7 Content Marketing Funnel Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make (and How to Fix Them)

by Corey Pemberton 8 Minutes

For some, content marketing funnels seemed like just another fad. These marketers were suspicious, preferring promotions and paid ads.

But content marketing advocates have history on their side. This last decade in particular has shown us that, when done right, content marketing lives up to the hype. Brands like Hubspot and Quick Sprout have used it with tremendous success.

In an age where hundreds of millions use ad blockers and the public is bombarded by thousands of marketing messages daily, it’s never been more important for brands to give people something they actually want to interact with.

The trouble?

While practically every marketer understands the potential of content marketing driven funnel, most of us aren’t doing it as well as we should.

Why?

Let’s get to the bottom of this!

Most Businesses Use Content Marketing, but Only a Few Are Happy

The vast majority of businesses have embraced content marketing these days. Research from the Content Marketing Institute found that 88 percent of B2B marketers are using it in some fashion.

Unfortunately, the percentage of content marketers who are happy with their results is much lower. That number is hovering at around 30 percent.

We’re super busy already, and creating remarkable content takes time. Most of us are in such a rush to keep churning out more that we don’t ever step away to analyze why it’s falling flat with our audiences.

For most struggling content marketers, mediocre results aren’t due to a lack of effort. It’s a matter of strategy. If we aren’t deliberate with how we’re crafting and promoting content, it’s easy to make some of the most common mistakes.

This stands whether it’s an in-house effort, or a consultant pitching marketing services.

Avoid the Major Pitfalls and Upgrade Your Content

We can make huge strides by identifying the most common content marketing mistakes. Once we know what they look like, it’s easier to avoid them and get results that matter. Traffic. Engagement. Customers.

Here are seven content marketing mistakes that people make over and over again – regardless of their industry:

Image credit: Free-Photos

1. Measuring Success by the Amount of Content Produced (Instead of Business Results)

“You should post to your blog at least five times a week.”

“Just make more videos.”

“You can’t do a podcast just once every two weeks!”

How many times have we heard advice like that?

These people might mean well, but their recommendations are misguided. They’ve fallen into one of the most dangerous content marketing traps: measuring success by the amount of things they create instead of the impact on the business.

It isn’t like freelancers and entrepreneurs have tons of spare time lying around. (If you do, feel free to kick some my way!) Our resources are limited. We need to make sure our investment in content marketing pays off.

The only way to know for sure is to measure. To dig into the analytics and assess each piece of content’s effect on your business. What does your funnel look like? How much traffic is your blog generating? How many people opted in to your email list after coming over from YouTube? These are important questions!

That’s why the blanket recommendation to “make more content” isn’t always right. It might be right, depending on your topic, audience, and products and services. But you can’t afford to assume this without any data backing it up.

Successful content marketers are strategic. They work to make every piece of content bring in as many visitors and leads as possible. And they work to move those leads further up the funnel at every step.

That might mean using all of your content marketing time this week to create (and promote) one blog post instead of five.

Image credit: bogitw

2. Considering Yourself a Content Creator (and Not a Marketer)

Content marketers must wear two hats.

One is the creator, writing or speaking or recording to your heart’s content. The other is the calculating marketer who’s always focused on ROI.

A lot of people try on the content creator hat – and end up loving it so much they forget to take it off. Because they’re passionate about their industry, they have no trouble coming up with tons of material. Which leaves them wondering why it doesn’t connect with their audience.

Content marketing can be a great creative outlet, but that isn’t the primary purpose.

It’s up to us to think past the content itself. To consider the purpose of everything we create, whom it’s serving, and exactly how it will lead to more business. We also have to think about how today’s content will integrate with our broader marketing efforts.

This doesn’t sound as fun as letting yourself create and go wild. But hear me out. We just have to remember to wear the marketer hat at first. This will drive us to do things like research other popular content creators in our niche, see which pieces are resonating, and get more strategic about topic selection.

Then, when it’s time to produce the content, let that creator out. Make things with passion – within the context of a clear business goal. Then you can wipe off your brow and swap back to the marketer hat when it’s time to promote.

Image credit: Pexels

3. Content Marketing on the Wrong Platforms

There are so many content marketers not getting the attention they deserve.

They produce remarkable stuff, but nothing they do seems to move the needle. They can’t even get a few hundred hits. Much less an uptick in business.

Why?

Because they’re focusing too much on publishing content on low-traffic platforms.

While the dream is to build up a popular platform that people flock to, that’s a long-term play. It takes time to build traffic and develop authentic relationships.

If you’re just starting out, your platform is non-existent. Only a few people know about it. So, because everything you publish there won’t be seen by many people, the impact is minimal.

But what if you went to where the audiences already are and bring them back to you?

