As an Inbound Writer for Lean Labs, Melissa writes about high-converting websites and customer-centric marketing. She's an avid traveler, with trips to Iceland, Ukraine, and Portugal under her belt. She currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with her dog, Morrie.
The Room is the worst movie ever made, right?
By now, most people have heard about failed director Tommy Wiseau and his 2003 movie, The Room. Reviewers called it "moronic," "inept," and "a trash masterpiece." From cheesy dialogue to a ridiculous plot and bad acting, The Room had all of the components of a terrible film.
The most surprising thing about the film?
Despite only pulling in $1,900 at the box office, the film cost six million dollars to make. From building unnecessary sets from scratch to purchasing costly film equipment, Wiseau made critical mistakes at every turn.
A lot of these mistakes are similar to the ones marketers make in content writing.
What Marketers Overlook About Content Writing
Marketers spend too much money, don't have a strategy, or spend too much time on content that doesn't perform. Then, they panic when content doesn't drive the results necessary to grow. So what are the causes, and what needs to be done to fix content disasters?
The most significant cause is that a staggering 51% of B2B marketers lack the bandwidth to produce consistent content.
With everything that goes into running an effective marketing strategy, it can be difficult for smaller teams to make time for better writing or more effective strategies. Still, content is a crucial component of any inbound marketing play.
As a result, teams take shortcuts that may temporarily move them forward in content creation. They start blogging without a plan, outsource writing to cheap writers, fail to promote their content, and still expect good results.
In the long-term, this kind of lackadaisical approach doesn't work. Today's customer is savvy. With a lot of resources at their fingertips, customers have their pick of content. They won't engage with poorly written articles or posts. That's why taking the time and consideration to create exceptional content is so important.
Andrew Davis, Marketing Expert and Best-Selling Author of Town Inc., and Brandscaping, says building exceptional content is actually the key to growth.
"Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue," says Davis.
Brands operating with ineffective content might drive results in the beginning, but in the long term, set themselves up to fail. Thankfully, there's a lot of ways to get back on the right track with content.
Here are the most common content writing and creation errors marketers make, and how to overcome them.
#1. Not Investing In Better Writing
Despite spending up to 29 percent of budget on content marketing, many marketers still produce lackluster content. Blog posts and offers get low engagement, and never quite seem to hook the reader. The issue could very well be in the quality of the writing.
If you're investing in content creation, the writing may as well be exceptional. Otherwise, why bother? You won't get results, and you'll eat up budget.
There are a few ways teams can resolve sub-par writing, including:
- Find better writers. A lot of marketers hire outsourced writers, which is fine. However, they still need to be exceptional writers. Don't skimp on the quality of writing to save money or time. You'll spend even more trying to edit and utilize poor content.
- Provide resources. Writers need content guidelines, buyer personas, or strategy documents to refer to. When they don't have those assets, their writing will be off. You'll burn time and budget getting them on the same page, or fixing their mistakes.
- Invest in your wordsmiths. How many times have you hired a writer, only to hire a different writer a month or so later? Find 1-2 good writers, and stick with them. Hiring one-off writers can waste away your budget, with too much time spent on interviews, outreach, and fielding job postings.
- Hire within your industry. A writer without experience in your field or with your audience will be expensive. Not only will you be paying them to write, you'll be paying them to learn on the job. However, if their writing is great, it may be worth spending time on this.
The takeaway here? Cutting corners only produces poor content, faster. Prioritize exceptional writing from the get-go, then streamline the writing over time.
#2. Not Outlining A Budget
When there's not a consistent plan for budget, content gets expensive. Teams don't have direction, so they spend time, resources, and talent freely, as they see fit. This turns into a nightmare for marketing departments and can dilute funds meant for other projects.
To prevent overspending on ineffective content, set a content budget ahead of time and stick to it.
While developing a budget, include:
- Current spend. Get estimates or time tracking data on content strategy, writing, editing, and publishing. Additionally, take the cost of content or keyword tools like SEMRush or Moz into consideration.
- Current return. Audit your content performance. Organic traffic from older blog posts, leads brought in from content offers, or content used to close a sale can help judge what content is providing a return. Compare this information to your marketing goals.
- Ongoing inefficiencies. Assess the largest areas of spend in content creation, and hypothesize reasons. For instance, writers may be spending too long on content because they lack brand resources. Your marketing team may create new offers because they don't know how to use what you have. Find the waste, and document it.
- Content use. Before your team creates any more content, look at what you already have. A steady stream of new blog content is important, but are blogs being shared and distributed? Is your team linking older blog posts into new content? What about offers? See what content is actively used, and what's just sitting in a folder.
