3 Surefire Ways To Kill Your Content Marketing

How To Avoid A Content Marketing #Fail

I have kept the faithRecent research, the 2013 Enterprise Customer Engagement survey by  IDG  reveals 3 surefire ways to kill your content marketing. This often happens despite your best intentions.

As an eight-year marketing veteran of a major bank, I empathize with you. I was the go-to person for anyone in my division who needed help crafting a message. I excelled at finding new, more creative ways to write in the passive voice and salted my writing with the shiniest of the latest marketing lingo.

Every piece of content I created was edited and sanitized of anything remotely sounding like a human being ever uttered it. While my content garnered praise and educated employees, I doubt it converted many prospects.

The problem is that your content marketing is a fail unless it connects with prospects and helps convert them into buyers.

While the IDC research focuses on content marketing during the B2B purchase process specifically major technology products and services, these findings can be applied to any high priced, considered purchase.

The 3 leading causes of content marketing death are:

1. Contains too much marketing hype and buzzwords.

While trying to show we’re up-to-date with the latest trends by sprinkling our content with the hot new words, we loose sight of our goal, namely to provide useful information. Instead, we need to take Joe Miller’s advice (played by Denzel Washington) in the movie Philadelphia, “Now, explain it to me like I’m a four-year-old.”

Content marketing fixes:

  1. Stop selling. Eliminate the promotion from your content. Bear in mind that your audience can smell an ad a mile away.
  2. Get out your red pen and cut out every buzz phrase. Be ruthless with your edits.
  3. Take the Hemingway approach. Use simple words. Substitute short words and everyday language for the flowery prose you’ve created.
  4. Use the active tense. You don’t need to go back to middle school. Write plain sentences with a subject, verb and object. Skip convoluted sentence structure.

2. Lacks truly independent, unbiased information.

Accept that your target audience is at least as smart as you are. Take it from David Ogilvy who said, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” Read further and you’ll see he added, “She wants all the information you can give her.” While Ogilvy was referring to consumers, his advice applies to B2B purchasers as well. Accept that your target audience believes you’re motivated to present information showing your business favorably. Here’s the data to prove it:

  • 68% of consumers trust customer opinions posted online according to Nielsen. While many marketers worry about ratings and reviews, they can help qualify your product.
  • 9% of B2B buyers trust vendor content based on CMO Council research.

Content marketing fixes:

  1. Share original research. This is high quality content, often done by a trusted third party. Don’t include questions that are skewed towards your product. Altimeter does a fantastic job of this on Slideshare.
  2. Leverage the power of other people’s platforms. Create content for blogs and third party media sites. Also support other people’s content creation by providing quotes and examples. Help A Reporter Out is a great free resource to achieve this.

3. Is too general to be effective.

This fill-in-the-blank, off-the-shelf content is bland, boring and most importantly useless. If you can substitute another product, brand or company name in your content, then it’s not specific enough. The irony is that by being more specific, your content becomes more effective.

Realize your potential buyer is seeking specific details to help them make their purchase decision. Take a tip from Dragnet’s Joe Friday, All we want are the facts, ma’am.

Content marketing fixes:

  1. Answer customer questions. This is what Marcus Sheridan calls the secret sauce. Collect the questions your customers are asking and answer them. This has the benefit of saving resources since you’re not reinventing the wheel every time a prospect asks a question.
  2. Show customers how to use your product. Put your product in context for prospects with mini-education. This can be done via a variety of content forms including blog posts, ebooks, and presentations.
  3. Create visual content. Make your product the star. Not only is visual content consumed more quickly, it shows your product in action in a way that’s very specific.


To avoid a content marketing fail, your content must sound like human communication of non-promotional, yet branded information.

What else would you suggest to avoid having a content marketing fail?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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9 Responses to 3 Surefire Ways To Kill Your Content Marketing

  1. Laura Miller says:

    Great post! Stop selling is my favourite tip. As a content led digital marketing agency, this is the biggest problem we face. Getting our clients to understand the fact that content marketing isn’t primarily about selling product and it’s certainly not about putting out sales led information. You’re looking in the wrong place, you need an advertising agency if that’s what you want.

  2. Achraf says:

    Thanks for articulating what I’ve held in my head and heart for a long
    time. I’m going to share this with all of my clients and peers.


  3. The one that bugs me the most is having too many buzzwords. I work in the real estate industry, and when I come across a real estate bio or company about page that’s riddled with “Top Producer” this and blah, blah, blah … It really has an adverse affect. I mean, it really sounds disingenuous. I’d rather connect with a real person, ya know .

  4. “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” I love that quote. We’re so inundated with impersonal advertisements that I feel the public has a fascination with companies or individuals who genuinely seem interested in their customers well being. The public can smell a sell from a mile away. That’s one reason why personal brands seem to be on such an increase. Maybe we feel better buying for someone rather than from something?

  5. June Macdonald says:

    I would also add to do what you did at the beginning, share personal stories and examples so your audience can relate to what you and your message.

  6. Ava Cristi says:

    I cannot agree with you more Heidi. Content marketing is not about selling our products. Its about giving relevant information to our customers/readers. Sad to say only few writers are doing it the right way.

  7. David Cheng says:

    There’s this strange disconnect that if you post it online, you can make it spammy. You wouldn’t start a sales pitch by shouting at the prospect right or repeating certain key words. Why is content marketing any different? Hopefully, the backlash towards bad content marketing helps bubble the good content.

    This is one of the reasons we launched ShareBloc (www.sharebloc.com): to increase signal to noise.

  8. Mary Green says:

    Great post Heidi. I think with marketing we can sometimes get so stuck in our industries that we forget the people we are targeting as our readers. This is a great reminder. A writer has to find that balance between speaking professionally, displaying their authority to write, and making the information digestible.