5 Content Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

May 7, 2016 | Ecommerce

By Lee Polevoi

Content marketing may not be new, but it’s rapidly surpassing other ways of connecting with customers.

Unlike traditional advertising, the focus is on engaging customers in a two-way conversation, with as much give as take. Content takes many forms, of course, from blog posts to video, but if you wish to adapt this approach to your online business, it’s very important to do things right.

Here are common content marketing mistakes to avoid, as described by marketing professionals and other ecommerce merchants with experience in this area.

1. Deliver content that customers really want

Content marketing should always focus on the customer, not the online seller. To determine what type of content to provide, the experts say, go to the source.

“Among the biggest resources for content is both customer feedback and discussion of the product or service you sell,” notes Sam Hoober of Bigfoot Gun Belts. “Spend a few hours every month looking at online forums, reviews, and so forth (Reddit, Amazon, etc.) of your products and services. You’ll see what your customers are looking for and the issues they encounter. Create content that addresses their problems and you have content that gets traction.”

Walter Wise of BPI Strategy Group agrees. “For your message to resonate with your target market and ideal customer, it must solve their problem or pain, and you must show results. Remember the acronym, ‘radio station WII-FM (What’s In It For Me).’ It’s all about the prospect, not about your product or service.”

2. Lose the hard sell

Online consumers are far too savvy to succumb to a traditional hard sell. They’ll tune out content that sounds like advertising or self-promotion every time.

“Focus on education and information instead of the hard sell and you will start to see success with your content marketing,” says Hilary Young of Hilary Young Creative. Rather than aiming for a high volume of content, she adds, “Be more thoughtful about what you’re putting out into the world. Is it really necessary? Is it useful? Well-written? When you’re hasty in getting content out the door, quality is usually sacrificed — a major turn-off to consumers.”

It’s also important to tailor your information to what Victor Clarke of Clarke Inc., a digital marketing firm, calls “the stages of the buyer’s journey.”

“For example, a prospect might still be trying to figure out how big or important their problem or challenge is,” he notes. “They aren’t going to make any buying decisions until they know the scope of the situation and have some criteria in place for making a choice. Trying to sell anything to a person at this stage is a complete waste of time, and they won’t appreciate the pressure.”

3. Never use “free” or “discounted”

Your choice of words influences the effect your content marketing efforts have on prospective customers.

“Words have immense power in setting context,” says Lou Altman of Next Level, a training and consulting firm. “Something that is free has zero value and something that is discounted is perceived as cheap. Instead, free things are complimentary and discounted items have re-structured pricing. These terms add value to your product or service, instead of taking value away from them.”

4. Don’t neglect to promote your content

Insufficiently promoting valuable content is another mistake to avoid.

“Think of each piece as deserving an ongoing promotional campaign, not just a one-time blast to your email or social media accounts,” says J. Colin Petersen of J Digital Identity. “If you’re writing original content, age shouldn’t be an issue, as long as you check for any outdated information and update the post or article.”

Social media is the perfect outlet for promoting content. When your followers enjoy the content showing up in their social media feeds, levels of both engagement and conversions go up.

“Give them something useful and they’ll be happy to complete a lead capture form, subscribe to your email list or follow you on social networks,” says Jayme Pretzloff of Wixon Jewelers. “These permission-based marketing vehicles allow small businesses to continuously engage with potential clients and win business.”

Equally important is the need not to be too guarded with your content.

“Online sellers need to give 25 percent of their expertise away for free,” urges Jeremy Durant of Bop Design. “If you have a website with all of your helpful content behind forms, many visitors will bounce off and go to a competitor.”

5. Don’t assume readers know what to do next

Always give readers direction on what to do after reading your content.

“If you want to the reader to do anything — share the article, call a phone number, place an order, add to cart — all you need to do is tell them,” says Tim Rich, marketing coach to small businesses and entrepreneurs. “It doesn’t harm your response ratio by making it crystal clear why they need to do to get the result you can give them.”

Content marketing should be a key resource in your efforts to reach customers. By avoiding these common mistakes, you’re well positioned to make a real impact on the people you want to reach most.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Share with us in the comments below.

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