Rule 1 of content marketing: don’t be afraid to fail!
“Failure is not an option” – the unofficial motto of Apollo 13. While that might be true for astronauts slingshotting around the moon, for us copywriters failure is an option. And a valuable one at that!
Content marketing is all about the creativity, and like with any creative work you need to build on past failures, learn from them and improve.
You can’t be afraid to fail in content marketing – it’s all part of the process. Some content may fall flat or not reach your audience, but that doesn’t mean give up on the spot.
Figure out why it failed by using customer feedback, analytics and the other nifty tips and tricks we’re about to show you, and nail your next piece.
Why did your content fail?
Content marketing is an art more than a science, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint why that blog piece you spent hours writing totally bombed. However, we’ve noticed some ‘red flags’ of content failure over the years – do any of these sound familiar?:
1. No content strategy
All of your team (no matter how big or small) need to be working towards the same goals.
Only through having a well thought-out content strategy will you be able to create ongoing content that complements your brand.
It’s not enough just to sit down with your team and throw some ideas about – you need to document your content strategy and make sure you keep referring to it throughout the content planning and creation process. Strategising ensures consistency, speeds up production and helps you create great content every time.
If your strategy doesn’t seem to be working, refine it until it does. It’s not set in stone, so use it to help you figure out how best to operate in your industry.
2. The content isn’t that great
It may sound harsh, but it could be true. Audiences might not be engaging with your content because it’s just not that good, or it doesn’t say anything different from hundreds of existing pieces exploring the same subject matter.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to fix it:
- Talk about topics that interest your readers, NOT your writers!
- Make sure your content provides value. The reader should know something by the end of your piece that they didn’t know before.
- Write content for every stage of the sales funnel – too many brands only talk at those who are about to hit the ‘buy’ button. This is the smallest part of the funnel!
- Double check spelling and grammar. Your credibility depends on it.
- Don’t waste words for the sake of it.
You should be trying to do all this and more to improve your content. In fact, aim to add a zero every time you write a new piece of content, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you improve.
3. You’ve underestimated your resources
Many marketers say they don’t have enough budget for successful content marketing campaigns. But content marketing is easy to do on a modest budget if you need to.
Anyone can do content marketing – even a one-man-marketing-band – they just need a little know-how. Be clever about how you create and distribute content and you’ll go far.
We’re not going to lie to you, a little extra cash could give your content a boost, but it’s not essential to content marketing triumph. If you’re confident in your output, and have all our other points in mind, you’ll be well on your way to success.
4. You’ve got a lot of competition
Some industries respond better to content marketing than others, though all could benefit from using its techniques. Some are also overcrowded, so you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.
The best way to do this is to get to know your audience – their needs, wants and core demographics. Creating audience personas can be a helpful way to clarify who you’re targeting.
If your competitors are dominating the market, you shouldn’t give up hope. There’s plenty you can do to stand up to them:
- Write for SEO* and adjust your site to improve it.
- Check out your competitors’ comments section. Is there anything they’re not answering? Find gaps in their content and fill them.
*SEO is SUPER important – sprinkle keywords naturally throughout all of your text. Use Yoast to make sure you’re getting top marks BEFORE you post, and link appropriately to other sources.
5. You forgot to promote your content
Say you’ve got the strategy, high quality content and you’ve wriggled your way around budget and competitor issues. If you don’t promote your content it’s all for nothing.
You need to do more to get it in the faces of your target audience. Here are a few tips:
- Use social media (both regular free postings and paid advertising).
- Encourage people to share your content (especially industry influencers).
- Send content out to your email subscribers – it’s amazing how many brands neglect to do this!
How do I learn from those failures?
So, we’ve identified the possible failings in your content marketing techniques. But what happens next? Here’s our four-step plan to content success:
1. Establish objectives
Only by establishing a clear objective for each piece (e.g. persuading the reader to download a guide), will you be able to analyse its success.
2. Use raw data to inform decisions
The best way to ‘get under the hood’ of content failure is to look at what the data tells you, including:
- Audience interactions (retweets, shares, favourites etc.)
- Website analytics (KPIs like time spent on page, page views, common drop off points and more)
- Feedback from audience comments
- Heat maps of visitor activity
3. Check out the competition
You can also take a look at competitors/industry leaders who have written similar pieces and succeeded. Think about what made their piece work: could you use any of the same elements in your writing? Just make sure not to plagiarise their work – nobody likes a copycat.
4. Take action
Hopefully your analysis has revealed some of the possible reasons why your content failed. The next step is to make sure you don’t repeat any mistakes. For example, if people don’t download your white paper on the landing page, that suggests problems with the wording of the content. On the other hand, if they don’t click through to the landing page in the first place, the call to action wasn’t sufficiently enticing. In both cases, your resulting action might be to learn more about conversion copywriting techniques to see if you can encourage a better response.
Hopefully now you’re not so afraid to fail at content marketing as you can see it’s a great learning tool! Turn your failures into successes with these tips and improve your content marketing output.