Content marketing is booming. Just about every research report and marketer interview names content as one of the brightest stars in the marketing sky, providing brands with a fantastically effective way to reach their customers and inspire them in a way that TV or outdoor ads cannot. But thanks to its popularity, there’s a glut of bad content out there, created in a whirl of panic, confusion and bad planning.

Of course, the best way to avoid such communications chaos is to hire a content marketing agency, the only people with the expertise and experience to create and distribute top-quality content that will give your brand the very best chance to engage with your customers. In the meantime, here are the seven deadly sins of content that will have your marketing department worried for their jobs and your customers running for the hills.

1. Content – how hard can it be?
Ah, that old chestnut, heard in internal marketing meetings up and down the country. Content marketing is just a few blogs and a newsletter churned out every month, right? Wrong. Content marketing is a carefully targeted series of print, digital and mobile communications created by professionals with years of experience in reaching and influencing specific customer groups. Those communications are highly effective in engaging with an audience, building brand loyalty and customer retention, resulting in decreased churn, increased recommendations and, ultimately, bigger sales.

2. Strategy? What strategy?
You could have the greatest content in the world, spread across every platform known to man, but without a strong content strategy, most of it will be wasted. You need to plan your content at least six months in advance, taking into account major events and product launches, and ensure that all available platforms are integrated so that you provide your customer with a seamless journey from approach to interest to discovery to sale to recommendation. This isn’t back-of-a-beermat stuff; this is hours in a meeting room with all stakeholders present and fully switched on.

3. Random release
No matter what type of content you’re creating for your customer, make it regular and make it frequent. Reliability is one of the most important qualities customers look for in a brand, and if you can’t get it together enough to distribute your content on the day your customer is expecting it, why should they trust you to send them the goods they ordered? And once you have their attention, keep it by sending or pointing them towards even more content – great content only works if it’s backed up by more great content.

4. One size fits all
No it doesn’t. You have many content platforms available to you, each with their own unique benefits, purpose and outcomes. A customer will look for different things on different platforms, expecting content created specifically for that platform with a high level of usability and entertainment. So it’s not enough to throw a few PDFs of a magazine online, squeeze a 400-word article onto a smartphone, then call your campaign integrated. You have to consider who will be using the platform and when, then think carefully about the kind of content that customer will be expecting on that platform, before hiring experts who will optimise your content and integrate it.

5. ‘Oh, it’ll do’
Magazine, newspaper and brochure journalists have long had the luxury of the sub editor – the last line of defence against sloppy spelling, punctuation and grammar. But when it comes to the internet, a more relaxed attitude often creeps in, sacrificing pin-sharp copy for eye-popping design. This can give your brand two problems: firstly, your customers are no fools – they can spot a typo quicker than a hurricane can level a house, with a similar effect on your brand. Secondly, Google now takes into account quality of copy when they rank sites, meaning that a series of badly written pages or horendous [sic] spelling mistakes can cause your website to drop down the rankings like a virtual brick. Of course, since most content marketing agencies will employ a proofreader to check copy long before it goes online, it’s rare that such howlers will slip through.

6. Measurement is for geeks
One of the basic tenets of marketing is that you create, you distribute, you measure. Somehow, there are still those out there that think the last element isn’t required for content marketing. They are fools. As an industry that continues to rocket upwards in the estimation of marketing directors the world over, measurement is of critical importance for it to reach its vast potential. So whatever you do, make sure you have effective measurement tools in place to justify both your present and future investment in the medium. Use them, act upon them and refine them. Only by measuring the effectiveness of each piece of content will you know what works and what doesn’t.

7. Create it, distribute it, forget about it
Aside from measurement, one of the most important stages in the life cycle of a piece of content is the debrief. Whether it’s the launch issue of a new magazine or a social media campaign dedicated to a single product, you need to gather the thoughts and opinions of all stakeholders – internal and external. So once the results have come in, bring everyone together for a debrief and go through the detail of the project, discussing how it can be improved and developed. Producing a successful piece of content marketing is no easy task, so you can now allow yourself a pat on the back. Then stop and get on with the next one…

Sam Upton