Content Intelligence Blog

4 min read

Content Marketing Fails: Bowing to the Sales Gods

Oct 30, 2019 12:14:32 PM

We all make mistakes. I wish I could say I didn’t, but that would be a lie and I like to pride myself on putting into practice the good ole’ “honesty is the best policy” principle.

Despite the pain that often accompanies admitting making a mistake, there is a silver lining. You know what I’m talking about - that valuable lesson learned so we don’t make the same mistake again.

We just kicked off a new series called Content Marketing Fails. As you may have guessed, this series explores the most common mistakes made by marketers and, more importantly, what we can learn from these mistakes so we can improve our content strategy.

If you haven’t watched the very first episode, make sure to do so before reading on.

Marketing Fails Vlog Episode 1 Final


Briefly, let’s summarize what we saw in the video and then pick up where we left off.

In the video, we highlight content marketing fail numero uno - creating content like you belong to the arts and crafts department.

Do you find yourself buried in creating content based on internal requests? Are you getting content out the door just to get content out the door? Are you failing to take into account your personas or the customer journey when planning content?

If yes, then you’re creating content like you’re making a collage in 1st grade art class. Your content is definitely a singular piece of art, but there is no rhyme or reason as to why you’re pasting popsicle sticks next to cotton balls.

Don’t fret! You’re not alone. In a recent CMI research study sponsored by Vennli, nearly half of content marketers said that they were primarily “project-focused.” They create content based on internal requests - just like we saw in the video for Steve. In comparison, only 14% were taking a more strategic approach and creating content for a specific stage of the buyer’s journey.

When you take a project-focused approach, there is no guarantee your content will be effective. You are very likely throwing time and money out the door. In the video, we saw that Steve didn’t even end up sharing the new custom content with his prospective client because he completely misinterpreted their needs.

The Solution

First thing, you should stop doing things solely because someone else asked for it and ensure that your content is always tied back to the overarching business objective.

Instead, when Steve approaches you, you can put on your detective hat and ask for more information about his prospect and why he NEEDS a brand new piece of content to close the deal.

As you can imagine, that conversation may go one of a few ways:

Scenario 1

You find out that what Steve is really looking for is a way to bring value to his prospect. Once you find out where the prospect is in the funnel, you share with Steve several great pieces of content that are already available and were designed with the specific objective of helping prospects like Steve’s navigate the buying landscape.

Outcome: Steve is now your biggest fan.

Scenario 2

You are convinced that Steve has a good point, and he has uncovered a real need for additional content. At this point, invite Steve to be a co-conspirator in the new content creation. Let him know that creating a new piece of content is a big investment and that you are tasked with creating content that helps the company reach its overall business objectives. Then, set up a time (doesn’t need to be long) to meet with Steve to outline a piece of content that will not only help Steve’s prospect but others as well.

Outcome: At this point Steve will either head for the hills or double down. Either way, you’ll know whether it is worth investing the effort, and if you do create the content, you will be confident if supports your overall content strategy.

Scenario 3

The more you listen to Steve, the more you realize his prospect is way, and I mean WAY, outside the ideal customer profile. It’s likely not your job to be the sales police and tell Steve to go hunting somewhere else, but you can stand up for the business. One way to do this is to remind Steve that creating content is a big investment and that you are tasked with creating content that supports the overall business objective (which likely involves growing the business within a specific target audience). You’ll have to tell him that creating content for the segment his prospect falls in is not a priority right now. Then, based on what you now know about the prospect, you can recommend already created content that could be a substitute for what he had in mind.

Outcome: Steve is not happy and feels a little embarrassed. However, he recognizes that you are doing your job and you want to help him.

You got this!

If hearing all this talk about linking content back to the business objective has you squirming in your seat, we have a super simple formula to help you get started and set up for success.

Our templated business objective consists of three important elements:

1. A quantitative goal

Our goal is to grow [goal, e.g., revenue] by [growth target, e.g., 10%] to [outcome, e.g., $2MM] for [our organization/division name] by [date]...

2. The intended audience creating creating more value for [persona or market segment], who need or desire [primary motivation] when they [intended action]...

3. Competitive context

...where they make a choice between [product category] such as our [our offering] or alternatives such as [competitor offerings].

All you have to do is put this bad boy together and fill in the blanks! Seems too easy right? It’s not. This simple exercise will allow you to eliminate misalignment that exists across your organization and ensure that your new content has the foundation to drive results.

Here’s a few examples created in the Vennli software:



Go ahead and give it a whirl!

Want something even easier than this template? Check out Vennli’s Content Intelligence tool for smart content planning that includes a digital version of this template and other content planning tools.

Alex Davis
Written by Alex Davis

Alex Davis, Marketing Manager, Vennli
Alex leads marketing at Vennli. When it’s all said and done, Alex simply wants to help make the lives of marketers easier--and ensure they’re smiling every step of the way. With 6+ years of experience in the SaaS space, tech marketing is her bread and butter.

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