Con­tent mar­ket­ing may seem like a rel­a­tive­ly new con­cept. In real­i­ty, it’s been employed for hun­dreds of years. Sto­ry­telling is one of the old­est forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion — Ben­jamin Franklin pub­lished Poor Richard’s Almanack annu­al­ly to help pro­mote his print­ing busi­ness, for exam­ple.

Today, con­tent mar­ket­ing is absolute­ly essen­tial if you want to dri­ve sales. Not only is it effec­tive at pro­mot­ing your busi­ness, but it also gen­er­ates more than three times as many leads as out­bound mar­ket­ing while cost­ing 62% less. It rakes in con­ver­sion rates six times high­er than oth­er meth­ods. Con­tent mar­ket­ing is also one of the best ways to build trust, engage your audi­ence, and improve your cus­tomer ser­vice.

But if you tru­ly want to dri­ve sales via con­tent mar­ket­ing, you have to avoid these mis­takes:

1. Throwing spaghetti at the wall

To suc­cess­ful­ly increase sales using con­tent mar­ket­ing, don’t adopt a “see what sticks” method. This is when you need to devel­op con­tent that you believe your audi­ence will be inter­est­ed in con­sum­ing. It’s kind of like cook­ing for a large group of peo­ple. You might grill a mean steak, but if there are veg­e­tar­i­ans or veg­ans at your func­tion, they can’t enjoy the meal you’ve pre­pared.

An effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy is one in which you’ve tak­en the time to get to know your audi­ence by dig­ging into data and devel­op­ing client per­sonas before cre­at­ing a con­tent cal­en­dar. It’s putting your­self in their shoes and deliv­er­ing the right con­tent at the right time via the right chan­nel.

Before throw­ing some sir­loins on the grill, under­stand your audience’s wants, needs, inter­ests, and moti­va­tions. If you know that a major­i­ty of your din­ner guests are veg­e­tar­i­an, ditch your steaks for a meat­less option. Remem­ber: It’s about them, not you.

2. Being too “salesy”

Con­tent mar­ket­ing is not the same as sales pro­pa­gan­da. It’s shar­ing help­ful infor­ma­tion that can answer your audi­ence mem­bers’ ques­tions or solve com­mon prob­lems they’re fac­ing.

For exam­ple, if you need­ed to find a veg­gie burg­er recipe, it wouldn’t be unex­pect­ed to find one on a web­site for a com­pa­ny that sold grills or cook­ing uten­sils. But what if that site only pushed its prod­ucts with­out actu­al­ly giv­ing you step-by-step instruc­tions? You’d prob­a­bly look for anoth­er recipe that pro­vid­ed you with the infor­ma­tion you need, not one that sim­ply pushed a prod­uct.

Once you’ve built up a con­tent library with use­ful infor­ma­tion, take a look at how you might orga­nize it to make it more use­ful for your audi­ence. Nurx, for exam­ple, has tak­en the typ­i­cal blog and FAQ to the next lev­el by turn­ing their con­tent into a search­able knowl­edge cen­ter for top­ics relat­ed to sex­u­al health and rela­tion­ships.

3. Skimping on quality and promotion

When it comes to the amount of con­tent you cre­ate, there’s a del­i­cate bal­ance. Pub­lish­ing an annu­al blog post isn’t going to help pro­mote your prod­uct or ser­vice. Con­verse­ly, pub­lish­ing five dai­ly arti­cles that are sub­par, unin­for­ma­tive, and full of errors won’t be effec­tive, either. Instead, take the time to cre­ate com­pelling con­tent — even if it’s just week­ly. It’s always bet­ter to focus on quan­ti­ty over qual­i­ty.

Addi­tion­al­ly, when you cre­ate an amaz­ing piece of con­tent, peo­ple can use it as a ref­er­ence for years to come. That ini­tial invest­ment will even­tu­al­ly pay for itself. To get the most out of that high-per­form­ing piece of con­tent, you could also repur­pose it into some­thing like an info­graph­ic or a chap­ter in an e‑book.

