Marketing Mistakes is a recurring series from Campaign Monitor about the biggest email or digital marketing goofs made by various thought leaders across the industry.
As these leaders share some hard-won wisdom from earlier in their careers, the rest of us have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without the accompanying costly consequences.
In this series, we’ll cover the mistakes people have made, how they fixed them, and what they learned in order to make us all better digital marketers.
Marketing Mistakes with Julia McCoy
Julia McCoy—CEO of Express Writers, entrepreneur, and author—has literally written the book on copywriting and content marketing. She’s even designed online courses to teach other writers how to craft better-quality content that sees more engagement online. But that didn’t save her from making costly mistakes in her own content marketing early on in her career.
Though she’s a seasoned professional now, it took her years after the initial launching of her business to realize her choices had cost herself and her company valuable sales.
Read on to discover Julia’s biggest mistake and how you can avoid repeating it yourself:
Julia’s biggest marketing mistake:
“When I was in my first year running my company full-time, out in the deep waters, a fresh-faced, 21-year-old entrepreneur, I wore many (and nearly all) hats,” Julia tells us. She was the marketing manager, copywriter, project manager, editor, and salesperson.
Hustling and putting in the work to grow her business from relatively nothing was all in a day’s work when she was first starting out. With zero outside help or funding, if Julia didn’t find a way to get something done during the day, then it simply didn’t get done. That’s par for the course when striking out on your own as an entrepreneur, and one of the reasons doing so is difficult.
“I was fueled 100% by passion, excited to get up and do what I loved every day,” Julia says of those early days.
But even the most passionate among us are vulnerable to making mistakes and sometimes, even more so.
The mistake: Sacrificing quality for quantity
In the midst of wearing all these hats, eventually Julia ran out of time, which led to her rushing to get everything done in the day. And as too many of us know from our own experiences, when you’re doing too much, it’s difficult to do anything to the best of your ability. The same was true for Julia: Something on her to-do list had to get short-changed.
Unfortunately for her business, Julia’s content marketing suffered and she ultimately ended up publishing content that wasn’t up to her own standards on her agency blog, The Write Blog. The quality of these posts was poor, they were thin, and they didn’t contain enough facts.
Yes, as a business owner who solely relied on content marketing to fuel our business and leads, I still published crappy content.
Takeaway: When you’re wearing too many hats, you can inadvertently lose sight of what makes your company unique and even your most valuable assets can suffer.
Jack of all trades, but master of none
There simply wasn’t enough time for Julia to cross everything off her to-do list. She should have delegated and let other people handle smaller tasks while she, as the CEO and founder of the company, dealt with the most crucial tasks, the ones that affected the overall strategy and trajectory of the business.
Instead, trying to do everything on her own, some tasks fell by the wayside.
Julia admits, “I should have delegated more tasks in my content marketing to-do list, but instead I got too busy too fast.”
Julia also didn’t have the time or ability to enforce quality control for the assignments she did delegate. All in all, the quality of the content being publishing on The Write Blog dropped, which meant the face of her company—and a writing company, no less—suffered.
Takeaway: Sometimes doing your best work means letting go and delegating.
Work smart, not just hard
In the world of #goals, when productivity is often equated with worth or value, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that hard work is the best work. But hard work that doesn’t add value to your company, to your products, or to your customers, is often wasted time and energy.
When you’re already overwhelmed with jobs to complete and a business to run, you don’t have time and energy to spare: It’s all the more important to work smart. Even though it might cost you more time and productivity up front, take a step back to ensure you’re working toward goals instead of just working.
According to Julia, “I didn’t think that strategic, careful work could be that much better than being stuck in a hamster wheel.” But in the end, Julia realized pushing through a to-do list by publishing subpar content was costing her and her business in both the long and short-term.
Takeaway: Use your time wisely and make sure every task furthers the long-term goals of your company, not just today’s to-do list.
The consequences: Losing money and losing prospects
After years of working beyond her capacity and not thinking strategically about her business, Julia was constantly stressed. Creating content under pressure meant that both she and her posts could have been healthier for about the first 3 of her total 7 years in business. That much pressure and stress took its toll personally and professionally.
Takeaway: Asking too much of yourself leads to subpar content, yes, but all that stress can also take a physical and mental toll as well.
Practice what you preach
In the end, she says, “I lost potential sales for the business because of poor marketing.” People reading the company’s blog could easily be turned off and decide not to hire a writing company that puts out low-quality content on their own blog. Because Julia neglected her own content marketing, their blog was no longer a reflection of the caliber of writing her company produced.
Don’t think that your product or results can represent you on their own. Good, high-quality marketing is as important for your business as it is for your clients.
Takeaway: When your business is marketing, obviously marketing yourself matters.
And anyone who works for themselves knows, if your business is losing money, then so are you. Julia might not answer to a boss, but she still felt the pain of her mistakes in her actual paycheck and profits. Even though her company grew and succeeded during those early years, the numbers weren’t as good in bottom-line sales and yearly profits as they could have been.
