You create content, publish it, and then sit back to wait for a stampede of traffic, leads and sales. It never comes. A few months (or weeks) later, you give up.
If this is your experience with content marketing, you’re guilty of repeating one or more of the same content marketing mistakes that trip up other businesses. What mistakes, you ask? Here are five of the most common missteps that doom so many businesses to content marketing failure.

Mistake #1: You Fail to Establish Specific Content Marketing Goals

What are your content marketing goals? If your answer goes something like: “Uhh… more sales?” your chances of success are highly unlikely before you have even begun.

Many businesses fail at content marketing because they don’t have clearly defined goals or a timed plan of action. This is one of the biggest content marketing mistakes you can make. Like all long-term marketing initiatives, success depends upon a well-planned out strategy that establishes clear goals as well as a solid execution plan for achieving them.

Never create content for content’s sake; create content to achieve specific goals and objectives. Goals give your content marketing purpose and direction.

Mistake #2: You Don’t Know Your Audience

If you do not know or understand your target customer, your content will fail. Your messaging may not reach the right audience or resonate with them because you don’t know who or where they are. If you only have a surface-level understanding of your ideal customer, your content marketing efforts (and resources) will be aimed at an unnecessarily broad audience segment.

Creating compelling content marketing takes a deep understanding of your current and prospective buyers. Getting to know your target customer at a deeper level enables you to craft the type of compelling, laser-targeted messaging that resonates with your audience.

Establish who your target customer is. One great way to get to do this is with buyer personas. HubSpot describes a buyer persona as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

Identifying buyer personas enables you to determine what your audience is searching for and tailor your content accordingly. You can craft key messages and Calls-To-Action that will effectively engage them at every stage of their buyer journey. With targeted messaging, you will attract higher-quality leads and, in turn, higher conversion rates.

Buyer personas also provide an invaluable benefit to your target audience: by answering their questions and addressing their problems, you help them find the information they need.

Mistake #3: You Forget the “Marketing” in “Content Marketing”

One of the biggest content marketing mistakes that businesses make is thinking that their work is done once they publish their content. Not so. This “build-it-and-they-will-come” mindset is the fastest way to sabotage your own content marketing success.

Creating great content isn’t enough. It is just one of two components of “content marketing.” The second is promoting it. In fact, promoting your content is just as fundamental to success as creating content.

As Neil Patel explains in his book The Advanced Content Marketing Guide, “The secret to content marketing boils down to three things: creating great content, making sure it gets found in search engines, and promoting it to your followers.”

Mistake #4: You Don’t Deliver Value

Great content marketing is based on an exchange of value: your audience is exchanging their time in return for valuable content that they can act on. You can deliver this value by determining the problems, issues and challenges they have, and then creating compelling content that addresses or resolves them.

Valuable, relevant content builds trust and increases engagement. It also drives thought leadership by distinguishing your brand intellectually from your competitors.

Here’s what Google has this to say about creating a valuable, information-rich site: “Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.”

Mistake #5: Your Content is About You and Only You

People don’t want to be sold, but they do want to buy. AdWeek explains that “people expect brands to talk with them rather than at them. They no longer expect brands to sell to them, but to entertain and inform them.”

Buyers really don’t care about you or your brand. They only care about getting their questions answered and their issues resolved. The brand that effectively and efficiently does so will likely win their business.

The content you create should not be all about your brand or company. Great content engages your customers and prospects without selling; rather, it helps your audience achieve their goals.

So drop the sales pitch. Instead, provide your customers with valuable content, and you will ultimately earn their business and their loyalty.

The first rule of good content marketing is to be educational, be helpful, provide actionable information, and above all – avoid making a sales pitch. If your content is helpful, people will want to work with the experts creating it.” (Ryan Carlson, The Nerdery)

What Next?

There you have it – five common content marketing mistakes most businesses make. The good news is that they are easily avoidable. Learn from your mistakes and use them as a compass to stay on the path to content marketing success.