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5 reasons why content marketing fails

Content marketing strategies can fail for a variety of reasons, such as refusing to learn more about your customers. Here are five ways content marketing strategies can fail.

In a world so full of content, it can be hard to distinguish your content from everybody else's. With that in mind, it can help to look at what doesn't work. Here are five content marketing mistakes to avoid to keep your customers coming back for more.

1. Ignoring what customers want

One of the biggest reasons why content marketing fails is because some businesses don't collect, or ignore, data about what customers want or need. Personas, journey maps, vanity metrics and user feedback channels are all useful tools for collecting customer insight data to construct a better customer experience.

"We can't be prescriptive anymore," said Jane-Anne Mennella, a senior director analyst at Gartner. "There's been a huge shift from market research, as in who will buy and how. Now we need to understand customer goals and motivations. Organizations are seeing huge benefits by focusing on this data, [and] insights can inform anything."

Marketers often collect far more data than they end up using to create content marketing strategies, but there are many types of data that aren't particularly useful. Even if your website has a lot of traffic, that doesn't necessarily mean people are looking to buy your product. This is one of the major reasons BANT (budget, authority, needs and timeline) doesn't work for enterprise technology marketers.

"When you don't tie metrics to action or financials, you are just measuring useless stats," said Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

2. Copying your competitors

Watching how others in your industry operate can help identify moments that matter the most to customers.

One method is looking at how competitors handle their social media engagement to gauge what customers respond positively to. This can help provide a framework from which you can design your own content marketing strategy; however, it is important to ensure that their customers are similar enough in intent to your own. Mirroring competitors without research to back up a strategy shift can be a reason why content marketing fails.

"Customers choose you for a specific reason," Mennella said. "You don't know why they made that decision they made. Don't deceive your customers. They have long memories."

3. Being too hands-off with customers

Customers are looking for help specifically tailored to combine knowledge of customer needs with personalization to help them achieve their desired outcomes, such as getting a better deal or learning about new products or services. However, the majority of consumers say they don't get this type of personalized assistance from brands or businesses, said Jennifer Polk, a vice president and analyst at Gartner.

We can't be prescriptive anymore. There's been a huge shift from market research, as in who will buy and how. Now we need to understand customer goals and motivations.
Jane-Anne MennellaSenior director and analyst, Gartner

Some of the lesser known reasons why content marketing fails are at the customer level. Some examples include:

  • poor interactive voice response system;
  • poor advertising design;
  • too many or too few communication channels;
  • hard-to-read or uninteresting content;
  • lack of customer success teams; and
  • lack of mobile

Try mass personalization at scale to tailor your content to thousands of customers, Wang said.

"Context, choice and anticipatory analytics allow you to personalize and prepare for an automated world of AI-driven smart services," Wang said.

At the end of the day, marketing content comes down to keeping customers engaged throughout the lifespan of the relationship. Crafting a solid, hands-on customer experience is important for both B2B and B2C relationships.

4. Not having a strategy at all

Some marketers balk at the cost and time it takes to collect and analyze data. Oftentimes, their response to this is to choose a failed content marketing strategy where they hope to direct as many eyeballs to a page as possible, regardless of the nature of the content. Other times, there is no strategy at all.

"A large amount of traffic can be good, but qualified traffic is much, much better," Mennella said. "If you're spending a lot of time, money and resources on aimless advertising, you're throwing spaghetti against a wall and seeing if sticks. That's not a good strategy."

Using clickbait titles, bait-and-switch tactics or junk mail has never proven its effectiveness, and it may end up alienating customers, Mennella said. The same goes for constantly trying to upsell them on new versions of a product rather than trying to improve their customer success or fix any product problems. Buzz marketing can work wonders, but repeat business comes from satisfaction with a product, not from badgering buyers.

5. Not learning from your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, and at some point, a content marketing strategy will fail. Trying to understand why, with research and introspection, can help prevent making those same mistakes in the future.

"Testing is key and is the only real way to learn what types of personalization matter and make an impact with your customers against their and your desired goals," Polk said.

Brands could start with common tactics, such as product recommendations; or common customer goals, such as finding a better deal, Polk said. But they should also be prepared to test and learn the right approach for their brand.

"Companies often fail at achieving their desired results, but failure is part of testing and testing is part of personalization," she said. "The two go hand-in-hand, and marketers must be ready to experience and learn from failure."

Next Steps

Don Fluckinger discusses current trends in content management

Dig Deeper on Knowledge management strategy

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Can you think of a time when a company failed at content marketing? What did you learn from it?
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