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.
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?