Content Marketing: 5 Huge Mistakes Marketers are Making

Posted in Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Marketing by Frank Cowell

You may or may not agree with me, but here goes…

When it comes to content marketing, I find that many marketers are still having trouble finding the payoff. I mean, they’re fully bought-in, doing lots of “stuff,” but they’re not getting desired results. As a result, there are some big questions that they’re grappling with:

  • Where’s the engagement?
  • Where’s the traffic?
  • Where are the leads?

To top it off, the C-whatever-O is turning up the heat — they, too, want to know what the hell is going on. I mean, this whole “content marketing thing” was supposed to be awesome at driving more engagement, traffic, and leads, right? So, what gives?!

This is a very common scenario with a lot of the organizations that I consult with, and it got me thinking about the common mistakes that lead to this frustration. I’d like to share my take on these “pitfalls” so that you might save yourself some angst as you steer your content marketing program. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a list of the five biggest mistakes marketers are making when it comes to content marketing.

5 Huge Mistakes Marketers are Making When it Comes to Content Marketing


I get it. You're doing lots of "stuff" — you're blogging, tweeting, emailing, reading, studying, testing... But, here's the thing:

It's not about how much stuff you're putting out, it's about having a strategy for how it all works together.

While this may sound obvious, most marketers have never been shown exactly how to link it all together in a way that systematically turns strangers into visitors, visitors into leads, and leads into customers. Let's fix that...

If you've read any of my other articles, you'll know that I subscribe to an inbound marketing philosophy when it comes to content marketing. The big idea with inbound marketing is that you design the "funnel" that's optimized for your organization as a framework first (more on this in a second), then you develop the content strategy around that. In this funnel, each layer's content has a different purpose that's based on the Buyer's Journey.

What is the Buyer's Journey?

Simply put, it's the context of a buyer.

The Buyer's Journey is made up of three stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision

At the Awareness stage, buyers are in between not fully realizing they have a problem, and knowing exactly what their problem is. Think of this as "defining the problem."

At the Consideration stage, buyers are in between not fully understanding their options for solving their problem, and knowing exactly the option they are going to choose to solve their problem. Think of this as "choosing the path."

At the Decision stage, buyers are in between not fully knowing who can provide the solution to their problem, and knowing exactly who they want to provide the solution to their problem. Think of this as "choosing the provider."

Here's the big "a-ha!": each of these stages requires different types of content! And, it's your job as a content marketer to know what this content is and provide to them in the right place at the right time.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Sample of Buyer's Journey

Of course, this means that you must have intimate knowledge of your ideal buyers — having documented Buyer Personas is critical. Buyer Personas help you understand who your buyers are, what situation they're in, what drives them, what frustrates them, etc.

Map this for each Buyer Persona and you have a large chunk of your content strategy complete!If you haven't yet defined Buyer Personas for your organization, you should  stop So, back to this idea of a "funnel"...

Now that you have your content strategy in hand, it's time to place your various content assets throughout your funnel:

Sample Content Marketing Funnel

While this topic of "funnels" could take up a long series of articles, let's generalize it this way for you:

  1. Place Awareness content near the top of the funnel.
    Mostly, this type of content will live in and around your blog. For pieces that have more substance than a blog article, these could be good candidates for landing pages where you "gate" the asset, your first step in "converting" visitors into leads, drawing them into your funnel.
  2. Place Consideration content near the top and middle of the funnel.
    Again, in and around your blog, but now you want to leverage this content in your follow-up email nurturing once leads are in your funnel. Some Consideration content can also be "merchandised" throughout the pages of your website that directly talk about you and your offering.
  3. Place Decision content deep in the funnel.
    Your nurturing strategy should, eventually, lead people to this content as a way of continuing to educate, which showcases your expertise and differentiation. Decision content can, and should, be "merchandised" throughout the pages of your website that directly talk about you and your offering.

Related: Be sure to grab your free copy of the Inbound Marketing Checklist  which will help you transform your content marketing with an inbound marketing  approach.2. NO MISSION

One of my biggest gripes about how most organizations are approaching "content marketing": their WHY is all wrong. Most organizations jump in because they hear it's a good way to "get our name in front of prospects." While this is certainly a very nice effect of content marketing, it's the wrong mindset. This mindset is no different than an advertising mindset, or what I call a "promotion mindset." That is, your mission behind the effort is to promote, to brag.

