As a content marketing agency, we see the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to content strategy. Some companies come to us because they’ve made incredible strides with their content marketing efforts and want to take it to the next level — others have failed to gain much traction at all and really need to get their content off the ground.
What makes some companies succeed while others struggle? The difference comes down to commitment. According to the latest Benchmark report from the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of the most successful content marketers say that their organization is “extremely/very committed to content marketing,” while only 35% of the least successful say the same.
Commitment is a vague word; you can’t bottle up commitment and sprinkle it onto your marketing strategy. To break it into more practical terms, highly committed content marketers are those who dedicate the time and effort to set up their content marketing process the right way. Some of the most common mistakes that hold back content marketing success come from underestimating the commitment required to make this marketing technique work.
Feel like your content marketing isn’t going as well as you hoped it would? You may be making some of the following mistakes.
1. Not Having a Documented Content Strategy
One of the first questions we ask our clients is, “Do you have a written content strategy?” If the answer is no, this is where we begin.
The “written” part is important. If your content strategy isn’t documented — if it lives inside your content team or marketing manager’s head — it won’t be successful. It is critical to have a written strategy that everyone in the organization can see and understand.
The Content Marketing Institute’s report reveals that 61% of the most successful content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy; while only 13% of the least successful have one. Further, of those content marketers who said their content marketing was more successful than it was a year ago, 72% attributed this to developing or adjusting their strategy.
If you don’t have a documented content strategy, it’s all too easy for you and your team to feel unclear of your organization’s target audience, voice, style and goals. If the goals are unclear, there’s no way to accurately assess if you’ve been successful at meeting them.
If you pick one item from this article to act on, make it this one. Document your content strategy.
2. Not Having a Formalized Approvals Process
Content marketers experience a lot of unnecessary stress when their organization doesn’t have a proper approvals process. Here are just a few of the stumbling blocks and frustrations we’ve seen:
- A writer spends hours working on a draft of a blog post, only to find their manager doesn’t like the topic.
- The legal department takes issue with a piece of content after it’s already been published, requiring the content to be taken down (thus rendering hours of work wasted).
- The marketing team and the subject-matter experts reach an impasse on how something should be worded. Since they don’t know who has the authority to make the final decision, the piece of content is left unfinished or scrapped entirely.
- Content is published with embarrassing typos and errors that reflect poorly on the company.
All of these situations can be avoided with an approvals process that clearly outlines who provide feedback and approval, and when. Your approvals process may differ slightly depending on your team’s workflow, but a solid approvals process may look something like this:
- Editor assigns writer a topic (based on the goals of the content strategy), word count and deadline
- Writer submits draft
- Editor reviews draft
- Subject-matter expert provides clarification on a particular point to the editor
- Editor requests revisions from writer
- Writer revises a draft, returns to the editor
- Editor sends a revised draft to the legal department
- Legal department approves the draft
- The editor gives final approval
This process can have fewer or more steps depending on your organization’s needs. Sometimes a proofreader, translator, department head or even clients can be involved in this process.
With anywhere from three to eight (or more) people involved in creating a single piece of content, it’s crucial to have a defined approvals process where everyone knows their role and where it fits. Otherwise, confusion reigns; well-intended content is left unfinished, error-prone, or rewritten at the last minute, bringing little or no value to your organization.
3. Assuming People Can Write Content on Top of Other Duties
For maximum inbound leads, HubSpot recommends companies publish 16 or more blog posts a month.
That’s four posts a week, and writing them is only the beginning. Once you’ve produced that content, it needs to be published, distributed and promoted. The Content Strategist suggests that content marketers essentially have three separate jobs, and one person can’t do them all — much less one person working off the side of their desk.
We’ve also found it can be a losing proposition to assume C-suite executives or department heads will find the time to write content by themselves. If you’ve ever tried to sit down and write a blog post, you know that creating content takes time, and it also takes an aptitude with words that not every executive will have.
Your organization needs dedicated content marketers — plural. Don’t ask one person to monitor your brand’s documented content strategy, ensure content is developed on schedule, interview executives to ghostwrite content on their behalf, monitor industry news for relevant topics and develop the content itself.
If your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth to hire a team of content marketers, get outside help. A marketing or content agency can manage the process from strategy to content development to promotion; or, freelance writers can craft content while you develop and monitor progress on the strategy in-house. If your company has a one-person marketing department, outsourcing some of these time-consuming tasks can make all the difference.
4. Not Having an Editing Process
No matter how great the writer, they don’t have the objectivity to edit their own work. They won’t see typos, misspelt names, or other errors. If you’re working with freelance writers, or in a large organization with a dedicated writing team, your writers won’t always understand how a single piece of content fits into the bigger picture.
An editor is essential for every piece of content. It’s their job to find typos and errors, shape the piece so it aligns with the brand voice and priorities, and draw links between different pieces of content. The more plugged-in the editor is to your organization’s priorities, the better. For instance, an editor or subject-matter expert may know your company is courting a new client. They can edit a blog post to include a mention of that client’s industry or services. With this strategic eye on your content, it can do more than just generate inbound leads — it can make real connections with your ideal customers.
Insert editing into your approvals process (as we did above). Especially with time-sensitive content, it can be tempting to publish without editing, but resist that impulse. Content is too important to be sloppy. Have an editor dot those I’s and cross those t’s.
As we said before, commitment separates the successful content marketers from the mediocre. It takes commitment to develop a content strategy, to create (and follow) an approvals process, to dedicate the appropriate resources to content marketing, and to devote time to editing. Commit the time and effort to avoid these common mistakes, and you will quickly take your content marketing to the next level.
Ilana Plumer is the Senior Director of Marketing at RelationEdge Digital Agency. Ilana has had a passion for marketing since the beginning, getting both her B.S. and M.B.A with an emphasis in marketing. With over 12 years of marketing experience, Ilana loves to build holistic digital marketing campaigns for her clients. When she’s not at work, you can find her chasing after (or being chased by) her two little girls and enjoying all San Diego has to offer.