I recently had the opportunity to participate in a webinar with the Content Marketing Institute in which I outlined five challenges that content marketers face. I described the first two of those challenges — whether or not everyone should work for marketing and if the customer journey actually has a finish line — in a previous post. Today, I’d like to explain the other three challenges for you. In the meantime, if you’d like to watch to the actual webinar, you can access it online here.

The mega-trend toward casual content

In order to connect with and engage your target audience more effectively, you have to talk to them in a more casual and conversational way. And you have to do so with a distinct personality and tone of voice. While this isn’t news to many brands, plenty of others still hold on to the idea that their content needs to be business-like and boring, erroneously assuming that if it isn’t both formal and complex, it won’t be credible.

The reality is those assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Research has shown time and again that buyers want to be talked to like human beings. That means not only adopting a more personal and engaging tone, but also a unique personality that helps to differentiate you from your competitors. It’s also worth pointing out that simplifying your messages so that they get boiled down to their core doesn’t make you look stupid. On the contrary, when it’s done well it will demonstrate that you really know what you’re talking about.

Consistency in a world where everybody creates content

If you enlist people from across your organization to create content (i.e., the various subject matter experts who reside in different areas of the business), a number of issues can occur, not least of which is inconsistency. The fact is that getting professionals who may not normally be content creators to write is a challenge in and of itself. Getting them do so in a way that’s on brand, on message, engaging, and consistent with your company’s style and tone of voice is even harder.

One solution that many companies turn to is to create a style guide. The problem with that approach is that in many cases those style guides are never actually consulted. I’ve also spoken to many companies that have multiple style guides — virtually one for every department — which sure makes achieving consistency problematic.

Interestingly, however, most marketers don’t immediately recognize this as an issue. That’s because they often just look at their own marketing content when checking for consistency. Unfortunately, what they’re failing to do is take all of the other content their companies produce into account as well, such as the technical documentation, warranties, product information, etc., all of which is often available online. The problem is that unless all of that content is consistent in terms of language, tone of voice, and style, you’re putting yourself at risk of degrading your brand.

The future of content marketing

We’ve seen content marketing arise as the predominant way that most marketing organizations think of and measure themselves. In most industries, particularly B2B, marketers are thinking of content marketing as being at the core of what they do.

Of course the key to successful content marketing is creating great content that’s effective and creates a desired impact. Doug Kessler, who I mentioned in my previous post, has come up with a great formula that reflects this. It’s:

Story x voice = impact

Essentially, what it means is that you need a great story at the core of every piece of content you create, otherwise you’re not going to be successful. But even with a great story, that content won’t work if it doesn’t have the right voice so that it speaks to and resonates with your audience. Conversely, if you do get the voice right, it’s like force multiplier, dramatically increasing your content’s ability to create impact.

The content marketing industry is growing up fast, yet it continues to face a number of challenges. In my view, all five of the issues I’ve cited in this series are going to be game changers in terms of how the industry continues to move forward.

What do you think? Are there other trends or challenges that we should be talking about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.