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Unsolicited Advice: How to Avoid 4 Content Marketing Blunders


Have you hit that moment in the holiday season yet?

You know, when the fairy dust has settled to the floor next to bits of dried pine needles, crumbs of joyously consumed (now vaguely regretted) treats, and the hair of the dog that may or may not have bitten you (but almost certainly needs a walk).

I tend to get that bah-humbug feeling a couple of days before the new year brightens things again. If there’s one thing that never fails to cheer me, though, it’s unsolicited advice.

Or, rather, Unsolicited Advice, the whip-smart (and unfailingly polite) commentary on marketing missteps Andrew Davis provides in every issue of Chief Content Officer magazine. (You can give yourself that gift for free anytime by subscribing. It’s free.)

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself nodding along and smiling as you read these letters – even if you’ve made similar content gaffes. We’ve all been there. Andrew (with guest advisor Becky Montchal in one case) offers such useful suggestions; you’ll be glad for the tips.

Whether you wanted them or not.

Don’t turn off half your potential audience (some of us shave, too)

Adam Weber
Chief Marketing Officer
Dollar Shave Club

Becky and I have a suggestion: Cash in on the millions of women buying Dollar Shave Club products by creating a separate set of post-purchase content that speaks to the fairer sex’s trials and tribulations.

There’s a lot to love about Dollar Shave Club. Your male-oriented content is wonderfully produced, and we adore your brand personality and tone. (The mini magazines you tuck inside each shipment are entertaining and informative.) And we appreciate that your subscription service has helped us reduce our razor costs and given us the confidence to bear our hair-free faces, backs, and legs.


Once you win over a female buyer, however, the relationship turns sour. With email subject lines such as “Here’s How to Manscape Your Butt” and “This Is Why Your Pee Sometimes Comes out at an Angle,” Becky has reached her limit. She’s unsubscribed.

It’s clear you and your team understand how to create great content … but how about customizing some of that creatively snarky content for women? Why not ask the gender of the buyer at sign-up? Then you can quickly and easily segment your email communication. Want to take it a step further? How about creating two mini magazines each month, one for men and one for women? (Becky would love some tips on how to stop the bleeding when she nicks her ankles.)

Here’s the deal, if you segment your list and commit to creating content for the other half of your target market, both Becky and I will write one article to kick-start your content engine. (Oh, and we’ll also re-subscribe.)

.@aweb44 How about customizing some of that creatively snarky content for women?@b_montchal @drewdavishere. Share on X

What do you say? Do we have a deal?

Whether you wanted it or not,

Andrew Davis and Becky Montchal (November 2017)

Do be so dramatic (spoiler alert: avoid headlines that …)

Prasid Pathak
Director of Marketing

Dear Mr. Pathak,

Your video testimonial about Tommy Nicholas on the Codecademy website explains how just in a few months, Nicholas was able to create a revenue-generating website called … but the story is missing one essential ingredient to transform it from mediocre to Coffitivity magnificent: drama.

Don’t get me wrong; Nicholas’ story is astonishing. After founding Coffitivity, Nicholas launched Knox Payments, which lets merchants accept payments directly from customers’ bank accounts. The video about his career highlights is well shot and edited. It’s simple, short, and to the point. It’s also nice to see the impact a platform like Codecademy can have on someone’s life. But I think you could do better.

You’re not the only one whose testimonial video builds no suspense. In fact, lack of drama is the most common mistake marketers make when demonstrating the impact their product or service has on their clients and customers.

So let’s fix it.

Even the title of that video, “How Tommy Nicholas Transformed his Career With Codecademy,” tells me the ending before I hit play. Let’s rename it. Consider taking a line straight out of Nicholas’ mouth: “Wow, Coding Is Magic! The Story of Tommy Nicholas.” See the difference?

