If you aren’t creating any content to bring in traffic and help your business, you’re pretty much screwed. Content marketing is critical, and your competitors (the ones who are doing it right, anyway) are sure to draw in your potential customers, leaving your sales plummeting.

But beware — you can commit a marketing sin that’s just as harmful to your business as creating zero content:

Creating ineffective content.

Sometimes, people do this because they’re lazy. But most of the time, they do it out of fear — the fear of being disliked.

Are you one of those people? Decide for yourself. Check out these three signs that fear is holding you back from content marketing success:

You avoid risk-taking and take care not to stand out

Think standing out is scary? Well, blending in is much more terrifying. I’m talking “finding shutterstock_305517686out what hot dogs are actually made of” terrifying, here.

Seriously. When you blend in with all of your competitors, you don’t give customers any reason to choose you. So they just end up deciding whom to work with based on some other reason (probably pricing — yikes).

On the other hand, when your content stands out, your potential customers remember you instead of your competitors. That means they’ll be much more likely to choose your business in the end.

It’s called differentiation. Learn about it. Embrace it. And most importantly, start doing it asap.

Your writing is bland and reads like everyone else’s

“We leverage our state-of-the-art technology to provide consumers with best-in-class solutions.”

That sentence might as well be a bedtime story, because the only thing it’s going to do is put your readers to sleep. If your content contains a ton of jargon, your bored readers aren’t going to keep reading.

Know what else those bored readers aren’t going to do?

Work with you.

So, stop being bland and using pointless buzzwords and overused phrases just because that’s how your competitors write their content. What you need to do is showcase your personality, because authenticity is what will draw people in.

Let’s take a look at an example of someone who does this:  Ash Ambirge, a sassy, foul-mouthed writer who runs The Middle Finger Project. Here’s how she describes her services on her site:

Content Marketing Success

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Offensive, right?

Not really. Or, at least, not to her target audience. In fact, the whole reason people choose to work with her is because of her sense of humor and lighthearted approach. Which brings me to my next point…

You’re trying to appeal to everyone

You’re kidding yourself if you think you can succeed at content marketing without defining your target audience and focusing on appealing to them only. In fact, Erika Napoletano (a charmingly blunt marketing maven) wrote a book about this called “The Power of Unpopular.”Image title

Just take a look at these screenshots from Erika’s website, and you’ll see why her content makes her unpopular with some people:


Now that’s a bold brand.

And yeah, plenty of people dislike her because of her crude writing style, but she’s so popular with her target audience (the people who do like her) that the haters don’t matter.

You need to realize that some people will dislike your writing style, and that’s OK. Stop caring so much about the opinions of everyone and really start focusing more on how you can make your target audience happy with your content.

And no, I’m not saying you have to be as edgy as Erika, but what you do is start branding yourself in a way that aligns with both your personality and your target audience. In other words, get over the fear of being disliked.

How? I’m glad you asked…

How to attract your ideal customers

Be opinionated. Yes, the people who disagree with you will hate your guts, but you didn’t want to work with them anyway, did you?

Consistently write with personality. If you’re positive and encouraging, be positive and encouraging. If you’re witty and sarcastic, be witty and sarcastic. See where I’m going with this? Whatever you are, embrace it, and you’ll draw in people who are similar to you.

Stop conforming and start thinking of new ideas. I seriously doubt that your competitors are setting the standard for what content marketing should look like in your industry. Focus on doing something different and don’t fall into the trap of “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.”

And don’t just stop at sounding different — actually be different. You might be able to pull your target audience in if you’re creating awesome content, but the substance behind the content is what’ll make them stick around long-term.

So, start experimenting with the way you write, and make sure you’re delivering the quality that your content promises. You’ll thank yourself later when the new customers are pouring in.