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Content Strategy | Writing | Editing

15 perfectly good reasons why your content marketing program may be failing and one super-great bonus reason which sounds all woo-woo, but is actually the best

Jeffrey Williams

Why do these guys win so much? It's a woo-woo thing.

Why do these guys win so much? It's a woo-woo thing.

Once when I was young and naive, I was interviewing for this content marketing consulting thing at [COMPANY NAME REDACTED].

I'm sorry. I needed the money.

The hiring manager asked me to diagnose why a particular group's content marketing program was failing.

"What's the group?" I asked.

"I can't tell you," she said.

So I went stab stab stab in the dark dark dark, but left the conversation feeling the way you do when the answers don't come to you until you're on the stairs, having just left a glittering cocktail party.

You know, l'esprit de l'escalier.

(The French have all the coolest expressions.)

So here are the 16 witty things I wish I'd said. Here is why your content marketing may be failing.

Better late than never.

(Which I'm sure sounds better in French.)

1. You need to go full Gawande.

You're letting stuff drop or you're only publishing sporadically. Get checklists.

2. You've forgot the No. 1 rule of copywriting.

Which is: People don't care about you. They care about themselves and thier own problems. So solve their problems. (I learned it from this guy.)

3. You say "synergy."

Or "leverage." Or "passion." Or "resonate." Those worda are all dead for now. They may be back later, but by then, YOU'LL be dead.

4. 80 billion people have to sign off on the copy.

And all the good sticky copy get synergied away.

5. The copy is bo-ring.

Write like you talk.

6. The copy is bo-ring.

Tell stories.

7. You need to get ugly.

Ugly communications and ugly pages can be insanely effective. (Seriously, check out that second page. John Carlton is a mad genius.

8. You're a hoarder.

Give more content away. 


9. You're selling, not teaching.

Teaching builds trust. Trust obviates price in the mind of the prospect. Check out this great Joe Polish talk on fine art marketing. By the way, white papers are a great way to teach.

10. You forget about the customer after the sale.

It's amazing what happens when you focus on customers for the first 100 days after they make a purchase.

11. You have marketing all wrong.

Try Tim Grahl's definition: "Be relentlessly helpful and build lifetime connections with customers."

12. Maybe your product isn't remarkable.

Make it so. Copy can't fix everything.

13. You're too social.

Sure, listen and have conversations. But you'll get a better return from your email list.

14. You need to get offline.

What can you do in your store, or on your packaging, or with physical media to help tell your story?

15. You need to get waaaaay offline.

There's a ton of power in good old-fashioned direct mail. Plus, there's less clutter.

Super-great bonus reason: Your team lacks love.

Yeah, love.

There is a high school football team in California that almost never loses a game. As journalist Mitch Stephens writes:

The calm, Buddha-like coach of the nation's most  successful prep football program - De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) -- absorbs many hits from the skeptics and envious of the sporting world.

After all, how could one team, one organization, one entity be so successful without some deceit or dishonor? How  could you possibly win 106 straight games - by an average score of 46-9! - and 184 of the last 186 without some underhanded advantage?

The coach is Bob Ladouceur. Here's his answer:

Now this may sound odd to you; but the reason we win and what  beats at the heart of our neighborhood is love.

Yes, we win because our players love each other. They are not afraid to say it or embrace each other as a sign of that affection. This is just an outward sign.

To love someone; words  are nice but insufficient -- actions speaks volumes. And that's not too easy. Put simply, love means I can count on you and you can count on me.

This translates into being responsible.

Responsibility is learned and not inherited. Being responsible to 45 teammates is not so simple. It means following team rules and knowing that my attitudes and actions have a profound effect on the success of the whole.

We pride ourselves on that exact accountability. We  recommit to each other on a weekly basis before games. We commit that my contributions to the team will be my best self.

This commitment extends to all facets of my life. It's how I conduct myself as a person - from the classroom  to the field, to the outside community. Wherever I go or whatever I do, I carry my team with me knowing full well that I am connected to a group that loves, accepts, and respects me.

We try to make our football team a safe place to  be. Safe to be our self.

There is nowhere to hide on a football field. Teammates know each other, coaches know the players, and the players know the coaches. All attempts at not being yourself fail miserably. The key is to be the  best self you were created to be. We work hard at breaking down the walls that separate us called race, status, religion, jealousy, hate and culture -- and truly experience each other on a purely human level.

Imagine what you could do if your workplace was a safe place for your people to be their best selves.