But don’t stop there. If his story had a real beginning, middle, and end, it would inspire people to sit up and watch. Answering some simple questions would elevate Nicholas’ story. What was he doing before he joined Codecademy? What struggles did he face in his career before he wrote those first lines of code? Were there moments of doubt or high conflict? With suspense, Nicholas’ story would be transformed.

Here’s the deal: If you want to rework Nicholas’ testimonial, I’ll spend the time to rework the script with you. We’ll add some drama and build some suspense.

.@prasid: If you want to rework Nicholas’ testimonial to add some drama, I’ll help you, says @drewdavishere. Share on X

What do you say? Do we have a deal?

Whether you wanted it or not,

Andrew Davis (August 2017)

Shake your differentiators (why you shouldn’t hide the world’s largest peanut)

Mr. Kevin Langston
Deputy Commissioner
Georgia Department of Economic Development

Dear Mr. Langston,

I’m planning a trip to Macon, Georgia. As I browsed looking for travel ideas, I realized Georgia doesn’t look all that different from South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and a whole host of other places I’ve visited.


But I’ve been to Georgia (more than once) and I love it. Georgia IS different. It IS unique. It’s just that the images you use and the videos you share make Georgia look like thousands of other places I’ve toured.

Stop telling me you’re different. Start showing me.

Everyone has great sunsets and gorgeous hiking spots. Great restaurants, wonderful waterfalls, and beautiful beaches are commodities. When I visit Georgia, I want to experience the places and people that I won’t find anywhere else in the world. I want to share the videos and pictures of places that are truly yours.

The fact is, when you market to everyone, you attract no one.

Why not highlight the attractions no one else in the world can offer? Like the world’s largest peanut in Ashburn, Georgia. How about some action shots of the world’s longest zip line? Or a video highlighting the rare opportunity to cave fish in Catoosa County? (I’d love to see what the Southern Cavefish looks like!) All of these things are extremely unique.

#Tourism Marketing Tip: Highlight attractions no one else in the world can offer, says @drewdavishere. Share on X

Here’s the good news: You’re not the only state that does this. Every office of travel and tourism markets the very same way. Georgia isn’t a commodity. It’s a gem. Let’s show the world.

Here’s the deal, if you show me why Macon, Georgia, is different than any other town in the world, I’ll tell everyone.

What do you say? Do we have a deal?

Whether you wanted it or not,

Andrew Davis (June 2017)

You’re doing it wrong: Content marketing pitching edition (it’s not about you yet)

Account Managers
Content Marketing Agencies Everywhere

Dear Account Managers,

Watching three dozen agency pitch meetings over the last two years, I have noticed one common problem: Your pitch decks are too long. Which means your meetings are too long; 45 minutes too long to be exact.

I love your content marketing enthusiasm; I adore the creative concepts you pitch. You are obviously good at what you do and believe in your pitch wholeheartedly. I get it. You know your stuff.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care about any of that … yet.

Most pitches I attend spell out what the agency will do for us during the last 15 minutes of the meeting. The first 40 minutes are filled talking about amazing case studies and teaching us the value of content marketing. The agency team members talk about who they are and what exactly they do. They show off their client list, talk about their “unique “approach and even discuss their “patent-pending” process. The presenters do all of this before they tell us what they can do for us.

Maybe you should invert your pitch. What if you took the last 25% of your presentation and made it the first 25%? What if you told us exactly how you can help us before telling us who you are, what you do, how you do it, and for whom you have done it? What if your pitch is for us first so I care about you second?

Here’s the deal: If you would like to invert your pitch but aren’t exactly sure how to do it, give me a call. I will schedule a 30-minute phone call to help you (and your agency) try a new format. I guarantee your next prospect will thank you!

What do you say? Do we have a deal?

Whether you wanted it or not,

Andrew Davis (April 2017)

What’s on your mind?

For most of us, there’s at least one topic that brings out the content marketing equivalent of Miss Manners in you. What’s yours?

To get more Unsolicited Advice from Andrew, subscribe to CCO, our free quarterly magazine. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute