Evergreen Content Editor, 15+ Years of Publishing and Content Marketing Experience
May 10th, 2021
Reasons your content marketing isn't working
You’re not utilizing enough analytics and data
You’re not providing enough honest education
You’re not adapting to changing communication trends
You’re not carving out enough time
You’re not insourcing your content
Sales and marketing aren’t aligned
There’s no buy-in from senior management
As someone who has written in the content marketing space for years, there is no greater feeling than watching your work help a client’s business thrive.
On the other hand, I also know that sinking, disappointed feeling when all your efforts seemingly go to waste.
You’re churning out blog articles, you’ve gone out of your comfort zone and made a few videos, and you’re firing off newsletter after newsletter into the abyss. Weeks later, when you check in to see how those analytics are shaping up and whether or not sales have gotten a boost — crickets.
Content marketing can feel like a massive undertaking in the content-logged, internet-driven marketplace — and it can be discouraging when your efforts don’t get you where you want to be.
If staring down the black hole of a failed content marketing endeavor makes you feel like the smallest star in a colossal galaxy, just know you’re not alone — and there’s a good chance you can turn these setbacks around.
In this article, we’re going to examine some of the biggest reasons your content marketing is failing and — even more importantly — how to fix them. So, the next time you second guess how you’re going to make this all work, you can pull out this handy article, quickly recognize the issue, and get back to generating incredible content that drives more leads and sales (which is what you’d set out to do in the first place!).
1. You’re not utilizing enough analytics and data
When you’re creating lots of marketing copy, it’s easy to get lost in the create–publish, create–publish rhythm and forget to look deeply at what’s working (and what isn’t). You should be asking yourself:
These are just some of the metrics that will offer you clues as to if your content is actually accomplishing what you need it to.
Ignoring them can make it far more difficult for your content marketing efforts to succeed because you won’t be able to fully grasp where your weak points are to improve them.
How to fix it
One of the most effective ways to ensure your content is working — other than consulting with your ears-to-the-ground sales team (more on this later) — is to be consistently plugged into the analytics and data surrounding your content marketing offerings and potential opportunities, then adjust your strategy accordingly.
Generating web traffic is only half the battle, so try to focus on more than keywords and page views.
For example, analyze your conversion rates and whether or not your content is generating leads. Perhaps your content isn’t giving the value you thought it was or your calls-to-action need work.
Try to understand “why” by performing an A/B test. Maybe it’s the color, wording, or where the call-to-action lands on the page. Use different methods and see if one works better than the other.
And before they hand over their hard-earned dollars, they want to know if these products or services will, in fact, help them. They also want to know everything possible about the choices at hand.
If your customers aren’t getting this educational information from you, they’re likely getting it from your competitors — and if your prospects’ needs are being filled by your competitors, chances are they’re buying from them instead of you, too.
When Sheridan nearly lost his swimming pool company, River Pools and Spas, during the 2008 recession, he decided to get back to basics and simply answer his customers’ questions as thoroughly and honestly as possible. By publishing as much educational material around fiberglass pools as he could, Sheridan quickly ballooned his web traffic, leads, and sales.
He also realized there were specific topics that consistently drove these results. These topics, which we call The Big 5, are:
Start with these specific questions, then teach your prospects everything you can think of about your products, services, industry, and process — focusing on your potential customers and how you can help with their needs.
If your customers are searching for and asking these questions, chances are others will be too, and as long as you establish yourself as the industry expert, they’ll find you.
3. You’re not adapting to changing communication trends
Throughout 2020, HubSpot published data it gathered from over 103,000 businesses across a range of industries to see how the pandemic affected consumer habits. With people working, learning, and living remotely more than ever, they noted a sharp increase in consumers searching online, driving up web traffic across all sectors.
Although these trends have been happening for some time, the data is clear: people want as little face-to-face contact as possible when making their purchasing decisions.
Demand for contactless technologies, like chatbots and self-guided purchasing options, skyrocketed, while there was a sizable decrease in the effectiveness of sales outreach through traditional outbound marketing avenues, like email and cold calls.
If your company isn’t adapting to these new communication trends, like forgoing cold calls and spammy emails for a contactless experience, chances are your prospects are looking elsewhere.
How to fix it
Keep up to date on the current trends, then investigate if and how your audience responds to them. Are they flocking to the new social media platform? Are they leaning more towards video?
If your customers are looking to use live chat, try it. If they are looking for a self-guided buyers’ experience like a self-selection tool, figure out how to make that happen too.
Many of your buyers’ habits are somewhat predictable, and the best way to keep on top of them is by paying attention to the cues.
4. You’re not carving out enough time
I’ve seen it over and over again — even with companies that get excited about implementing a content marketing program. They seem to be on board for a moment or two, then before everyone can gather enough steam to churn out all that content, their enthusiasm peters out.
Crucial articles are being delayed or falling off the back burner waiting for a subject matter expert. Nothing is getting published in a timely manner.
