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How to revive a failed content marketing strategy

How to revive a failed content marketing strategy

In our article “It’s never too late for a comeback victory”, we talked about how to fix a content marketing strategy that has fallen over. Today, we’re moving on to how to revive a content marketing strategy that hasn’t just fallen over, but has continued down about six feet into the ground.

So, how is the humble marketer to perform an act of proverbial necromancy and fix a failure in their company’s content strategy?

Like all things in this industry, it’s about examining the data, troubleshooting what went wrong, making changes and then repeating.

Insert lightning crash here. Let us begin…

Part one: Examining the failed content strategy

Cackling maniacally and flipping a big switch might seem like the fun parts of reviving something, but they are the climax to what is quite a lot of preliminary scientific work. Your content marketing strategy is the same – you can’t jump into the switch-flipping bit (or in content’s case, the content bit) without doing some groundwork.

If you’re going to turn this content frown upside down, first you have to examine the body.

How do I diagnose what made my marketing strategy fail?

Data is key here. Even failed content isn’t a failure if you got good data from it. After all, content marketing is all about examining data and learning from the insights. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business or large, with a successful strategy or not. Arguably there is no true failure if you get good data.

We’re going to ask you a couple of questions now about your previous strategy. Start writing down your answers so that when we get to part two of this article, you’ll be prepared to make changes.

  1. What were you expecting to happen that didn’t? When you started publishing content, what were you hoping would occur? More traffic to the website? More leads for your sales team? An increase in online purchases? Social media growth? It’s vital that you understand what you wanted to achieve, and what happened instead.
  2. How did your audience react to the content? Did people follow the actions you were expecting? Did they travel to your website, or click around when they got there? Did your content get positive reactions on social media, or none at all? Did people even see it? Interactions with customers via content will drive the success of your next strategy. A lack of interaction or the wrong type of interaction could be what made your last plan unsuccessful.

Part two: Troubleshooting techniques to make the next strategy successful

The following is a list of actions for you to follow that could make your next content strategy a success. They might not all be right, but at least one or two of them will be. That’s why you answered the questions above – to help isolate which switch is the right one to flip for your needs.

  1. Rethink your goals

Twenty-eight per cent of marketers either don’t have a content marketing plan or aren’t sure if they do, according to a Marketing Buddy report. A further 42 per cent have one but haven’t documented it.

This is an astounding figure considering how vital a strategy is to avoid content marketing failure. Every strategy must have set goals, objectives and metrics.

  • Goals: These are actions you want users to take on your website (buy now, request a demo, lead generation etc.).
  • Objective: These are the overall purpose of using content in the first place (more traffic, increase conversions, brand awareness, etc.).
  • Metrics: These are the means to measure goals and objectives (website traffic, conversion rates, social media engagement, etc.).

Key takeaway: If you haven’t got these, take no further steps. Plan out your goals, objectives and the metrics you need to measure success. Learn more on our page, “How to measure content marketing ROI”.

  1. Rethink your audience

Second only to strategy is audience. If you have any of the following problems, it could mean you’re targeting the wrong market:

  • Low social media engagement (note, engagement, not just reach).
  • High bounce rates on content.
  • High traffic, but few goals completed.

Audience reach can trick marketers into thinking they were successful, but the only true measure of content marketing success is the achievement of goals – getting ROI. If the wrong people are seeing your website, it could lead to high traffic but low everything else. To paraphrase a story from Castleford’s head of strategy, Trent Paul:

If a person walks into a restaurant with blacked-out windows and no signage, and discovered it was McDonald’s, would they eat there? Maybe, but maybe not. Now what if it was labelled “McDonald’s” very clearly – it’s far more likely that the people who walk in will want that product. Therefore, the restaurant’s conversion rates will increase dramatically.

Key takeaway: Identify who your ideal customers are, so all content can be tailored to those personas. Make it clear the content is for them, and that they will get value out of it. To learn more about this, you can read our guide on crafting quality user personas!

How to revive a failed content marketing strategy

  1. Provide better value

Content marketing these days is all about value – giving readers what they want. If you have any of the following problems, it could mean that your content isn’t perceived as worthwhile:

  • High traffic, but low time on page.
  • Low engagement with content (on your website or social media).
  • High bounce rates.

There are quite a few ways to craft valuable content. Let’s explore some of the most common:

  • Think about your audience: What do they need or want? What are their problems, their questions? By responding directly to the needs of your audience, you will inherently be providing greater value.
  • Educate, don’t sell: Use salesy content strategically, not commonly. Most content is about education – readers should learn something new from each piece of content, and it shouldn’t be constantly interrupted by a sales pitch. It’s OK to have CTAs in your work, or to occasionally mention your products, but it should feel natural, not obvious.
  • Think about the formatting: Nobody wants to read a poorly formatted wall of text. It’s intimidating and hard to skim-read. Break up your article with subheadings, bullet points and smaller paragraphs (like this article!). Then break it up further with images, social embeds and videos to add more visual appeal and further information. This is better for SEO, too, not just your user.

Key takeaway: Pretend nobody wants to visit your website or read your content – you have to make them want to. That means providing value and making the content easy and appealing to read.

  1. Differentiate yourself from competitors

Everybody’s heard of Dr. Frankenstein, but has anyone heard of Dr. Smith, the mad scientist next door who did the same thing a week later? No, they haven’t (maybe because we made him up, but you get the point).

If your competitors are getting the results that you want for your site, it could be because you haven’t successfully differentiated yourself from them. While it’s OK to have a content strategy that is similar to your competitors, you can’t copy them and hope for the same results (especially if they are bigger than you).

Here’s a checklist to help ensure you’re gaining the competitive advantage:

  1. Isolate your unique selling point (USP). What makes your brand different to theirs, and how can you promote that?
  2. What do you like about your competitors’ websites that you could do better?
  3. What do you dislike that you can avoid?

What are your competitors not doing, but that you think your mutual audience will appreciate (i.e. they have blog posts but not videos, and your audience would love video content)?

  1. Promote your content smarter

Organic search can get you good traffic over a long period of time, but it’s not an easy way to achieve your goals – nor is it particularly fast. A smart promotion strategy in conjunction with organic SEO, however, is a good way to get the best of both worlds.

If the following is you, chances are you’re not promoting your content well enough:

  • Low traffic to your website or specific marketing campaigns.
  • Low social media reach.

Investing in social media ads or Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is a good way to get a quick burst of traffic to critical pieces of content. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Thanks to most platforms’ intricate audience targeting parameters, you can speak to the right audience and funnel your expenditure to the most effective place.

Key takeaway: Invest in paid advertising on Google Ads or your customers’ preferred social networks to increase your reach.

In conclusion

An unsuccessful marketing strategy can be easily brought back to life by examining the data and making strategic changes. When your strategy is targeted, valuable and promoted, you’ll more than likely hear that heartbeat.

Cue screaming: “IT’S ALIIIIVE!”

On a final note: Don’t be afraid to test things. A/B testing – that is, comparing two alternatives of one thing against each other to see which is more successful – is common practice in content marketing. If you aren’t sure about, say, how to format your next Facebook ad, create two and see which one does better.

Playing around is an excellent way to increase the chances of success.

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Duncan Pacey
Duncan Pacey About the author

Duncan has hands-on experience developing and rolling out many of our bespoke search-optimised writing products, making him the perfect Castleford blogger. When he’s not writing about SEO, lead gen, and the art of entertaining people and Google simultaneously, he crafts prose for clients in hospitality, construction and building, and the software as a service field. Current clients include SAS, Altus, Epson - and of course the Castleford website.

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