- New versus old content. There's value in producing new blog posts and original content, of course. However, teams can create offer after offer without much return. Get an idea of what you already have before setting aside any budget into making new assets.
The key to content budgeting? Make sure your team's input is worth the output. Once you have all of these items determined, create reasonable constraints around content creation. At the end of the day, content needs to move the needle for it to be worthwhile.
#3. Not Working With A Strategy
The word "strategy" can get thrown around loosely. For content marketing, what does a "strategy" really involve? For us at Lean Labs, a proper content plan and strategy outlines how we create content, and how that content will support each leg of the buyer's journey.
To accomplish this without overwhelming our writers, we use series of concise documents.
These strategy and execution documents help us to build out great content, and include:
- Buyer Personas. Buyer personas need to be a part of your overall marketing strategy and are also extremely useful for content. Using the persona, writers can get into the mind of your reader.
- Customer Journey Map. A customer journey map walks through one of your persona's journey through making a purchase, from start to finish. During this process, it's easy for us to find opportunities for content to help nurture and move our leads through the funnel.
- Keyword Research. We use MOZ and SEMRush to find great keywords. Using a very organized template, we list out the potential keywords. Then, we use the MOZ Priority Score and the volume and keyword density to calculate a score. This helps us predict the success of that keyword. We brainstorm titles for those keywords using Buzzsumo. The upfront work is necessary to determine whether or not content is worth covering.
- Content Outlines. We never write anything without an approved outline. This way, the writer understands the concept and can ask questions before writing a word. Our clients see these outlines and contribute subject matter expertise to strengthen the article. We built a custom template in GatherContent with our outline structure, which includes the keywords, personas, and goals for every article.
- Blog Post Templates. We include which blog post template we want to use in our outline. This tells our writer that we're expecting a comparison piece, for instance, over a listicle. The template explains how to structure a comparison post, and provides the necessary guidance for our writer.
These resources and strategy documents prevent assumptions. You don't want your marketing team to write about whatever they feel like writing. All of your content needs to serve your customer, and the development of that kind of content starts with a plan.
#4. Producing Content Without Goals
If you're expecting content to drive traffic and engagement, you need to start with inbound goals. Setting inbound marketing goals provide guidance on which content metrics and data to report on. Without predetermined content goals, teams may try to measure everything and get overwhelmed with data.
Goals also provide a North Star for every piece of content you develop. It gets your entire team on the same page about what your content needs to do. These goals can include anything from increasing organic traffic or increasing qualified leads.
When setting these goals, consider:
- High-level business objectives. As an organization, you want to raise brand awareness and reach new audiences. As it relates to content, goals can include social shares, comments, and online engagements.
- Marketing goals. As a marketer, you want to increase the number of people engaging with your brand. Assess how content is driving you closer to marketing goals by measuring organic traffic to the website and blog, and the new leads, MQL leads, and new customers generated from that traffic.
- Content goals. Content goals can include keywords you want to rank for, or readers you want to engage. You can track keyword ranking using Moz, and engagement can be measured using bounce rate, time spent on the page, or page views.
#5. Targeting Everyone
When content is good, it will not attract every reader. Why? Because exceptional content is created with one customer in mind. Focusing on one person helps teams develop content to address their individual problems or challenges.
When outlining a new blog post or offer, consider:
- Who are you writing for? In our content outline, we always dictate which persona we're writing for. That's why utilizing buyer personas is such an important step in your content strategy. The buyer persona will help your writer get inside the mind of your reader, and write specifically for them.
- Why are you writing it? We also include what a buyer persona is currently experiencing. It helps the writer craft a more effective story.
- Which stage of the Buyer Journey is it for? A Top of the Funnel post (TOFU) will be different than a Bottom of the Funnel post (BOFU). Your writer needs to know which stage the reader is in. Otherwise, they may write with too much urgency or emphasis on your solution, or not enough. This also helps marketers keep track of which posts and offers are supporting which stage.
As a brand, you can't be everything for everyone. Focus on the ways you can provide value to your personas and audience.
Moving Forward With Effective Content Marketing
Without an effective content strategy, your team will spin their wheels on assets that won't drive results. For teams struggling to deliver better content, it's time for a better marketing plan and process. That doesn't mean you have to start over. Once teams have a better strategy, they can repurpose and utilize the content and marketing materials they already have.
For brands seeking an effective long-term content strategy, we offer our exclusive Game Plan offer. After completing the Game Plan, we'll reach out to provide actionable insights. We don't work with each game plan applicant, but if we’re a fit, we'll a schedule time to discuss and potentially improve your brand strategy.
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