That makes it a lot easier for new content marketers to get traction. By focusing most of your effort on publishing content on other platforms with more traffic, you’ll get more attention. An author bio in a guest blog post, for example, may have 100 times the visibility of publishing the post on your tiny blog.

I’m not saying to ignore your own platform completely. But in the beginning, focusing 70 to 80 percent of your content elsewhere is the easiest way to build a critical mass of followers. As your platform grows, you can focus more on publishing on your own site.

Image credit: HypnoArt

4. A Weak (or Non-Existent) Content Marketing Funnel

This one’s often a symptom of thinking too much like a content creator and not enough like a marketer.

It’s easy to ramble about things that you find fascinating, but don’t necessarily appeal to the audience you’re trying to target.

Say you’re a web designer. You’re fascinated by typography, animations, and showcasing the most aesthetically-appealing websites you find. So you create content about that stuff.

See the problem here? You’ll talking about things that appeal to other designers, not businesses interested in revamping their websites to get more customers. They’re more interested in topics like how to hire a great designer, or how certain design elements affect conversion rates.

In his excellent book Content Machine, Dan Norris urges us to be mindful of the “monetization logic” between the content we’re creating and our products and services. Before we create anything, we need to ask ourselves if it’s likely that whoever engages with the content would be interested in what we’re selling.

Is a web developer who only talks about coding likely to attract corporate clients? Probably not. The monetization link between the people it would attract and who would buy is too weak.

What about a social media consultant who focuses on practical ways to build influence on those platforms? Now things are looking up.

We have to put our audience first and maintain a clear connection between content and the business objectives.

Image credit: samig

5. Overlooking Community

You’ve probably seen countless business tips talking about niches and just how important they are.

While specializing to serve a specific audience is a good way to make money, we can’t afford to think that way with our content.

A lot of content marketers are thinking too narrowly. They start seeing their audiences as niches or markets instead of people with personalities, interests, and dreams.

It’s easy to serve up content designed to educate people on a specific business problem. That’s why you’ll see so much “7 mistakes companies make when hiring a web designer” type content. These marketers are honed in on the specific business challenge they hope to solve.

There’s a time and place for that content, but you can go further. What would happen if you stopped viewing your efforts as serving a niche, and started viewing them as building a community?

You start to recognize that your audience has other interests besides just solving a single business problem. This opens up possibilities to create different types of content and stand out from competitors.

Does Red Bull play it safe by sticking to “the benefits of drinking our energy drinks” or “how to have more energy” type content?

Not at all.

They’re too busy filming videos of insane stunts – like this jump from space.

Content like that isn’t specifically related to energy drinks. But it appeals to broader community interests, which include pushing the boundaries and an active lifestyle.

Image credit: GregMontani

6. A Lack of Consistency

We already covered the danger of equating the amount of content created to content marketing success.

Another mistake is a lack of consistency. It’s easy to get too ambitious at first, then fall off when you realize you can’t stick to your publishing schedule.

A sporadic schedule shows your audience they can’t rely on you. Because they never know when a new post or video is coming, they stop looking for them.

The best content marketers make themselves a regular habit in their audiences’ lives. That takes consistency.

It’s way better to have fewer pieces of content on a more consistent schedule. Remember, it takes time for content to pay off. So keep putting it out there – even if it’s only once a week – as long as it’s predictable.

Image credit: monicore

7. Forgetting a Call-to-Action

Every piece of content is hopefully useful, educational, funny, or all of the above.

Every piece of content also serves your greater business objectives.

What happens when someone reads your awesome blog article, loves it, then scrolls to the bottom without finding direction of what to do next?

Eventually they navigate away from your website and forget about it!

You can capitalize on interest while it’s high by always including some type of call-to-action at the end of every piece of content you produce.

This can be a wide range of things. Everything from just leaving a comment or review, to signing up for a trial version of your product or even buying. If you aren’t sure what to ask, you can always encourage people to share your content over social media.

For every piece of content you create, ask yourself this:

“If someone engages this and totally loves it, what would be my ideal outcome for what they do next?”

We can’t assume someone will figure it out all on their own. People are just too busy and overwhelmed. We can help our business objectives by giving them a single, dead-simple step.

One of Your Best Investments

Content marketing doesn’t have to be a nightmare anymore. Done well, it’s one of the smartest long-term investments you can make in your business.

If you keep the common mistakes in mind, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort but not having to figure them out the hard way – on your own.

Have you made any of the content marketing mistakes above? What could you try differently going forward to connect better with your audience? Leave a comment and let me know!

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by Corey Pemberton
Corey Pemberton is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps small businesses and software startups get more traffic and conversions online. You can find him on his website or follow him on Twitter.