By Barry Feldman published June 26, 2012

Lessons from the Content Marketing Hall of Shame

You’ve been spending some time here at Content Marketing Institute and making the rounds a bit to get schooled on what’s going on in online marketing. This article probably won’t offend you one bit.

Alas, when any floodgate opens, in an effort to protect the pure, we must identify and extract the impurities that gush forth. Content marketing is hardly immune from streams of crapola. In fact, it’s inevitable — the more skilled practitioners there are, the more the wannabes swarm in on their coattails.

Let’s respect these hallowed halls, shall we?

Recent years have seen so many leaders rise up to teach and preach earnest ways to practice and perform content marketing, so I thought I’d ask a few respected authorities to help me highlight the content crimes committed by the lowlifes.

And don’t go thinking I mean any harm. In the spirit of content marketing and all that’s sacred about it, I simply mean to deliver value, honor the practice, and protect its good name.

I won’t name names of any offenders here. But I will actually have to attach monikers to the types of offenders that represent this first — and semi-official — class of content marketers who have earned a place in the Content Marketing Hall of Shame.

Joe gets to go first

I asked our very own Content Marketing Institute hall of famer, Junta Joe Pulizzi, an important question:

“In your experience, what is the most common mistake would-be content marketers make?”

Joe’s response:

“A major mistake involves too much ‘me, me, me.’ Marketers like to talk about themselves first. But if we think like publishers and focus on the reader’s needs, we have a better opportunity to deliver quality information. Remember, our customers don’t care about us, they care about themselves.”

Thank you Joe. In your honor, we elect the very first member to the Content Marketing Hall of Shame. Please welcome to the stage:

The Narcissist

Next, I asked a B2B insider

He’s the senior director of integrated marketing for SAP, creator of B2BMarketingInsider, and a founder of Business2Community. Respected thought leader Michael Brenner contributed this response:

A common mistake is not understanding our target audience’s pain points: Simple surveys using free tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang can provide quick and easy access to a prioritized list of prospect pain points.”

Nice. In the name of content marketers who think they know everything about their audience members without actually talking to them, let’s welcome the hall’s second inductee:

The Assumer

The king of the jungle

His name is Marcus Sheridan, alias “The Sales Lion.” Here’s what the top cat had to add:

“The most common mistake is an unwillingness to think like a consumer and then write stuff consumers really care about. My motto is simple when it comes to content marketing: If they’re thinking it, we should be addressing it… We can’t bury our head in the sand. We need to address subjects (like pricing, for example) head on.”

Marcus tells every content marketer to take the top 50 questions prospects ask, make them the titles of blog posts and answer the questions. In other words, you have to listen. Let’s recognize those that don’t:

The Hearing-Impaired

Hey buddy, how about a watch?

No one asked you for the time, so why try to sell a watch? Author Arnie Kuenn, president of Vertical Measures, took a minute to call out a common content marketing mistake: 

“Selling rather than helping… You should try to imagine why people would want to read, listen to, or view the content you are creating. What is in it for them? Companies that inform or guide potential customers are the companies that are winning online.”

Okay Mr. K, you get to induct the poor, misguided marketer who can’t resist mangling the real purpose for creating content:

The Pitchman

Who needs strategy?

Heidi Cohen says content marketers do. The highly published professor professes:

“One of the biggest content marketing mistakes is to jump in and start creating content. You must first set marketing goals for your content that are aligned with your business objectives, understand your target audience including what types of content they like and where they look for content, and develop appropriate content marketing metrics.”

It’s no wonder whatsoever that Heidi is a Top-10 social media blogger and marketing authority. She knows what content marketing is for, and she won’t let this one pass:

The Aimless

Don’t fail the social media exam

Among amazing accomplishments on his resume, Michael Stelzner is the founder of Social Media Examiner. Not surprisingly, he pointed out how content marketers fail to “think social:”

One of the most overlooked issues is a lack of social sharing options. For your blog, this involves the big four: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Simply Google the social network in question and add the word “button” and you’ll likely find the code to embed it on your site. Really smart marketers have figured out how to put social sharing directly inside of PDF files, too.”

