Facing a Content Plan FAIL? What to Do When Content Plans Go Awry

The best-laid plans so often go awry. That’s a concept that anyone anywhere can relate to, including content marketers. Priorities change, people miss deadlines, COVID happens… A content plan FAIL is just part of life for content marketers. Since it can occur for many reasons (internal and external), the important thing is how you respond and what you do next. So, let’s talk about what you can do when things go any way but the way you expected.

When Do You Call It a Failure?

Content marketing is a long-term strategy with evolving tactics. It’s about consistency and relevancy. Your content strategy includes the goals you want to meet and how you’ll do it. Your content plan is that strategy in action. So, when do you call it a failure? What are the signs?

Your Engagement Numbers Are Falling

content plan fail - engagement is falling

Because content marketing is trackable and measurable, you always have access to content analytics. When things start trending down and keep going that way with no discernible reasons (i.e., holidays, major industry disruptions, the pandemic), there may be cause for alarm.

You have data from multiple sources regarding engagement on your website, social media profiles, email marketing, and other content channels. Now you have to figure out why. What is the data story telling you?

It could be that the topics aren’t relevant any longer to your audience. The channels you’re optimizing may not be where your audience is. A deep dive by all content stakeholders is necessary to see why the engagement numbers are falling.

Quality Concerns

If you’re producing a high volume of content, quality could suffer. It may be the reason things are going south. If that’s the reason, you might be able to identify that in engagement metrics. When did things start falling? Was there a change in content creators or processes?

Low-quality content is prevalent, unfortunately. It could be the writing, layout, design, or all the above. It’s a good idea to institute some more standards and quality control to get back on the right path.

Traffic Is Good, But Not Conversions

If the traffic to your content — blogs, video, landing pages, etc. — is healthy, but you do not see conversions, that’s a content plan fail too. You can add context by looking at how long people are remaining on the page and bounce rates. Using heat mapping tools to see where people are focusing helps as well.

From that, you may be able to hypothesize what the disconnect is. For example, you have a lead gen gated ebook that’s a strong topic, but no one’s downloading it. You find they are spending enough time on the page to read the pitch to convert, then they hover over the form but leave. Maybe your form is too long.

Ebooks are top of funnel content, so make that form shorter. You don’t need the novel of their life, just a short story. In fact, name and email address are enough. With an email address, you have an opt-in to continue engaging and nurturing the prospect.

You’re Turning Audiences Off by Being Too Salesy

Content marketing isn’t about selling. It’s about educating, empowering, and helping. If your content is all about you and purely promotional, that could be a big turnoff. How will you know if this is the problem?

Engagement numbers are part of the story. The most important metrics are those around email. For someone to subscribe to your content, they are aware of your brand and consider it credible. However, if your email open rates and clicks are declining while unsubscribes are increasing, that’s a clue you’re in failure territory.

You might also get direct feedback from audiences. For example, you host a webinar, which is an excellent educational content opportunity. Except the material gets increasingly promotional, your audiences may exit. Those that stick around and complete a survey may be brutally honest that they felt they just watched a commercial.

You can right this with intentional steps to focus on thought leadership, practical tips, guidance, and lessons versus being too product-focused.

Disruptive Events Shake Everything Up

Of course, 2020 impacted every enterprise’s content marketing. In the CMI (Content Marketing Institute) B2B Content Marketing Report, 94 percent of respondents said the pandemic affected their content strategy in some way.

The top changes were around targeting, messaging, calendar adjustments, content distribution, and promotional strategies.

cmi research - b2b org changes - pandemic response

Image: CMI

While you’re not at fault for any failures here, pivoting was a necessity. Some companies did it well, and others less so. Still, some did nothing at all.

Beyond the pandemic, many other disruptive events require re-routing. One example is a cyberattack. Companies that experience these must focus on recovery, reputation management, and customer support. Content marketing takes a step back. In many situations, the company may go quiet for a few weeks or a month.

It may also affect the content direction. Content on security may become the priority, which pushes back planned campaigns. Again, these aren’t your fault, but what you do next matters.

Coming Back from the Fail

The most critical thing to take away from this post is that you must learn from the failure to move forward. That may be data analysis, reconsidering who your audience is and what they want, or how to communicate in a crisis.

Those learnings come from deep dives on why content didn’t connect and convert. Take those insights back to your content strategy and plan to retool it. This is an all-hands type of exercise with your entire content team.

If you need to pivot fast, be agile enough to do so. Enterprise content teams don’t always have this flexibility. One of the best ways to make this part of your content planning is with the right technology. Using a content marketing platform that includes a content calendar, workflows, and more tools can help you do this easily.

Content Plan Fails Don’t Have to Be Catastrophic

Outside of ill-timed, controversial content, most content plan fails won’t be a catastrophe. If you learn from them, you can come back better and stronger. Having the right platform matters in being agile, and DivvyHQ allows you to be just that. See how it works by starting a free trial.