by Ben Sim | Content marketing is not as easy as it seems. You don’t just create content, push it on social and call it “content marketing.” Believe it or not, there are efficient ways to do it and there are effective ways to do it. This post is about the latter.
Being human, we all fall for the one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to our marketing despite having read numerous blog posts and having listened one too many podcasts on the subject.
In the early days of marketing a startup, early adopters play a major role in the direction of the company.
Here are 10 content marketing mistakes every startup should avoid:
Not having a master plan
Great content marketing requires two things – an effective strategy and great tactical execution.
Your strategy is your master plan. It is the blueprint to which why and how you will run the effort.
Your tactics are your day-to-day executions. It is what you do on a micro level that brings you closer to the end goal of the campaign.
If you ever found yourself writing and creating content in bulk but having disappointing results, it may be because your strategy isn’t effective.
A great framework to follow is quant based marketing by Noah Kagan.
First, you have to figure out your S.M.A.R.T goal.
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Assignable
- R – Realistic
- T – Time-based
An example of a S.M.A.R.T goal is something like, ‘increase Facebook likes organically by 100,000 within 3 months’, not ‘having a strong Facebook Page in 3 years’.
Once you’ve figured that out, reverse engineer it. Calculate how many likes you’d need to reach that goal and what tactics you’ll need to implement. Break it down into tiny, manageable, measurable steps.
Wilson Hung of SumoMe used a different framework while achieving the S.M.A.R.T. goal of “1000 email subscribers within 90 days” and did an excellent job too.
By defining the parameters, you can adapt and adjust your content marketing efforts depending on your progress.
Gauging the effectiveness of your campaign without measuring the progress quantitatively like watching a basketball game without scoreboard.
Keep score at all times.
Having lacklustre content
Who doesn’t like good content?
With over 250 million pieces of content published each second, how are you able to compete with the best in your field?
The answer is quality content.
There are many ways to produce top notch content and the different types of content to consider.
You can study the competition and figure out their winning formula, sit and wait for inspiration to strike or just experiment and scrutinize your work mercilessly until you create your masterpiece.
I prefer to use a guideline to start while I do all the above suggestions.
For blog posts, I used the Skyscraper Technique made popular by Brian Dean from Backlinko.
In short, the technique’s aim to get quality links and targeted traffic back to your site.
It has a 3 step process which is to:
- Find proven linkable assets.
- Create something even better (by aggregating the best content available and providing your analysis on it.)
- Reach out to the right people (the influencers in your field, including those you source the information from.)
Your content isn’t useful.
Save your life story for the bar. But if you are going to treat your blog section as a personal diary… at least do it the right way.
TheLorry, a Malaysian startup wrote a great piece on the things they learned on the journey of building their business.
In the blog post, they wrote about how they started the company and their findings which are actionable to aspiring entrepreneurs and founders.
They wrote about the framework they used to start the business called Objectives and Key Results and the founder even screenshotted the email he sent to his employees.
As well as their hiring process which includes the 4 main questions:
- The Big Why – why do they want to join us and not other companies?
- Communication skills – can they communicate their thoughts well in clear concise manner?
- Technical, qualification and work experience – The CV stuff
- X-factor – the “umph” in their application
Content like this is incredibly valuable to their audience who are interested in their journey and wish to learn from them.
Always create content with the aim to add value to the viewer first and to speak about yourself second.
You sell too much and teach too little.
Have you ever come across Facebook ads that only shout “SALE! SALE! SALE! Limited Time Only!”?
It is surely annoying especially if it is your first encounter.
The core philosophy when it comes to content marketing is to give more than you take.
Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and CEO of VaynerMedia preaches the philosophy of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook which translates to Give, Give, Give, Ask (not take).
Always give as much value as possible without expecting anything in return and then ask for something (again, not take).
While most marketers sell more than they teach, emphasize on teaching and educating your audience about your product, service, company and industry more than selling.
In short, create educational and valuable content to the viewer a lot more than just promotional content.
Your content isn’t evergreen
When in the ideation process, decide whether you want to create content that catches a current trend or evergreen content.
As marketers, we understand that capitalizing on trends may reap huge rewards if done right.
iPrice, a price comparison ecommerce platform did an April Fool’s prank recently on Amazon’s arrival into Southeast Asia and got covered by news outlets such as the New Straits Times and ChannelNewsAsia.
But the main issue with it is that the content can’t be repurposed later on.
Evergreen content may not be sexy but it does provide more long term value.
Now, how do you create evergreen content?
According to Buffer, there are a few simple rules:
- Be the definitive source (make sure you are as comprehensive as you possibly can)
- Write for beginners (since most users who search for such content are beginners)
- Narrow your topic (going too broad would cause a disconnect to those who are looking for a specific answer)
Note that even though the rules are meant for blogs, it can also apply to other formats as well.
Wrong target audience
Customer personas are not purely guesswork. As your startup grows and attracts a following, leverage the data you can to create a more accurate customer profile.
There are many instances to collect and analyse data – it can be via Facebook Insights or using survey tools like SurveyMonkey.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, having a documented customer persona doesn’t only help the marketing team – it helps align every other department to focus on the same audience.
Ignoring competitor’s strategies
You should be thankful that you have competitors in your space because it allows you to learn from their activities as much as possible.
For social shares, use BuzzSumo find out what type of content goes viral for them.
When it comes to their linkbuilding initiative, use tools such as Majestic to obtain and backlink profile and watch what types of content are they getting linked for the most.
Not being native on your social channel
Gary Vaynerchuk spoke about this at length in his book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.
In short, his practice requires him to be sensitive to the nuances on each social platform.
For example, infographics work well on Pinterest.
Short square videos work well on Facebook.
Follow him on his social channels and watch what he does with his personal branding.
Side note: His Instagram Stories are one of the best in the business.
No clear call-to-action (when needed)
As content marketers, our duty to get exposure for our startup and ideally be top of mind of the consumer in regards to our category.
When creating content, be intentional as to what you want your viewer to get out of the content. Is it to share it on social media? Is it to leave a comment? Is it to do both?
A good example is Derek Halpern from socialtriggers.com who makes a clear call-to-action at the end of his videos with lines similar to: “Share this with just one person who you think would benefit from this.”
Thinking only in blog posts
I get it. Blogging require the least amount of work and resources compared to creating visual content such as video or infographics. But to succeed in this game, every advantage counts.
Here are just a few suggestions:
The landscape is much broader and certain demographics are more receptive to certain forms of media than others i.e.
- B2C – short videos;
- B2B – white papers;
- Millennials – mobile video.
To say, that most content marketing is less than satisfactory is an understatement. The strategy to which why we do what we do is far more important than the tactics we implement daily.
Quite often, we lack context on the particular mediums we are creating and the platforms we are on.
But with the resources provided, the author hopes that the content marketing efforts of all startups in the region will be up to par or at least be more relevant to the audience they are catering to.
Ben is a content marketer, writer and blogger. When he is not reading up on business strategy and persuasion, he spends his time writing about growth hacks. He currently works for iPrice Group.