A classic clue you’re headed in this direction is when people start to say, “I don’t have the time,” or, “I have other priorities.”
If content isn’t being given the time and focus it deserves, you won’t publish regularly. And the bottom line is if you’re not publishing regularly, at least two or three pieces of content per week, you won’t see the type of traction you’d expect to see with all your effort.
How to fix it
As Marcus Sheridan explains in They Ask, You Answer, the content creation process should really belong to everyone. It should be implemented as a culture — not just some marketing ploy or tactic. And unless everyone is willing and able to contribute, it will be difficult to keep up on what needs to be created in order to reach your sales goals.
So how do you ensure your team carves out enough time to make all this happen?
First, you need to designate someone to own the content creation process.
A full-time “someone” (we usually call them a content manager) who is in charge of managing the content schedule and getting everyone to participate in making engaging blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts — whatever medium you need to create in order to reach your prospects.
With this person in place, you can then try staging a company-wide content-creation “marathon” where everyone sets aside some time to either brainstorm or create content. Don’t focus on perfection, focus on getting it done, and show people how well what they’re creating works to keep them motivated.
Also, reduce the number of people that need to review the content. Too many eyes can lead to conflicting opinions or pieces getting stuck on someone’s desk.
It also helps to flesh out a publishing schedule and stick to it using content marketing tools like Trello, HubSpot, and Hootsuite. These can be useful in helping your team streamline the publishing process. Several commands can be automated, saving lots of — you guessed it — time.
(Which you can now spend on creating more content.)
5. You’re not insourcing your content
We already shared with you how designating a person to own content can help get your publishing schedule under control, but should this person be an in-house employee or from an agency?
There are certainly pros and cons to each decision — but we’ve seen that relying on a third party to write blog articles and create videos for your business can sometimes lessen the value of your content.
For example, if you hire an agency to create your content, that means your content won’t be their main focus, as they juggle your needs with their other clients. This makes it far less flexibility and freedom to create content as you need.
Also, no one knows your buyers and their needs better than you.
By handing over the responsibility of crafting your brand’s messaging to another company that will never quite understand your company like your employees will, you run the risk of having to wait for content that is mediocre at best.
How to fix it
Create a content team in-house and don’t rely on an agency to do it for you. This can speed up the creation process and make sure the content you’re creating is genuine and accurate for your brand and business. Relying on an agency might get you a few good pieces of content here or there, but if you want to publish consistent, high-quality, and substantive work, in-house is truly the way to go.
The sales team members are the ones hearing customers’ most urgent needs and questions. They are the front line in sorting through all the information people are looking for, making them the best source for the types of content needed.
They should also be using the content created for assignment selling. This helps address common customer questions when or even before they are asked and can also help your sales team to close deals faster.
When these departments don’t work together, you’ll likely sense frustration on both ends. Sales wonders why marketing isn’t providing enough content that actually helps move along the needle, and marketing doesn’t fully understand what content sales needs.
How to fix it
Your marketing and sales teams should be collaborating about content regularly. Make sure your sales team know why they are such an important piece of this puzzle and how they can use the marketing content to drastically improve their sales.
Share the value of assignment selling and how it could help drive forward your business, and emphasize the need to have sales — and your subject matter experts — be part of the content creation process to produce the best possible content for your customers.
Also consider forming what’s called a revenue team, which should meet weekly to develop and execute a content marketing strategy aimed at helping sales increase their closing rates. This way, your sales and marketing teams can gather around a central purpose — making effective content that generates revenue.
7. There’s no buy-in from senior management
No programs die faster than those without the backing of senior management. Staff is constantly pulled in different directions and morale suffers. That being said, if content marketing isn’t made a priority for all, good luck making strides in that department. You’ll likely be standing in your own way.
Companies looking to embrace content marketing as a strategy or culture need to have a single voice or shared values to be successful. They need to understand that what marketing produces can be used company-wide — from publishing online and selling, to the onboarding process and more.
Without the buy-in of your senior management, your company won’t have the force pushing everyone along behind content creation–goals, helping make it a priority and supporting your team in its success. They may not get the budget or resources they need to be truly successful.
How to fix it
As we mentioned earlier, content marketing is more of a culture than a strategy, and when your entire company participates, or at the very least understands its value, you have everyone working toward a shared goal.
Much like what we recommended with the sales department, make sure your leadership team know the “why”:
Emphasize how sales and your subject matter experts can be part of the content creation process.
Describe how best marketing works when supported by the other departments (and how marketing can also support them).
Sometimes the biggest hurdle is getting everyone on the same page and agreeing to adopt these new approaches, but if you focus on the success other businesses like yours have been seeing, it might be easier to break through.
Above all, don’t give up
Like Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Keep at it and trying different things knowing each is, at the very least, an opportunity to learn more about what works and doesn’t for your business. As long as you keep putting content out there that is honest and helpful for your customers, you will see results.
We just hope that when your efforts don’t seem to be sticking you can use these ideas to re-steer your ship and get to your destination a bit faster.
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