content marketing failure

by Giuseppe Fratoni, {grow} Community Member

I am a content marketing failure.

Despite following what I thought were all the best practices, my last year in the content marketing trenches has been a complete fiasco.

Luckily, I failed big and fast. This is a good way to fail, if you have to, because you can do nothing but re-think your strategy from the ground up.

In other words, my failure turned out to be a blessing and today I wanted to share my “failure-blessing” with you.

The content marketing failure begins

About this time last year I started a blog, which was meant to be the hub of my content marketing strategy.

My battle plan was simple: create great content to build an audience, position myself as an expert in my industry, drive organic traffic to my website, generate leads and ultimately find new clients.

I wanted to get people (and Google) to notice me as soon as possible, so I chose one of the most effective strategies — I would interview influencers and experts in the marketing/business industry and ask them to share some of their best insights and tips with my audience. I would then publish the videos of the interviews both on YouTube and on my blog (along with the show notes) and also re-purpose the audio tracks as episodes of a podcast.

Over time I’d built personal connections with some of the most well-known influencers, so I invited them to be my guests on the show. I recorded a few interviews and started publishing them. I was sure my blog would become popular very quickly, essentially because I was giving a lot of value to my readers by providing free expert marketing advice in the Italian market.

I thought my blog would instantly receive a massive amount of traffic and I even considered upgrading my hosting plan in preparation for the wave.

Nothing like that happened.

My interviews were shared several times across social media, mainly on Twitter, but nobody seemed to notice me.

I became frustrated and depressed over this and stopped publishing after a few months.

I’ve had time to confront my failure and now I can be honest with myself (and you) about what went wrong, no matter how painful the process may be.

Here’s what I discovered.

1. I gave up too early

This was my biggest mistake.

I broke the most important rule of the game: consistency.

As Mark Schaefer has expressed through this blog, content marketing success takes time. I expected too much, too fast. When I didn’t get it, I lost my enthusiasm and threw in the towel.

The thing I hadn’t considered was that, in a world where we are inundated with information, even the best content needs time to get noticed, and a handful of interviews just weren’t enough to get traction.

I was also just starting out so certainly needed time and practice to improve my skills.

My early surrender meant that I didn’t give myself permission to get better, but more importantly I did a disservice to the small audience that was actually following me.

2. I didn’t promote my content effectively

After hitting the publish button, I shared it on social media, sent email broadcasts to my subscribers and asked friends to promote my interviews with their followers and that’s it.

But that wasn’t enough.

I also neglected to re-purpose my content as planned.

When I listened to my interviews after a while, I realized that, with minimum effort, I could have:

  • taken some of the best tips and strategies shared by my guests and written entire blog posts around each of them
  • created a cool presentation and published it on Slideshare
  • hired somebody to create a nice infographic for very little money

I believe my results would have been much better with a re-purposing strategy.

3. I focused on myself, not on my audience

I wanted to look smart so my main concern was “me.” Me looking cool, me sounding great, me having a very polished style and professional image, me coming across as a knowledgeable guy who has personal connections with world-class influencers.

I wasn’t focused on being of service to other people but on making them like, trust, and eventually follow me because of the way I presented myself.

I totally overlooked the principle that in order for me to build rapport with my audience I should have shown them that I was one of them, rather than doing my best to look more successful than I really am.

4. I was broadcasting rather than connecting

My interviews were good. Certainly not epic, maybe not great, but definitely worth checking out. My superstar guests shared great advice and provided actionable strategies and tactics to my audience.

All I wanted was to provide useful information, but I was so focused on that goal that I ended up not thinking enough of my audience. What was going on in their minds? What fears, frustrations, challenges, desires, and aspirations were they dealing with?

I was so concerned about creating “content” that I forgot to do solid “marketing.” I forgot to communicate with my readers and listeners about their needs.

Ultimately, content marketing is simply “marketing.” It’s a conversation with your prospects where you discuss the problems your products and services can resolve.

If you want to have a meaningful conversation with your potential clients, you have to connect with them on an emotional level and show that you care.

In Conclusion

There’s no doubt that I started off on the wrong foot with my content marketing strategy.

Unrealistic expectations, an unhealthy ambition of overnight success, and less than good execution led to failure. So to keep myself on track, I’ve printed out and hung on the wall a list of all the mistakes I made, and every time I create a new piece of content I check it against my list to make sure I don’t make them again.

Have you ever made one of those mistakes? What’s your biggest frustration with content marketing? What strategy or tip has worked well for you? I’d love to hear your story and your thoughts in the comments below!

Giuseppe-FratoniGiuseppe Fratoni is a digital marketer and business coach helping small business owners design and execute marketing strategies based on digital platforms and tools. When he’s not consulting, coaching, writing, or podcasting, he’s either with his family or playing guitar and singing with his rock band. You can find him at his blog and on Twitter.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Curt Jurvetson

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