By Ann Gynn published July 30, 2019

30 Ways to Waste Your Content Marketing Time

When the end of a quarter arrives, do you have more questions than answers about your content marketing program? Why is that infographic still not done? Why did our month-over-month blog readership drop? Why does the team seem less productive? Why isn’t management more supportive of our content marketing?

The unifying answer revolves around one thing – time. The team spends too much time on the wrong things, too little time on the helpful things, and no time on key things.

Spend too much time on the wrong things and not enough on the key things in #contentmarketing? @AnnGynn Click To Tweet

We asked the speakers at Content Marketing World to identify the biggest time-wasters that plague content marketing programs. Here are 30 answers – part therapy (we’re not alone), part discovery (oh, that’s what the problem is), and part help (OK, we can fix it).

Focusing on what’s next

Too often content marketers don’t get the maximum value from the content they produce because they’re too busy working on the next content project, and the next one. The seemingly endless road to content production is often less effective than a different path. The other path is creating less content yet producing content that multiplies by a factor of 10, 100, or 1,000 depending on many variables. – Bernie Borges, chief marketing officer, Vengreso

Doing too much

Plotting a calendar with too many touchpoints or too much content. Rather than communicating with your customers more, communicate with them more effectively by understanding their pain points and providing the right information at the right time, to help solve their problems. – Kathy Button Bell, senior vice president, chief marketing officer, Emerson

#Contentmarketing time-waster: Plotting calendar with too much content, says @Emerson_KathyBB. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Thinking a lot

I get ideas all the time. I have a folder of half-finished blog posts and to-do lists a mile long filled with content and marketing ideas. While this deluge of ideas can’t be stopped (and has its merits), it can also be a big time waste if you don’t have a system to tame and prioritize it.

I channel friend and fellow marketer Andrea Fryrear who says to identify two things (at most) to work on at any one time. Don’t start something new until those two things are finished. Michele Linn, head of strategy, Mantis Research 

Lacking relevant goals

Not having clear and measurable objectives and/or having too many unrelated goals can put entire programs in jeopardy. Content marketing can mean different things to different people and aligning – across teams – on a business goal at the top of a program is crucial. Having a clearly articulated objective that can be measured helps not only keep the program and cross-functional teams focused but can be essential to decision-making throughout the lifecycle of the initiative. Venetta Linas Paris, director, global content marketing, Aon

Tackling irrelevant things

Anything that doesn’t align to your strategy. It can be easy to get caught up in creating content, but we need to always come back to our objectives. – Zari Venhaus, director, corporate marketing communications, Eaton

Don’t get caught up in creating #content so you forget the objectives, says @zvenhaus. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Missing content focus

The biggest waste of time is creating unfocused blogs or magazines that are a weird, watered mix of brand-focused articles and blasé topical content in a 300 to 1,100 word format that either have been or feel like they have been written 9,000 times and would never stand up as a publication on a newsstand.

Brands need to produce more focused publications that start from the beginning as if they want to produce the best content in the world about a given domain; e.g., something that could succeed as a magazine format that targeted niche audiences would pay $25 an issue for. – Carlos Abler, leader of content marketing strategy, 3M

Creating personas

Time is wasted on developing personas. Let’s stop spending so much time trying to dissect and describe our audience and start spending more time figuring out what progress they are trying to make. – Yadin Porter de Leon, global executive content strategist

Falling in like a lot

New platforms. What if we just killed it on one platform at a time? – Andrew Davis, author, The Loyalty Loop, Brandscaping, and Town Inc.

Never having a target

Shotgun approaches where you try to communicate via all channels, platforms, mediums rather than finding the one you feel most comfortable or natural with. – Rob Walch, vice president, podcaster relations, Libsyn

Engaging on social one by one

Manual social media engagement. It’s a double-edged sword because algorithms are making it more difficult to automate engagement, but content marketers can easily waste the day away manually commenting, liking, and posting on each social media platform. – Christine Michel Carter, creator, Mompreneur and Me

Content marketers can waste the day manually liking, posting, etc. on #socialmedia. @cmichelcarter #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Cutting and pasting

Manual metrics aggregation is a time-waster. We spend so much time copying and pasting numbers, graphs, or something else. We should let a machine consolidate that so we can find the peaks and valleys, then dig in to find the learning or insight. – Jessica Best, vice president of data-driven marketing, Barkley

Chasing vanity

The pursuit of vanity metrics. I get that it makes us all feel like we’re measuring progress, but truly, we’re just measuring activity – activity that can be, and often is, gamified in pursuit of proof that what we do matters. – Tom Martin, president, Converse Digital
The pursuit of vanity metrics is a time-waster, says @TomMartin. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Chasing technology

New shiny software that requires hours upon hours of training just to get started – Michaela Alexis, LinkedIn speaker, trainer, and co-author of Think Video

Saying we did it

Telling others we made a thing is a time-waster. That seems to be the distribution strategy for many projects of ours. We spend significant mental and emotional energy – plus real dollars – creating, say, a podcast, and then we sprint around the internet going, “Hey! We made a thing!”

