These 5 Common Marketing Mistakes Can Sink a Small Business

As we hustle to stay on top of marketing trends--and engage audiences in innovative ways--its easy to get tripped up by some very simple stuff. Read this before you dive into your next initiative.

It happens: with multiple departments to oversee, deadlines piling up, and the urge to just get. it. done. small business owners may decide to act on marketing ideas–maybe even good ones!–without a comprehensive plan in place first.

As it turns out, though, throwing up blogs, videos, podcasts, and social posts without creating a strategy around them first is the number one mistake brands make with their content marketing, according to Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute.

There are plenty of other missteps well-intentioned brands can make as they aim to engage audiences. Watch out for these four all-too-common blunders.

Writing for Search Engines

We’ve explored what Google wants, but Rose cautions that unlike real people (your customers!) search engines don’t pay the rent.

“I’ve seen companies who are amazing at getting to the front page of Google, but then once you click through – there’s nothing else there beyond the answer to the question the user asked,” Rose says.

The copy that you create has to serve double duty–both quenching the reader’s curiosity and motivating them to learn more by moving deeper within your brand’s website.

Expecting an Immediate Payoff

At the content marketing agency I co-founded, Masthead Media, I often encounter marketing managers who are eager to see their content investment yield near-instant results…or, perform at least as quickly as a Facebook ad. Because most content needs time to be discovered organically and built momentum, an ultra-fast ROI rarely happens.

“Many of the businesses who struggle simply see content marketing as a replacement for traditional advertising, or other sales collateral production,” says Rose. “If the business expects content to provide the same value, in the same timeframe, as an ad, then there will be nothing but disappointment.”

Instead, you should look to content as a long-term, rather than a campaign-based investment. By creating high-quality content, you’re actually investing in the relationship you have with your audiences–and the one they have with you. Over a period of months, and even years (not days!) that enhanced relationship can yield exponential value.

I recommend mapping out short-term and long-term KPIs for your content–not just your revenue, but metrics that demonstrate that you’re building trust with the audiences you care about. Total and returning traffic, traffic from search, time on site, pages per session, and click-through rates can all indicate if your content is gaining traction–and enhancing your relationship–with audiences. And remember, content can have an endless shelf life if you know how to use it.

Not Spending Enough on Content

While CMI research indicates that most organizations are spending between 10 percent and 30 percent of their overall marketing budget on content marketing, the brands that are successful are spending, on average, 40 percent. So if your content budget is still just whatever’s leftover after funds for traditional marketing channels has been earmarked, you’re really creating an uphill climb to results.

Giving up on Video

This is where expecting immediate results and not making the investment collide.

Sporadically putting up videos here and there and expecting impressive results does not a video strategy make. And looking at video as the uber-expensive medium it once was is a mistake, too.  “The costs continue to come down in terms of quality and production,” says Rose.

On the flip side, beware of putting all of your eggs in the video basket. “Those that are good at video will create a swell in the marketplace,” says Rose. “For others, the noise will become so loud, that you’ll see a bit of a backlash to it.”

To set yourself apart, consider tapping microinfluencers who excel at video content creation to supplement your video strategy. The built-in distribution can help kickstart a robust video presence.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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