HubSpot’s Sarah Goliger offered a similar sentiment:

“You’re writing well-targeted, interesting, educational content, but no one’s reading it. Well, are you telling people about it? Make sure you’re giving your content enough visibility so it doesn’t stay hidden from potential viewers.”

It’s the “if you build it they will come” mentality, right? Say hello to:

The Field of Dreamer

Mr. Rose knows

Robert Rose co-wrote “Managing Content Marketing” and calls himself the chief troublemaker at Big Blue Moose. He says:

“One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that content marketing is only for the top part of the funnel — the being found and generating leads part. Content marketing is more holistic than that and should ultimately be developed as a process that engages the consumer through every stage of the funnel — all the way through engaging them as a subscriber AFTER they’ve become customers.”

If you think content marketing is merely for the first-come-clicker, perhaps Robert would call you:

The Beginner

The (not-so) magnificent seven

I’d like to thank you for being with us today. It was a great honor to host the inaugural induction ceremony here at the Content Marketing Hall of Shame. I’d also like to thank each and every contributor.

And please stay tuned. Though I may not have earned myself a seat beside our esteemed panel just yet, I too have many thoughts on the types of marketers that belong in this dubious hall. I’ll share more on them soon. But between now and then I’d love to hear from you regarding the common mistakes you’ve witnessed content marketers make. 

See more from these marketing experts and others when you attend Content Marketing World on September 4 – 6 in Columbus, Ohio. 

Author: Barry Feldman

Barry Feldman is the author of SEO Simplified for Short Attention Spans. Barry operates Feldman Creative and provides content marketing consulting, copywriting, and creative direction services. He contributes to many of the web's top marketing sites and was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. If you would like a piece of his mind, visit his blog, The Point .

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  • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

    This is a great article. 

    I think one “Hall of Shame” archetype that is missing is the “Me Too”.  The Me Too content marketer is similar to the Aimless type in a sense that he/she creates content without having the strategy to back it, however the “Me Too” simply rides the coattails of other high profile content creators.  The “Me Too” may steal an idea and repackage it in a way that is slightly different, but doesn’t bring any unique value to the table. 

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Barry

      Big thanks for the complement and bigger thanks for the very cool addition. The “Me too” shrine is being created as we speak. Funny, I mentioned a sequel is in the works for this article: my list. My list actually includes the shameful CMer you have there, only my name for him isn’t quite so nice. 

      • Amanda Maksymiw (@amandamaks)

        I had a little battle in my mind and clearly the nice side of me won!  Looking forward to the next installment. 

  • michaelbrenner

    Thanks Barry,

    Great list! I am honored to be included with these great folks.I believe good (content) marketing all boils down to simply being helpful vs. being selfish. You’ve captured many shades of selfish in here. Great job!

    • Barry

      Nice boiling Michael. Thanks for being a part of the article and discussion. I grant you a free “get out of the hall of shame” pass, good for life 😉

  • Ashley

    This is solid gold.  I think we’re all tired of the “Hey buddy, how about a watch?” kind of marketing. Stop talking to yourself and talk to the people that actually care aka buy your products or may want to. Great post Barry!

  • Kent

    When I read your blog posts. Quite some blog posts talk about the same things. This is another repeated blog post. Just in different way to present it. It is betting boring to read your blog post

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Kent,
      Thanks for spending so much time reading our posts and commenting. With over 715 posts published about content marketing to date, some of them do cover similar topics but in use a different approach. Not all of our readers read every post and everyone learns differently, so we accept posts that explain concepts we have already covered but that have a different presentation. We have a lot of authors and appreciate their perspectives!

      • Kent

         I believe some posts most people would be interested in the strategy rather than general e.g 1.Setting goal, 2. implementation, 3.bla…… It keep repeating, just different way to present.

        But, I do agree, not everyone read the same blog posts.