Why do companies struggle with content marketing programs?

Q: Why do companies struggle with content marketing programs and what are some of the most common mistakes?

Christa Kleinhans Tuttle, Founder and President, Launch Marketing: One of the key areas where I see companies struggling is when they get started, they are really focused on product data sheets and product information. This is especially true of early-stage startups. The better way to go about this is to put on the hat of your prospective buyer and answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Simply thinking through the answers to that question will help shape the content and move it in the right direction. 

The second thing that people struggle with is what kind of content to develop and how to find the information to support it. Resources can be found everywhere, but you have to look for them. Many companies have a product marketer in-house, or the founder/CEO is within reach—interview them. They’re going to be up to speed on what the market is, where it’s headed, what the key points are, and you can develop some great content from that interview. More advanced companies or large organizations can also turn to their Sales teams. Talk with them about key questions that are commonly asked. Speak with the Support team and uncover some of the challenges that are coming in or questions that are asked. With this approach, several ideas for content will develop. 

Dave Wolpert, Chief Content Officer, Sales Engine International: The first thing on my list is that companies put way too much emphasis on the product. Tech companies, in particular, like to talk about their features and their “speeds and their feeds.” There’s a time and place for that but it’s very rarely at the early stages of a sales cycle. Instead, they should be talking more about how they solve big problems in the industry.

The other big struggle I see companies have is the lack of a cohesive content strategy. I’ve seen quite a few marketing organizations where a marketing director or the VP of marketing has a mandate to create, say, one white paper per quarter. So they freelance out the work. But they haven’t given a lot of thought about what the goal of that paper is, or how that paper will be used in a campaign, or how they will define whether that paper or campaign was successful. They’re just focused on the deliverable. That’s not a content strategy, and it’s not good marketing, either. So giving a lot of thought up-front to the “why do we need to produce content, and what do we hope the content will do?” questions and then figuring out which deliverables will support those goals is the right way to do it. It’s amazing how many companies don’t go down this path.

Scott Thomas, Founder and President, Intelechy Group: Companies need to do a better job of understanding who their audience really is, or in other words, who are you targeting? I think that’s one of the biggest gaps that I see. For example, are you in a complex B2B environment? Do you have an IT buyer, or is it a marketing buyer? We like to talk about personas, and fundamentally that’s correct, but you also have to know who the actual buyer target is and what issues they have that you can solve—because your content should be informed by the audience’s needs.