How To Tell When Your Content Marketing Is Not Working

The verdict is in: content marketing is still king. Whether you’re sending emails, publishing blog posts, or running an array of social media accounts, inbound content marketing is the single best way to get interesting, meaningful, relevant content in front of people who actually want to see it.

But there’s a lot more to content marketing than just clicks, likes, and shares. Traffic metrics like page views, email subscribers, and total customers acquired look good on the surface, but they don’t really tell you anything about how your content is impacting your business. Content marketing, unlike the old ways of outbound, interruptive marketing, isn’t about reaching the most people — it’s about reaching the right people.

So how do you know when your content marketing isn’t working? Here are a few red flags to keep an eye out for.

You’re Reaching The Wrong People

Before you venture out on any marketing campaign you should have an idea of who your product or service is really for. Take some time to build an image of the perfect customer and try to find people who at least resemble that person.

We call that person a “buyer persona,” and we’ve talked about how useful they can be in the past. We generally talk about buyer personas in terms of who you should be directing your marketing efforts toward, but it’s just as important to know who not to talk to.

Let’s say you launch a new marketing campaign. You’re aggressive with paid social media, blog posts, high-quality landing pages, videos, infographics, and the whole nine yards. Everything is connected well, driving people toward a landing page that offers a free trial of your product. Lots of people see your marketing, come to your website, and convert on your call-to-action.

But only a few of them sign up after the trial ends. Why not? Because your net was too broad. There are plenty of people out there who are casually interested in your product, but for whatever reason — budget, location, industry, job title, or anything else — they’re not willing to invest their money in you.

It might feel good to get all those clicks, but marketing dollars that don’t bring in revenue aren’t helping your bottom line. Keep your focus narrowed to your buyer personas, while suppressing the people you don’t want to talk to, so that the people who see your marketing are the ones likely to purchase, and your ROI will benefit.

No One Is Sharing Your Content

Yes, we said that sharing is a vanity metric, and in a sense, that’s still true. Shares alone don’t make you any money. But sharing is still a useful metric to follow, for one simple reason: good content gets shared.

If people are clicking on your blogs or viewing your social posts, but not sharing them with their colleagues or friends, it means your content has failed to captivate them. They’re reading it, but it doesn’t stand out enough from the thousands of other pieces of content they’ve read to make them think, “other people need to see this.”

It’s possible that people aren’t sharing your content because you haven’t made it easy enough — the easier it is to share content without leaving the content to open another tap or another application, the better. That’s why virtually every website you encounter these days has easy sharing tools alongside every article, sometimes even ones that pop up as soon as you highlight a piece of text.

If you’re still not getting shares, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the content itself. Focus on quality, not quantity. If you only have the resources to publish four high-quality good blogs a month, then publish four blogs a month — but make them the best-produced, best-promoted blogs you can muster.

Your Leads Want Something You Don’t Have

Generating leads is a crucial component of any business plan — a good supply of leads in one end of the funnel means a steady supply of paying customers out the other end. But not all leads are the same.

Sometimes, a lead will ask about a service that you don’t offer. Maybe they want to implement your product on a scale it doesn’t support. Maybe they want a price point you can’t match, or a level of 24/7 service that you don’t have the staff to supply.

Once or twice is an anomaly — some clients are just more demanding than others — but if it’s happening consistently, your content might be the problem. Talk to your sales team about leads they haven’t converted and why. If anyone will have noticed this kind of disconnect between the products you offer and your leads’ expectations, it’s them.

If it keeps happening, you might need to rethink the way you create content. Something about the content you put out there is giving people an unrealistic impression of your company, and you’re wasting time and resources courting accounts that aren’t a fit. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but you have to be realistic — better a small number of delighted clients than a huge number of clients who are frustrated because you’ve overpromised.

In the end, content marketing is a constantly shifting paradigm because the people consuming it are constantly evolving, and you’ll need to be nimble to keep up. But if you’re simply not seeing the results you were expecting, this is a good place to start.

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