As the leader of a digital marketing agency, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a big believer in content marketing. The benefits of increased audience engagement, decreased ad spends (compared to traditional outbound marketing) and better brand recognition all make content marketing an obvious choice when it comes to allocating a company’s marketing dollars.

However, I still encounter companies that don’t “get it.” Even those that are open to the idea of content marketing still take the wrong approach or maintain the wrong mindset when it comes to this promotional technique. Here are four of the most common mistakes I see businesses making:

They see content marketing as a checklist of tasks. Trust me on this one, if there was a simple formula to content marketing success, we’d all be rich!

When it comes down to it, you can’t say that writing two blog posts a week, posting five times a day to Twitter and releasing four Youtube videos a month will guarantee “content marketing success” (as if there was such a thing). To be fair, our industry’s reliance on list posts -- with titles such as “7 Steps to Successful Content Marketing Campaigns” -- may be at least partially to blame. But I believe a much larger problem is the expectation many business owners and marketers hold that content marketing is something you can do once and be done with.

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The unfortunate reality is that content marketing is a long-term game that requires consistent investment, paired with frequent evaluation and course changes as needed to be successful. Following some default formula you find online simply won’t work as well as listening to your audience’s feedback and producing the types of content that your data demonstrates will interest them most.

They take an “if you build it, they will come” approach. Creating great content is only the first step in a good content marketing campaign. Your content can only go on to be successful if it’s paired with an equally great promotional strategy.

While some content pieces go viral almost immediately -- and with seemingly-little effort -- these instances are largely flukes that can’t be counted on in a standard campaign. Instead, you’ve got to get out there and promote your work if you want your target customers to see and respond to it.

The exact types of promotions you’ll want to carry out will depend on your organization, advertising initiatives and the resources you have to dedicate to your campaigns. If you can pay to have your most popular blog post linked to from CNN.com, that’s great. But if your budget forces you to set your sights a bit lower, social media promotions, email marketing and direct outreach can all be affordable ways to disseminate your content across your target audience.

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They fail to produce content for all steps in the sales process. Creating content for content’s sake is one of the biggest mistakes I see businesses making in their marketing campaigns. While creating great content is important, these pieces also need to be tied to your company’s strategic objectives in some way.

Imagine a business that produces two blog posts -- one on a fun, fluffy topic that it thinks its consumers will find entertaining and one that’s still enjoyable to read, but also conveys information that will be helpful in the sales process.

Sure, the first post might generate some social traction, leading to a few potential referrals and a slight bump in brand awareness. But the second one has the potential to contribute more substantially to your business’s bottom line. Whenever you create new content, ask yourself, “How does this content piece support my sales funnel?” If you can’t come up with a clear answer, head back to the drawing board.

They limit content marketing to an advertising initiative. Naturally, your marketing department will play a lead role in your content marketing campaigns. But restricting your campaign initiatives to these few employees can cause you to miss out on the benefits of taking a more organization-wide approach.

Do you know what one of your best sources of content inspiration can be? Your customer service employees. All day, every day, these workers are engaging directly with customers, providing answers to the questions that must be resolved before prospects are converted. Every question they answer could be turned into a content piece -- whether you publish a quick blog post, release a video or create an infographic that provides this same information to others with the same questions.

To me, it comes down to the underlying initiative behind your content marketing campaigns. Getting into content marketing to make sales is fine, but if your fundamental goal is to educate your customers or to engage with them in a fun, memorable way, you’ll find that your overall results are much stronger in the long run.

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