Content marketing doesn't work that way. In fact, when it's done that way, it sucks. It sucks because nobody needs more shallow content to read — the Internet's full of that stuff. What people really need is content that enriches their situation in some meaningful way. That's why you must have an "enrichment mindset" when it comes to content marketing.

An "enrichment mindset" is a service mindset. It's a mindset that asks, "If we weren't interested in extracting a dollar from our target audience and, instead, we woke up everyday to serve our target audience, what kind of content, tools, and resources would we develop?"

So, before you write one more article... before you put up one more landing page... before you send out one more email... and before you send out one more tweet... ask yourself that question.

Once you start thinking this way, formalize this passion into a "mission statement" — articulate WHY your content marketing program exists in context of THEM, not you.


As you can probably tell by now, this is a trickle-down situation. That is, no STRATEGY and no MISSION means you, likely, have no FOCUS! And a lack of focus results in content that's "all over the board."

As a result, most organizations with a lack of focus suffer from two major things:

Trying to connect with too many Buyer Personas — you know the saying, "When you try to appeal to everybody, you appeal to nobody." Ask this of yourself every time you think about targeting more Buyer Personas in your content marketing program:

Adding this Buyer Persona will require more time, money, and resources — do I have all three of these on a go-forward basis to properly serve this Buyer Persona?

If the answer is "no," then don't do it.

Unsure about what kind of content to produce — the content ends up being opinion-based "thought leadership" because that's all they've heard ("you want to be seen as a 'thought leader'."). Some "thought leadership" is fine, but most of the content in a content marketing program should provide real "takeaway value." Or, worse yet, there's content that's "promotional" in nature living in the "blog" — press releases, product announcements, etc. I'm not suggesting that this kind of content cannot live on your website, but it shouldn't live in your blog, the place that's supposed to be about giving VALUE to your readers.

Continuing this trickle-down effect, many have...


If your blog has one post per quarter or you're not on a regular schedule, you're not serious about content marketing. Success in content marketing is just like anything else in life — it's about small, consistent habits that drive results, which means you have to be on a regular schedule of producing content, promoting content, nurturing leads, and engaging on social media.

It's a lot of work. Nobody said it was easy.


Finally, the fifth mistake I often see is a lack of patience. But as I've just pointed out, it's no wonder many are not seeing results quicker based on these big mistakes. Hell, even when you do it right, it takes a solid year+ to really dial-in your program. This isn't get-rich-quick kind of stuff, guys.

Put on your overalls, roll up your sleeves, and let's get to work enriching the lives of others.

Check this out... here's what happens when you stick to a plan. This graph shows our website traffic in our first year of converting from "general content marketing" to a strategic program (inbound marketing!). You'll notice that in just 12 months, our overall traffic has doubled.

Traffic During First Year of Inbound Marketing

You'll also notice two other things:

1. The increase was gradual — we're not doubling traffic overnight, which is not what you're looking for in a program. What you're after is consistent, steady growth. This game is more Tony Gwynn than Barry Bonds.

2. There were times when traffic dipped — yep, that's right... sometimes no matter how much TLC is given to the effort, performance could soften in a given month for a wide range of reasons. The key is to remain steadfast, constantly optimize the program, and stick to your mission.

And I get it — there's a lot to tackle. But if you avoid these mistakes and stay true to your enrichment mindset, it will bear fruit... which makes for a good analogy: think of all of the things a farmer has to do to reach "success"... prepare the land, plant the seeds, water the ground, ward off pests, protect against bad weather... there's some sort of nurturing to do almost every day. But one day, after all of that hard work, fruit appears. And with a little more nurturing, it will soon be time to harvest. You don't "make" fruit. Fruit is a byproduct of setting up the right environment and nurturing it.

Do you have that kind of patience?

If so, put on your overalls, roll up your sleeves, and let's get to work enriching the lives of others.

About Frank Cowell

Frank Cowell is President at Elevator, a digital brand strategy agency based in the San Diego, California area. He works regularly with CEOs, CMOs, and VPs of Marketing who are looking to create amazing brand experiences while driving inbound leads. A self-taught programmer with a deep understanding of technology, Frank enjoys a unique blend of brand development and marketing savvy that enables him to offer fresh perspectives on often-complex marketing concepts that he distills into actionable, easy-to-understand language. An energetic and entertaining speaker, Frank presents regularly to regional and national organizations on topics related to branding and digital marketing.
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