Overcoming the 3 Most Common Content Marketing Challenges
January 20, 2020 | by Timothy Wier
Most companies are engaging in some kind of content marketing.
However, according to most marketers, there’s a significant gap between how they are currently performing and how they want to perform.
Consider the following stats from OptinMonster:
- 65 percent find it a challenge to produce engaging content
- 60 percent say they can’t product content consistently
- 62 percent don’t know how to measure the ROI of their campaigns
I’m not surprised by these stats. But it has nothing to do with the ability and expertise of the marketers.
It’s simply the fact that the three challenges mentioned above are three of the most difficult aspects of content marketing in general.
Let’s think about what would happen if you could overcome these three specific challenges:
- You would produce content that engages, entertains, educates and, yes, excites your audience.
- You would have a process for regularly producing content, keeping your brand in front of your audience, increasing the number of lead touch points, and building up a reputation that will become more authoritative and positive over time.
- You would always know how much return you’re getting from your campaigns, thus giving you the power to maximize your marketing dollars.
By overcoming these challenges, any content marketer can achieve tangible results for their organization.
This post will walk through how I overcome these challenges both for my own marketing and on behalf of clients. Hopefully, they give you an idea of how we provide high-quality content here at FEARLESS.
Plus, you may get some ideas for your own content marketing operation as well.
Challenge #1: Inability to produce engaging content
What makes a piece of content “engaging”? Frankly, I don’t think there’s a clear consensus on what this team means — it’s more of a catch-all phrase.
Does it mean the content is exciting to read?
Or does it mean that it drives a particular action from the reader?
Or maybe it means that the content is provocative, perhaps controversial?
Engaging content can be all of those things for sure. But there’s a simple yet important step that I take to ensure a piece of content is truly engaging to the target audience.
(Note: If you’ve read any of my content before, this isn’t going to come as a surprise.)
To produce the most engaging content possible, it’s important to select topics that answer real-life customer questions.
Here are a few practical ways to come up with good, engaging topics that an audience is actually going to be interested in reading:
- Listen for key customer questions. Reading sales emails, sitting in on customer service and sales calls, scrolling through social media posts — these are all great ways to mine customer interactions for content topics.
- Talk to your key subject matter experts. Whether these are your founders, customer service reps, or even salespeople — anyone who directly interacts with customers will be able to provide insights on the topics that may be of interest to them.
- Interview loyal customers. One sure-fire way to find out is to just ask. If you have a great relationship with a customer, consider setting up an informal interview and just ask them what they would be interested in learning about.
Carefully choosing a topic is a good first step. But there’s an over-abundance of content on the internet. Everyone has written something about pretty much everything.
What distinguishes great content from good content is saying something that hasn’t been said before.
When I work with clients, we do this through subject matter expert (SME) interviews, where I interview the person at the company with the background and experience to address the topic in their own way.
That way, we’re not regurgitating the same information. Rather, we’re coming up with fresh new perspectives drawn from authentic experience and expertise.
Challenge #2: Struggling to produce content consistently
When an organization wants to consistently produce content, one of the tools they use is a content vendor — a freelancer or an agency.
This begs the question: how does a vendor consistently produce content at scale, especially when they’re balancing a portfolio of clients?
I can’t speak for every single content writer out there. But I’ll provide a few of the tactics I use.
The first step is to put together a plan and a content calendar.
A content plan not only provides accountability for everyone, but it establishes clear, upfront expectations so everyone’s on the same page. Since I charge per piece of content through FEARLESS, this stage is automatically part of our contractual process.
The second, and this is the one that’s most overlooked, is by working ahead on the “homework” aspects of content marketing:
- Selecting highly relevant topics
- Interviewing subject matter experts to gather the “substance” of the post
- Writing an outline and thinking through how to organize the various arguments before putting pen to paper
- Researching the topic to find relevant, high-quality sources to link to throughout the post for further context
Once I’ve done these steps, writing the piece takes a fraction of the time than if I had just started with a blank page.
