We have all been there. We felt the thrill of starting with Content Marketing, this magical marketing method that promised us more organic traffic, leads, and sales. We sat down and created content in every spare minute we had, even though there weren't many because there was always so much to do. We worked so hard and blogged about every industry event we went to, every new product release, and even last year's company picnic. But all we got was tumbleweeds and crickets.
If you are you struggling to create content that engages your audience and drives results, you're not alone. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, "60% of content marketers are still not seeing the desired results."
Why is this the case?
And what can we do about it?
Reasons Why Content Marketing Efforts Fail
There could be many reasons why your content marketing efforts are failing, but often it comes down to a lack of understanding about what makes content successful. In this blog post, we will explore the ten most common reasons and, more importantly, what you can do about them!
- You are talking about yourself, not your buyer's problems (Part 1, this post)
- You are selling, not educating (Part 1, this post)
- You are not addressing the most important questions: The Big Five (Part 1, this post)
- There’s no buy-in from leadership (Part 2, coming soon)
- You are outsourcing content production (Part 2, coming soon)
- No one owns your content creation (Part 2, coming soon)
- You do not measure what works and what doesn't (Part 2, coming soon)
- Sales isn't involved in content production (Part 3, coming soon)
- Sales isn't using content in the sales process (Part 3, coming soon)
- You’re not adapting to changing consumer behaviors (Part 3, coming soon)
1. You Are Talking About Yourself, Not Your Buyer's Problems
Let's start with one of the most prevalent reasons why content marketing isn't working for so many organizations. Over the past decade, I worked with dozens of companies that tried to generate leads with content marketing. I found they had one thing in common: they all wanted to talk only about themselves.
They wanted to use their blog to show off their product's functions and benefits, highlight the latest release, or explain certain features and capabilities. And this isn't just an abnormality of the teams I talked to. Most business blogs contain a very high number of articles centered around the company's products and/or services. In addition, many companies fill their blogs with quick and easy filler blogs about them attending the latest industry event, winning an award, or other company news.
Why It Doesn't Work
Let's take one step back and consider why prospective buyers are actually going on the internet to search for information that hopefully lands them on your company's blog. No one has ever gotten up in the morning and said to themself: "Today, I am going to read blog articles for fun!" They read blog articles in search of information that will help them solve a problem, compare any discovered solution approaches, and possibly shortlist a few vendors to explore in depth.
While there is a place where and a time when talking about your products is beneficial, using your content to sell rather than to educate is counterproductive nowadays. Studies by Forester and Google have shown that buyers today complete 80% of their purchasing decision process before they contact sales.
This means they will turn to Google to research a problem, need, or opportunity as soon as they become aware of it, e.g., my team cannot keep up with the continuous IT changes we encounter. They will also research and compare potential solution approaches and options available to them. Only when they have decided on a solution path and evaluated a small number of shortlisted vendors will they pick up the phone or fill out a "Request A Consultation" form.
So, your product- and company-centric blogging isn't going to be relevant until very close to the end of their buyer's journey. But by then, they have fallen in love with your competition, who has addressed their needs by focusing on the buyer rather than on themselves.
What To Do About It
Carefully map out each of your primary buyer persona's customer journey maps from beginning to end to understand (and document) the informational needs at each process step. What questions do they need answers to before they move forward to the next step? Have you addressed any of these questions? Which of these questions are mandatory, and which are nice-to-haves? Start by answering each mandatory question in an in-depth article. For major bonus points, create a video. For more inspiration, see the Big Five below.
2. You Are Selling, Not Educating
Another very closely related problem to the above-mentioned problem is that companies feel they need to turn every blog article into a sales pitch! Even if the articles are more educational by nature and don't initially address what the company sells directly by name, they usually switch very quickly to sales-pitch mode.
For example, a company selling IT automation software publishes an article listing the Top 10 CIO priorities, of which one of the main ones is IT automation. The second half of the blog post is usually a sales pitch about their automation. While this isn't in the territory of click-bait yet, it could erode the trust you built with the reader.
Why It Doesn't Work
Let's say you want to buy a solar charger and solar panel, but you don't know the technology involved. All you know is that you need power where there isn't any, and you don't like noisy, gas-guzzling generators. You start to research how many watts you need, how fast you can charge it, and how many hours your refrigerator can run on it.