Anoth­er bonus of cre­at­ing high-qual­i­ty con­tent is that it’s more like­ly to be shared by oth­ers. If some­one found your con­tent insight­ful and help­ful, he’ll be more inclined to pass it along to some­one else in the same sit­u­a­tion. How­ev­er, that doesn’t mean you should skimp on pro­mot­ing your con­tent. Unlike the Field of Dreams, they won’t always come just because you built it.

Skimping on quality and promotion

4. Failing to include a CTA

A call to action has one sim­ple goal: guid­ing your audi­ence mem­bers to do what you want them to do next. Whether it’s a blog post, a social media update, or an email, always include a rel­e­vant CTA that stands out so your audi­ence mem­bers take the next step.

Whether it’s some­thing as sim­ple as “Add to Cart” or “Try for Free for 30 Days,” a strong CTA moti­vates peo­ple to move for­ward. There’s no ques­tion of how they can apply what you’ve shared.

5. Leaving out testimonials

User-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, like reviews and tes­ti­mo­ni­als, should nev­er be tak­en for grant­ed. Not only does this help cre­ate more con­tent with­out increas­ing your out­put, but it also helps build trust. In fact, accord­ing to G2 and Heinz Mar­ket­ing, 92% of B2B buy­ers are more like­ly to pur­chase after read­ing a trust­ed review.

More­over, tes­ti­mo­ni­als can bet­ter explain how your prod­uct or ser­vice works, as well as its ben­e­fits. Tes­ti­mo­ni­als can also show how you’re dif­fer­ent from your com­peti­tors and back up the claims you’ve made in pre­vi­ous pieces of con­tent. Third-par­ty ver­i­fi­ca­tion isn’t a gift to take light­ly.

6. Not understanding the four steps of the buying cycle

There are four steps of the buy­ing cycle: aware­ness, research, con­sid­er­a­tion, and pur­chase. The first is estab­lish­ing aware­ness when the cus­tomer doesn’t real­ize that there’s a solu­tion to her prob­lem. Research is when the per­son is aware that a solu­tion exists and edu­cates her­self. The third step is con­sid­er­a­tion, which involves com­par­ing var­i­ous prod­ucts and ser­vices. Final­ly, buy­ing involves the cus­tomer mak­ing the deci­sion to invest in your solu­tion.

As a con­tent mar­keter, you can’t just be aware of this cycle; you also have to cre­ate con­tent for each part of the sales fun­nel. For exam­ple, edu­ca­tion­al con­tent is per­fect for aware­ness. But con­tent like case stud­ies can nur­ture leads in the infor­ma­tion-gath­er­ing stage to the next part of the cycle. Your con­tent can’t just address your ide­al cus­tomer — it also has to address your ide­al customer’s stage in the fun­nel.

7. Becoming complacent  

Even if you’ve devel­oped an effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, you still need to review its per­for­mance to see how your efforts are pay­ing off. If some­thing isn’t work­ing as well as you’d hoped, it’s time to change course and focus on what’s actu­al­ly increas­ing leads and con­ver­sions.

Addi­tion­al­ly, you also need to stay updat­ed on the lat­est news and trends. Remem­ber, con­sumer tastes change; tech­nol­o­gy is evolv­ing rapid­ly. Your con­tent won’t res­onate if you’re using out­dat­ed tac­tics and pub­lish­ing it on plat­forms that are hard­ly vis­it­ed. Rel­e­vance is essen­tial for both your con­tent and your meth­ods.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing is one of the most effec­tive ways to pro­mote your busi­ness, but only if you avoid these mis­takes. If you’re not care­ful, all your hard work can result in damp­ened sales. That kind of out­come can make even the most robust strat­e­gy feel like a sog­gy waste of time.

If you’ve suc­cess­ful­ly used con­tent mar­ket­ing to boost sales, what mis­takes did you avoid?

SOURCE: Forbes