It’s Friday night and you’ve been invited to a dinner party. And while you know the hosts, it’s the first time you’ve met anybody else at the gathering. Politely, but somewhat apprehensively, you take your seat in between two of the other guests and you start a conversation with Gerrard, who’s on your right. I use the word “conversation” loosely, because this is a one-way street. First, Gerrard tells you about his work—his big job title, the awards, the number of people he manages. You sense this is heading to a crescendo… and yes, there it is, Gerrard drops the “six-figure-multiple salary” boast. Seamlessly, he then starts to talk about his highly successful children. Though you’re trapped, you seize the opportunity to ask someone on your left for the salt, in a desperate bid to get away.
Fortunately, Sarah is sitting to your left. She takes the effort to ask about you and takes interest in what you’re up to. As it happens, she has a surprising and valuable insight into your profession and past times. She’s humble, interesting, sophisticated, credible and engaging. You come away from the evening with a slightly different perspective. You’ve learned something and you’ve enjoyed yourself.
Question: which person are you more likely to stay in contact with?
Ok, so that’s a facile question. It’s obviously going to be 2, because 1 is a prick.
But I use this blunt metaphor for content marketing because so many organisations operate like Gerrard… and then wonder why they haven’t got many friends.
Before I get into my top-five content-marketing mistakes, let’s be clear about the role of content marketing.
What is content marketing?
In simplest terms, content marketing is content (be it videos, blogs, ebooks, articles, social-media infographics, podcasts) that is used to generate more leads for your business. It is not “top-down” advertising, which is thrust upon you with the aim of directly selling you a product. Content marketing is the publication of material that resonates with your target audience: it’s timely, useful, informative and engaging. Think of this as your “bottom up” marketing. It is offering something of value because you are answering a need this target audience—and potential clients—have. In turn, this promotes awareness and consideration, loyalty and trust in your product or services. It’s Sarah.
And, if you hadn’t already twigged, this blog is a form of content marketing.
But before you embark on your content-marketing video strategy, please avoid these 5 key mistakes…
Content Marketing: 4 Key Mistakes
4. Just can’t let go of an advertising mindset
So you have an amazing product. I get it, you want to shout from the rooftops about it. But the truth is: nobody cares. Traditional “top-down” or “outbound” marketing like adverts or commercials remain hugely important as part of a wider marketing campaign, but they simply don’t have the impact they once did. People have reached saturation point and they don’t want to be interrupted by big ads in their newspaper, online pop-ups or pre-roll ads on YouTube. It’s annoying. Besides, the online algorithms—especially on YouTube—are stacked against an effective cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
[To better understand why digital advertising turns customers off, read this]
Time to think differently. Time to start thinking about what you can offer that’s of genuine value to your client base (or potential client base). Whether it’s B2B or B2C, your customers will be wanting help that is related to your product or service. Your task is to identify what this is and deliver on it. Rather than simply plugging your product, think of content that is related to your product that could add value. This could be anything from thought-leadership pieces of content to daily social-media posts that create insight and joy.
[Remember: any time we learn something new, or understand something for the first time, it creates endorphins. If you, as a company, can create endorphin hits for your client base then this, in turn, translates into brand loyalty. It’s powerful]
3. Identifying your target audience and goals
Most companies, by now, know that they should be creating video content because—though it’s difficult to do well—it’s the most effective medium for communicating your message.
[Studies have shown that people can often remember 95% of content seen in a video compared to only remembering 10% of information when it is in text form (Lister, 2020; Ritchie, 2017)].
But many embark on video content marketing and campaigns simply because they’re copying their competitors. Videos can be time-consuming and expensive—so they have to count. Start off by asking yourself these key questions:
- Who is our target audience?
- What are their pain points?
- How can we help them address and overcome these problems?
- How do we do this in a way that chimes with our expertise and brand values? This is important because it needs to feel authentic—delivered in a way that fulfils your wider mission.
- Set your goals. What are you trying to achieve? (Brand awareness, customer acquisition, brand loyalty, customer retention)
- What do we want them to do? (and how do we measure our success). If you can’t identify or measure success (KPIs/ success metrics), then you can never know whether it's effective (and this never sits well with the C-suite).
2. Paid promotion of your content isn’t cheating
There’s an assumption that “bought eyeballs” aren’t as valuable as “earned eyeballs”. I.e. if someone has been served your content then they’re likely to have less invested interest than someone who has actively sought it out. This isn’t necessarily the case. If a viewer is served your content, it’s because you’ve targeted them: they fit a specific set of key characteristics that you’ve identified. And if you’ve done this correctly, you’re pushing on an open door. Additionally, if these targets do go on to engage with your content, you can add them to a database for retargeting with more direct, lower-funnel messaging.
1. Invest in the right people to make the right content
In 2010 The Guardian decided to start producing video to supplement its written editorial content. Two years later The Economist did the same. They both went about it in the same way: “The interns can probably do that stuff, let’s get them to make some videos”. Needless to say, this approach produced woeful results and actually harmed their respective brands. They started again, but this time they sought out filmmakers to head up their film units… and the rest is history.
I have seen countless companies and brands make the same mistakes. If you want to create meaningful impact with your content marketing, then either recruit people who have a track record of producing great content (and results), or use an agency. Ok, it will cost you. But it will eliminate the risk of actually damaging your brand, which could be far more costly.