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5 Major Content Marketing Problems (with 5 Helpful Solutions)

Editor’s note: Read the latest version of this post.content marketing problems, solutions

We have met the enemy, and he is us.” —Pogo (by Walt Kelly)

Don’t get me wrong: Content marketing can be extremely complex. But in my opinion, there should be no doubt that marketers themselves are to blame for most of the problems they encounter.

Here are five issues that I’ve noticed have been bubbling to the top recently — and a few solutions that can keep them from hindering your ability to create epic content.

Problem #1: You have “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” syndrome

The average enterprise uses 17 different content types as part of its content marketing programs.

Odds are you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of channels you are creating content for — be it email, webinars, blogs, content for social media… and even print and in-person channels. It’s always more, more, more.

Solution: Choose one channel and be great at it. Work toward the goal of being the leading provider of information for your customers on that particular platform. It could be podcasts, like Mitch Joel’s focal point; you can concentrate your efforts on research, like IBM does; or print magazines, like John Deere’s “The Furrow.” Whatever you choose as your best option (depending on your audience, and its needs and usage patterns), put most of your energy into that channel.

Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active on multiple other channels, but it does mean that your “center of gravity” should exist on your core platform (CMI’s platform of choice is the blog.) You’ll be amazed what will happen when you leverage this kind of focus.

Problem #2: You have content performance issues

If we only had a little blue pill to aid in our content performance.

Me-first content. Mediocre content. Content that is not reaching customers or helping customers in any way that you can measure. It’s a rampant problem.

Solution: Get laser-focused on your customers’ desired outcomes. Instead of primarily writing about products or services you are trying to pitch, focus first on what the reader is looking to get out of the content you provide.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the exact person I’m communicating with for this story?
  • After they engage in this piece of content, what will they be able to do better or be better at?
  • Would customers engaging in this content be crazy not to share it with others?

Need a push start? Create your content marketing mission statement first.

Problem #3: You have lots of content, but no audience

It happens to all of us. We get so focused on creating our content that we forget that our audience development strategy should come first. According to CMI’s own content strategy framework, audience consideration should come immediately after content planning. Note: If you are creating content and don’t have an audience yet, please stop creating content (you may want to repeat that in your head).

Solution: Develop an audience acquisition program that combines organic and paid strategies. Here are some thoughts that will help:

  • Focus on subscriptions as a goal: If I have one regret as a content marketer, it’s that I didn’t focus early enough on generating subscribers. It took us years of experimenting, but we finally found our “Moneyball number:” the subscriber. We’ve found that once someone has subscribed to CMI’s content, they do different things than non-subscribers — things that lead to greater revenue for us. Instead of trying to drive our audience from consuming our content to an immediate sales opportunity, we’ve found success by leading them from one piece of content to additional content. (For more on subscribers, please check out these outstanding reports from ExactTarget — a great example of content marketing in action.)
  • Start with an influencer list: Build your influencer hit list and execute this strategy. Done right, your network of influencers will help you build an audience.
  • Embrace guest posting: You have to give to get. Guest posting and guest contributions should be a major part of your strategy for growing your subscriber base.

Problem #4: You’re hamstrung by legal and compliance issues

Just a few weeks ago, I met with a Fortune 500 company that is experiencing a common problem: It is unable to publish content without having to move each piece through a complex chain of organizational approval processes and legal sign-offs.

To succeed in a real-time content world, content marketers need to be able to move fast when it comes to producing content — sometimes even within minutes to stay current and ahead of the competition.

Solution: Before you start executing on your content marketing strategy, create a “rules” document that both content team members and your legal and compliance teams agree to. Keep in mind that legal/compliance departments are paid to overreact to any potential liabilities that may result from content, so the way to put them at ease is to clearly define, in advance, what your content/social team will and will not do with the company’s publicly available content.

Problem #5: You have big plans, but few resources

I hear it all the time: “We don’t have the resources to do content marketing ‘right.’ 

Regardless of the fact that this comment is the worst of all possible excuses, organizations always feel like the only available options are to create every piece of their content themselves (or with their agencies), or not create content at all. This is a huge misconception!

Solution: Co-creation, or what Andrew Davis calls Brandscaping. The idea is this: Find noncompetitive companies that are also targeting the same customers as you, and work together to develop compelling stories (here’s an example). CMI has done this with Jay Baer’s “Convince & Convert,” as well as through our partnerships with Eloqua & PR Newswire.

If you are an HVAC company, partner with a plumber. If you are a CPG company, partner with a grocer. Find a combination that works best for your business. An added bonus of this strategy is that both partners can leverage each other’s databases to distribute the content to new networks of consumers. Now that’s a solution that I would give two thumbs up to!

Joe Pulizzi’s latest book, “Epic Content Marketing,” will be released in September 2013. Preorder it now on 

Cover image via Bigstock