With exception of the occasional social commentary piece, we spend a lot time and space on this blog discussing content success stories and offering tips for improving your online strategy. But how do you know if you’re following the wrong road?

Here are a few warning signs your content marketing efforts are going the way of Luca Brasi:

1. Tactical distraction

It’s so easy to sit in a brainstorming meeting and contribute ideas based on your strengths and specialties. The major pitfall, though, is when we focus only on what we know. The writer volunteers, “We can do a blog!” The designer says, “We should go with infographics!”

The resulting discussion gradually, inevitably, moves from strategy (How can we meet our goals?) to tactics (What do we know how to do?).

See where all those shortcuts get you?
See where all those shortcuts get you?

2. Short-circuited by shortcuts

Shortcuts and gimmicks are everywhere, and they’re generally available at whatever price-point you can afford—just like bottled water and Band-Aids. Be skeptical of agencies that rely on “secret sauces” to guarantee immediate content marketing success, whether it’s improved SERP rankings or increased social media brand awareness, without actually getting to know your business.

Search algorithms change. Today’s gray hats will one day be black. Successful content marketing is about more than quickly generated rankings and likes—it’s about consistent engagement and staying power.

3. Little or no internal advocacy

Successful content marketing campaigns need buy-in from folks in key leadership positions. If the team tasked with developing a company’s content marketing strategy isn’t given the resources, time and tools needed to execute that strategy, the effort will either fizzle out or never reach its full potential.

Leaders must be invested, interested and on-board with the strategic plan and provide the resources needed to execute it effectively. If necessary, they must be willing to challenge the status quo—this is our product, this is what we’ve always done, now I’m challenging you to think about things differently—in the organization.

terry-tate-tackle
Without a strategy, the Pain Train is sure to come!

4. Copying instead of creating

Mimicry may be flattering, but it isn’t productive. What works for company A, no matter how cool it is, may not work for you. Your strategists should look to others for content marketing inspiration—successes and failures—but encourage them to develop a plan and accompanying tactics that reflect your brand and speak to your audience. After all, as brilliant as it was, a Terry Tate-style video campaign doesn’t fit every brand.

5. Team buy-in

If your sales team sells in a bubble and the marketing team markets in a bubble, that’s a recipe for corporate dysfunction. Your content marketing team needs to involve stakeholders from key areas throughout the company. And it can’t just be anybody—you need folks who understand or are open to understanding the importance and company-wide benefits of collaboration.

One of the marketing team’s best resources for information about consumer reaction and behavior is the sales team because they’re the ones in the trenches. By the same token, the sales team benefits from the analyses, outreach efforts and collateral creation of their marketing colleagues.

6. Identity crisis

My colleague, Sara Fraser, blogged about brand identity recently. Here’s the nutshell: if you haven’t determined who your brand is and what it stands for, you’ve got a load of homework to do before you can even begin to roll out copious blog articles, apps, fun videos or clever, engaging tweets. Who are you? Figuring that out makes connecting with your target audience –remember those guys?—something that doesn’t feel like tossing horseshoes and hand-grenades.

7. Lack of…

Commitment? Interest? Execution? Knowledge? All of the above?

The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. Robert Burns gave us that gem, and it should be engraved on the tombstones of all orphaned and forgotten content marketing strategies. What caused your well-conceived plans to grow site traffic, increase social engagement and establish a network of brand advocates to wither and die like a raisin in the sun? Was it money? Was it timing? Was it a changing of the guard? Was it because Good, Old Bob from the analytics division forgot that ¾ of your traffic comes from mobile devices? Maybe. More likely, it was a lack of institutional commitment.

And isn’t that the thing? So much about content marketing is based on relationship building. When commitment starts to wane, so does the relationship and all those big plans you had for the future.

Joey Hall – VP, Content Marketing

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