while juggling all your other responsibilities. Hiring a staff writer is one option, and hiring a freelancer is another, but one of the most valuable solutions is hiring a content agency to handle the work for you. Because content agencies are specialists, they’ll be able to do the work faster, quicker, and more reliably than someone off the street—even if they have an impressive resume.
6. Anomalies in data
At its foundation, marketing is all about gathering, analyzing, and applying data in meaningful ways. When that data shows major hiccups or other anomalies, with no apparent explanation, it can be worrisome. Let’s say each of your posts gets 100 shares, then one day, your posts start getting around 20 shares. These anomalies could be the result of any number of factors, from your search engine rankings to topics to random seasonal changes that are simply unpredictable. Instead of trying to figure out what the problem is, adjust your line of thinking and start figuring out what the problem isn’t. Eliminate possibilities one by one until you’ve exhausted your resources or have found the problem.
7. Failure to scale
Stagnation is another problem that most content marketers face at one point or another. Obviously, you want your audience and your traffic to grow steadily, for months and years after your initial strategy development. Unfortunately, you’ll likely hit a plateau at some point, generating interest but little further growth. When this happens, inject your campaign with new life by adding an additional content channel, seeking new types of publishers to host your content, or simply stepping up the quantity and quality of the articles you produce.
When you hit one of these roadblocks as a content marketer, as you invariably will, don’t panic. It’s a normal part of the ebb and flow of the strategy. All you can do is analyze the situation, respond accordingly, and continue to make adjustments to perfect your approach.
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