At this point, you want honest, unbiased information from an industry expert, so you can feel like you have all the information you need to make the right choice for you. The last thing you need is someone throwing terms like ultra-durable LiFePo4 cells or full-power pure sine wave inverter at you while rattling off their benefits. This would make you feel like you are getting a one-sided view.
By the way, this is not just me saying this. According to studies, 39% of B2B buyers said that vendors could improve their content by limiting sales messages.
What To Do About It
Instead of pitching, how helpful would it be if a company wrote a guide that maps out all available options (including things they don't sell, but their competition does), comparing them side-by-side, including all the pros and cons, so you can decide based on ALL the information which is the right solar generator for you? And how would you feel about a company that cares enough about its potential customers that they take the time to explain it all in great depth and in an educational, transparent way? It would make us feel like we could trust them, right? And what happens to a company we trust? We give them our business; no pitching is needed.
3. You Are Not Addressing The Most Important Questions: The Big Five
As a consequence of the two points above, you are not addressing the most critical questions your buyers are asking:
- What does it cost?
- How does this compare to other solutions in the market?
- Which solution is the best?
- What do other people say about it?
- What are the problems I could encounter?
These questions are so critical that they are called "The Big Five". The funny thing about these questions is that we as consumers are obsessed with them if we are researching something we want to purchase, but as soon as we put our business hat on, we bury our heads in the sand and ignore these questions, hoping they will go away. This highly prolific marketing methodology is known as Ostrich Marketing.
Why It Doesn't Work
The problem with Ostrich Marketing is that it doesn't work. When the ostrich buries its head in the sand (which, by the way, I know is a myth, but the metaphor is so good, so let's go with it), do the problems ever go away? No, of course not. So, if we avoid answering these essential questions, do they disappear?
Will your buyers say to themselves: "Oh, I understand. Talking honestly about their pricing or potential problems with their products might make them feel uncomfortable, so I will just give them a call"? No. Usually, they will just move on to the next website hoping to find someone who addresses these questions in an honest, transparent way.
What To Do About It
To dramatically move the needle and finally see success with your inbound marketing, you will need to address these five topics:
- Pricing & Costs. Whether you publish your price list or explain your pricing structure and what could make a price go up or down, you will have to talk about the cost. Studies have shown that searchers will move if they cannot find pricing information within 10 seconds, so be sure to add it to your top menu.
- Comparisons & Versus. Your buyers want to know what options are out there and how they compare to each other and your product. Depending on your market, you can directly compare two solutions. One company that has done a tremendous job with this is Yale appliance. Have a look at how they compare front-loading versus top-loading washing machines.
- Best Of Class. As consumers, we are wired to always want the best, and if we cannot afford the best, we at least want to know what the best looks like and how close we can get. If you are selling a range of products, you can compare the top-of-the-line product versus the bottom-of-the-line. If you are only selling one or a few products, as many software companies do, you can compare the best solutions available in the market.
- Reviews & Ratings. Another check mark we always have to tick on our to-do list when making a purchase decision (from choosing a dentist to buying an app in the AppStore) is to look at reviews and ratings. How to do this successfully depends a little on your industry, but River Pools & Spas did a great job by writing an article entitled "Who Are The Best Pool Builders in Richmond, Virginia? (Reviews/Ratings)". As you read the article, notice if they include themselves in the list and think about why they chose the path they did.
- Potential Problems. Last, but not least, potential buyers want to know what they are getting themselves into, common misconceptions, potential issues, and/or whether this purchase will be a good fit. For example, if you use your smart Dyson vacuum constantly on boost, you will run the motor out very quickly. Or, in our case, it's important to know the potential problems you could run into when hiring a marketing agency.
If you struggle to create content that engages your audience and drives results, it may be because you are making one of the common mistakes listed above. In our next post, we'll discuss a few more reasons why content marketing efforts fail. But in the meantime, if you want to ensure that your content strategy is set up for success, consider holding a workshop with your sales and marketing teams. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together to produce high-quality, engaging content that meets your buyer's needs.
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