Low-quality marketing brought in low-quality leads and clients, which meant profits suffered across the board.
Takeaway: Low-quality marketing leads to low-quality leads.
The turning point
Ultimately, Julia realized something had to change, so she prioritized creating high-quality content that reflected the writing standards her company promised for their clients. And while these high-quality posts see better engagement, they still feel the consequences from the years of low-quality content.
“We’re still cleaning up content that isn’t a representation of our current quality and standards,” Julia says. Slowly but surely, Julia and her team are cleaning up the mistakes from what she refers to as the “crappy content days.” This means weeding through hundreds of blog posts until all traces of the early days have disappeared.
Takeaway: Taking the time to do your marketing the right way from the beginning will save you time in the long run.
Yesterday’s mistake affects today’s numbers
“Overall, mediocre content negatively impacts the results from our content rankings and still affects our website traffic,” Julia warns. For example, they still see a high bounce rate on the thin content pieces. After all this time—and effort put into improving old posts—the company still risks losing business if a prospect’s only impression of the company comes through one of those old, subpar posts.
Takeaway: Be prepared for the consequences to linger after you’ve rectified the actual mistake.
Consistent, high-level marketing is key
A year of creating consistent, strategic content caused their key performance indicators—specifically the company’s biggest KPI, leads and sales—to skyrocket. Taking a step back, slowing down, and taking the time to think strategically about the company’s goals delivered serious, tangible results.
2017 was my strategic marketing year,” Julia tells us. “And because we elevated our marketing to be far more high level, we literally doubled, if not tripled, our income in the next year.
Takeaway: But eventually your KPIs will recover and even surpass what you previously thought possible.
The lesson: Invest now to reap dividends later
Investing both time and money in high-quality content is worth the effort. For Julia, spending the time and energy on elevating their content marketing paid off huge dividends and taught her valuable lessons. She’s grown as a marketer and as a business owner since 2013 and her early mistakes.
High-level thinking means high-level results
Now she approaches content marketing much differently than she did in her early years. These days, Julia focuses on thinking strategically about how she writes and how her blog and its content fit into the company’s larger digital marketing strategy.
She also aims to operate at a higher level: After all, just as low-quality content marketing attracted low-quality clients, high-quality content attracts high-quality clients.
Takeaway: High-quality content means high-quality leads and customers.
High-quality leads and clients lead to more profits and more growth for Julia’s business. Though it takes time to step back and plan strategically, the results are worth it.
Being focused on hyper-targeting, hyper-relevance, and quality in their content marketing helps the company obtain strategic, high-value leads on a regular basis.
I emphasize as much time for ideation as I do for creation, which is different.
Takeaway: Coming up with new ideas and planning how they’ll fit into your overall marketing strategy can be just as important as implementing and creating them.
Don’t rush yourself
Julia also says that her mindset has improved since those early years. She no longer rushes or stresses herself out in order produce anything she can. These days, if she can’t produce and publish something stellar, she simply doesn’t publish it. She no longer sacrifices the quality of her content for the sake of quantity.
As a result, “I’ve grown tremendously, both professionally and personally, from this particular mistake.”
Takeaway: Respect your own boundaries and prioritize doing your best work.
Prioritize quality above all
According to Julia, it’s better to avoid publishing content than to publish subpar or rushed content. Publishing weak content just isn’t worth it: Subpar content will hurt your rankings and you’ll lose customers and visitors as your bounce rates skyrocket.
Ultimately, bad content will hurt your business—and your bottom line—more than having no content at all.
After all, your content—whether it’s an email newsletter or a blog—is often the main interaction you have with your customers and potential customers. Producing poor content is the same as putting your worst foot forward and no one wants to do that.
After the time you’ve spent building your company and your products or services, your content marketing should meet the same high standards you have for the rest of your business.
Takeaway: No content is better than bad content.
Take time to plan for the future
Julia also learned how important it is to take time for the ideation stage. Instead of firing off all ideas that come into your head, only when you know your ideas are golden should you invest the time and energy to bring those ideas to fruition. Every idea should serve your company in the long run as well as in the short.
Investing in the creation and design of your content as well as improving how comprehensive it is will pay off dividends and set your company up for future success.
Takeaway: Time, patience, and consistency is key when creating and implementing all of your great ideas.
Julia thought she would save time and energy by publishing thin, underdeveloped content, but in the end, her business—and her profits—suffered. And she didn’t even save time, considering all the energy that’s gone into improving and editing the old content in order to make sure it meets her current standards.
Ultimately, her bottom line recovered when she took more time: When she shifted her mindset from doing everything and publishing as much as possible to slowing down, focusing on thoughtful strategy, and publishing the best content she could.
Remember that all of your marketing efforts should fit into a larger digital marketing strategy and though it might be tempting to focus the majority of your effort on quantity—especially for new businesses first starting out—prioritizing quality will establish your company as an expert and a valuable source for your readers from the very beginning.
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