And the great thing is that I can do all of these steps “assembly-line” style. A single subject matter expert interview could cover 3-4 topics. I could research backlinks for 4-6 articles in one sitting.
Learning how to scale the “homework” process cuts down on actual writing time, which makes it much easier to produce high-quality content.
The only way to do this is by having a calendar or content strategy that establishes what you’re going to publish weeks, even months in advance.
One other thing to consider here is to be reasonable in how much content you can produce. If you’re creating your own content, this is a time issue. If you’re outsourcing, then it’s a monetary cost.
In either case, there’s a limit to how much you can produce. So you need to be cognizant of that when setting your expectations.
I once posted on Twitter something I’ve said plenty of times before: you should create content as frequently as possible. One person responded with a criticism, implying that I was courting burnout with that statement.
But the part of that phrase people tend to ignore is “as possible.” You should maximize the time, finances, and energy you have available to create content, while realizing that there’s still a limit to how much you can do.
This isn’t a work ethic issue. This is a physical reality issue.
When you have clear expectations for how much you can produce and a process for doing so at scale, creating consistent content is simple, as long as you and your content writer roll up your sleeves and get it done.
Challenge #3: Not knowing how to measure the ROI of campaigns
You aren’t creating all this content for your health.
The point of any marketing activity is to drive results for your business. Content is no exception.
And in this era of digital marketing where there’s a datapoint for nearly every single kind of online activity, there’s absolutely no reason not to track your content performance.
When I work with clients, how we track their content performance depends on their plan with us. Sometimes, they set up their own tracking systems and fill out a form sharing how each piece has performed to inform future pieces of content. On some of our plans, we do this on their behalf.
If you’re setting up your own tracking, here are a few tips to follow:
- Set up Google Analytics as soon as possible.
- Use UTM link extensions on everything (here’s a link that shows you how to do that).
- Remember to give it time so you have statistically significant insights.
Generally speaking, there are three things to look at when it comes to tracking content performance.
The first thing I look at is audience engagement. This is more of a litmus test than anything else. If your content isn’t bringing in an audience — either through social media, search engines, or backlinks — then it’s not going to drive the rest of your metrics.
There’s more to look at here than just pageviews, as important as that is. The reason being that you could have a thousand pageviews, but if they aren’t people who are engaged and interested in your content — leading indicators of a good-fit customer — then you’re not attracting an audience that’s going to move your business forward.
So look at your metrics and see how your audience is behaving. Do they stay on the page for more than a few seconds (time on page)? That’s an indicator that they’re actively reading the content, not just skimming it.
Do they leave the page after reading it (exit rate)? This could be an indicator that your content has answered their question, but it’s not enticing them to take a next step.
Do they view the one page and then immediately leave (bounce rate)? This is an indicator that your content is attracting a new audience, but for some reason you aren’t drawing people who have a deeper interest in the topic or in what your business does.
Once you know if you’re attracting an audience, you can go a little deeper than that. Don’t just look at how many people you’re attracting, but which channel they’re coming from.
For example, if you’re bringing in a lot of people from LinkedIn and you’re a B2C company, that could be a sign that your audience, although they’re consumers purchasing on their own behalf, represent professionals.
That’s important to understand how your frame your content.
And the final thing to look at is how your content is impacting your long-term KPIs. Some of these are more subjective than others, but they are nonetheless important questions to ask:
- Are you growing your website authority? Are your search engine rankings increasing?
- Are you growing your social media presence? Are more of your ideal customers interacting with your content on social?
- Does your inbound traffic convert into leads? Do those leads convert into customers?
When tracking KPIs, one of the best things you can do is stay patient. These things don’t change overnight.
While there are active steps you can take to speed up your content ROI, there will still be a time lag from when you start to when you start to see significant results.
But when you’re tracking your metrics and looking at trends over time, you can at least see if you’re going in the right direction. That’s what I like to see with new clients.
If we can make the case that this is working, we can continue to invest until the return reaches its maximum potential. And when it happens, it’s going to be freakin’ fantastic!