Far better is to borrow back some of the time spent running around lots of places to narrow our focus to a few channels and create contextually relevant content. Straight link sharing doesn’t work as well on Twitter anymore. What does? Strong opinions or inspiring tweetstorms. Great. If we’re promoting our podcast on Twitter, we need to come up with something better. LinkedIn is full of videos of people walking and talking to camera. If we post a video to support the launch of our show, how can we make it unique enough that it plays well in that context? – Jay Acunzo, founder, Marketing Showrunners

Listening to many voices

When there are too many stakeholders at the brand and they don’t have one person to speak for them comprehensively to the content studio. Annie Granatstein, head of WP BrandStudio, The Washington Post

Getting the OK

Approval-hell workflows! – Christoph Trappe, chief content officer, Stamats Business Media

#Contentmarketing time-waster: Approval-hell workflows! @ctrappe #CMWorld Click To Tweet
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: How to Survive Content by Committee

Pursuing fruitlessly

Spending time trying to prove its worth to leadership who have no intention of supporting it. – Jacquie Chakirelis, director of marketing, Great Lakes Science Center 

Battling on ownership

For so many companies, content is incredibly political and sensitive. These ridiculous turf wars amount to nothing but wasted time, low morale, and weak content. Instead of fighting over who owns content, companies should be focused on producing the best content possible. – Anna Hrach, strategist, Convince and Convert 

Meeting without purpose

Planning meetings without an explicit objective – and where nothing gets decided. – Dennis Shiao, consultant, Dennis Shiao Consulting

#ContentMarketing time-waster: Planning meetings w/ out an explicit objective. @DShiao #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Meeting to guess

Ineffective guessing about what content will be popular. It’s generally ineffective relying on luck that we’re going to create a whole bunch of content and hope that one of them goes viral. A content committee or an editorial board or fancy corporate structures for creating content chew up a lot of time preparing for the meeting and posting meeting takeaways. – Chris Penn, co-founder, Trust Insights

Responding to one-off, immediate ‘needs’

Ad hoc requests from the organization without consideration for strategy. It’s always, “We need this thing NOW!” – Ardath Albee, CEO and B2B marketing strategist, Marketing Interactions Inc.

Participating in mindless debates

As content marketers, we spend too much time arguing internally over things that don’t drive revenue. If you’re having trouble deciding on the best image to pair with your native advertising for an article, don’t argue about it. Just split test it and move on. – Courtney Cox Wakefield, group manager, digital marketing, Children’s Health

Thinking like 10 years ago

Using keyword research tactics from over a decade ago to justify content efforts today. This time-waster is doomed from the start and leads to dismal content success rates. – Jeff Coyle, co-founder and chief product officer, MarketMuse

Time-waster: Using keyword research tactics from a decade ago to justify content efforts today. @jeffrey_coyle Click To Tweet

Forgoing help

Failing to seek out help when you’re trying something new. Sometimes you need to hire experts to accomplish your goals in digital channels that are new to your team. – Buddy Scalera, content strategist; associate director, social media solutions, Novartis

Failing to connect with sales team

Content marketers are asked to create content for salespeople without understanding the sales process and how the requested content is going to be used with the customer. As a result, a lot of time can be wasted creating assets that get little use from salespeople. Worse yet, more time gets wasted by salespeople who attempt to recreate the collateral to fit selling situations.

The second big time-waster for sales content occurs when sales and marketing are not operating off a joint value messaging framework. When this happens, the customer experience is disconnected. A customer will get one set of messages from marketing during the awareness phase and a completely unrelated set from sellers while in the buying process. Sales cycles could be shortened if messaging were better aligned. – Seleste Lunsford, chief research officer, CSO insights, research division of Miller Heiman Group 

Failing to create content off-ramps

Many content marketers neglect to use each piece of content to get the reader to either consume more content, engage further by taking an action, and/or sharing the content.  – Heidi Cohen, chief content officer, Actionable Marketing Guide

Seeking 100%

Pursuing perfection at the beginning. When content marketing programs get up and running, there needs to be an unhindered embrace of failure – meaning content won’t do well, ideas you thought would work won’t work, something that did work for another industry/campaign/idea won’t work for this one. People waste a lot of time trying to make sure every piece of new content is perfect. It will never be. – Scott Spjut, assistant vice president, social and digital content, Fifth Third Bank

Pursuing perfection at the beginning is a #contentmarketing time-waster, says @scottspjut. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Doing too much for one

Placing too much time into one piece of content without having a broad content marketing plan. – A. Lee Judge, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Content Monsta 

Working without a map

I think I can sum it up with this statement: “Execution without strategy is expensive; strategy without execution is demoralizing.” To this day, either no documented strategy or no execution is the most common denominator when we evaluate the difference between successful content marketers and those that have not yet found the success they were hoping to achieve. – Arnie Kuenn, senior advisor, Vertical Measures

Execution without strategy is expensive; strategy without execution is demoralizing, says @ArnieK. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Get time back to create more amazing results

And don’t forget personal time-wasters. Ruth Carter of Carter Law Firm didn’t. “This is a time-waster is for everyone – mindless scrolling through social instead of getting work done,” she writes.

Now, pick one or two things from this time-wasting list that are within your control. How will you get rid of those time sucks in the next two weeks?

What other time-wasters do you experience? How have you resolved your content marketing program’s unnecessary time challenges?

You won’t waste your content marketing time when you interact with these experts and dozens of others at Content Marketing World Sept. 3-6. Register today using code CMIBLOG100 to save $100. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Ann Gynn

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