Everyone’s doing content marketing. Small businesses, B2Bs, and B2Cs all use content marketing. Basically, that’s everyone.
And since about 70% of all businesses use content marketing strategies, that’s a pretty significant number of businesses that are having a go at it.
There’s a problem, though. Just because everyone is doing content marketing does not mean that they are winning at content marketing.
According to Content Marketing Institute, only 5% of B2C marketers consider their content marketing efforts to be “very effective.” In other words, all this content production doesn’t seem to be working.
There’s obviously a disconnect between what marketers are doing and what is actually working. There’s this belief, a correct one, that “content is the present — and future — of marketing.” Marketing gurus like Seth Godin have long sung the praises of content. Others declare that “content marketing is dead because now it is simply marketing.”
But is content marketing working? Just because something is common, popular, or important doesn’t automatically mean that it’s working.
I wrote this article for those businesses who are doing content marketing just like they’ve been told but aren’t seeing results. They don’t feel like content marketing is effective.
Why isn’t content marketing working for you? Here are a few of the most common reasons. I’ll spend a little bit more time on the first few because they’re the most important. See if you can identify with any of these.
1. You haven’t refined your strategy.
Like any other form of marketing, you need a strategy if you expect to be successful.
I’ve been surprised at how many businesses lack a strategy for their content marketing.
Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs conducted a 2018 survey of B2B marketers. Of the successful marketers, 62% have a documented content strategy. Of the unsuccessful marketers, only 16% have a documented content strategy.
In the B2C world, things are equally bleak. Only 59% of all marketers have a documented strategy. 18% have a content strategy that is “not documented,” which is to say, no clear strategy at all.
If there is a strategy, is it being implemented? According to the survey, not really.
There is a reason why I put this point first on my list. In order to be successful at content marketing, you need a strategy.
Any strategy — even a bad one — is better than no strategy. With a bad strategy, you can at least figure out that it’s bad and change it. With no strategy, you’ll just keep on doing what you’re doing, wasting your time, losing money, and ruining your brand.
A strategy is crucial for success. Let me provide a few tips related to developing strategy.
- A successful content marketing strategy starts with defining your KPIs (key performance indicators). Identify what numbers are important to you (e.g., views, shares, traffic, CTRs, conversions, etc.), and track them.
- The strategy should change over time. You should change your strategy when you realize that what you’re doing is not as effective as it could be.
- Don’t rely on a content marketing company to make your strategy for you. There are plenty of content marketing companies out there, but they don’t usually get involved in strategy. That’s your job. Their job is to sketch out your editorial calendar, write your content, and help you publish. They implement the strategy that you come up with.
- Publishing content is not a strategy. Content marketing strategy takes in the big picture of marketing — audience, revenue, profit, and brand. Deciding to have a blog and write articles is not a strategy.
Homework: Sit down with your leadership team and write out a strategy for content marketing.
2. You don’t spend much on content marketing.
Companies who spend a lot on marketing are able to grow their markets faster than companies who don’t spend as much.
To put it another way, you get what you pay for. If you want results with content marketing, you need to spend enough money to make a difference.
Take a look at the most effective content marketers vs. the least effective content marketers, according to the fifth row — “percent of marketing budget.”
There is a big difference between 14% and 40% — and that difference is seen in the kind of results that the content marketing gets.
There’s a lot of money being thrown into content marketing.
Is content marketing expensive? Yes.
In response, some marketing businesses decide to spend less on content marketing. But this is only half the story.
Is a Formula 1 car expensive? Yes — about $15.5 million per car. But if you want to win races, you spend that kind of money.
Is content marketing expensive? Yes, but you get what you pay for. In business terms, it’s called ROI. Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300%. Generating a lead through traditional marketing costs around $373, but with content marketing techniques it’s only $143. B2B companies with strategic content marketing generate more leads than companies who don’t. You get the picture?
Simply throwing more money at content doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful. Go back to point one above; revisit your strategy first. Once you have your strategy aligned, you’re ready to spend smart. Here are a few tips.
- Look carefully at which content marketing efforts have had the greatest ROI and spend even more on them.
- Consider spending more on a good content marketer (personnel) than on content marketing (tactics). A successful marketer knows how and where to spend marketing dollars and will give you more ROI than simply beefing up your tactics.
- If budget is an issue, delay spending on the higher priced content efforts (video, paid social ads), and focus on the less expensive methods.
For more budget-friendly tips, check out this article: Content Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.
Homework: Find out how much you’re spending on content marketing, and see if there is a way to spend more to gain a greater ROI.
3. You aren’t promoting your content.
The quickest way to kill your content marketing is to do nothing after you create your content.
Let me explain.
Some marketers think that content marketing is simply creating content. Then what? Well, users will find the content, right? Organic traffic will increase, people will read it, convert, and we’ll get more customers, right?
Creating content is only part of content marketing. The other half is promoting it. I saw this as a problem a long time, ago, when I gave this advice to businesses: “Don’t forget the ‘marketing’ in content marketing.”
Let’s break apart content marketing into its two main components parts:
- Create content.
- Promote content.
Which of those two are you doing or not doing? If you do a lot of promoting, but just a little of creating, then you are probably more successful than a company who does a lot of creating but very little promoting.
Content promotion is just as important as content creation.
How do you promote your content? Here are a few easy ways to promote a single blog post:
- Email newsletter
- Marketing email to a landing page
- Tweets. Be sure to tweet it several times, and ask for retweets.
- Facebook posting
- Sharing in LinkedIn
- Pitch influencers in your industry who can share your content.
- Pitch bloggers and site owners, and ask them to share your content.
- Mention your content when you comment on other websites and blogs.
The important thing to remember about content marketing is that half the work is creating, and the other half is promotion.
Homework: If you aren’t doing any content marketing promotion, adjust your approach to spend a solid proportion of your time on promotion.
4. Your content doesn’t provide value.
Content marketing means that you have to produce content, but the quality of that content is of utmost importance. Churning out shoddy content does have an impact on your brand, but it is a negative impact. It makes your brand look bad and perform poorly.
Let me point out a few of the reasons why content quality may be poor:
- You don’t know what kind of content to produce. Nearly every business struggles with how to produce engaging content. Coming up with a theme, topics, angles, and something new is challenging.
- Your writer is inexperienced. This is a big one; I see it all the time. A business wants to do content marketing, so they go out and hire a writer for ten bucks an article. They give them a list of topics and let them have at it. Then, they post these articles on their blog. Content marketing, right? Wrong. Usually, this is a waste of money. Such efforts are not strategically guided. What’s worse is that the content itself is of very low quality. Many times, writers don’t know your industry well enough to be competent as a blogger in that industry.
- The content is boring. Lots of content out there is mind-numbingly boring. To be truly engaging, content must be in-depth, valuable, focused, and well-written.
Since everyone today is doing content marketing, it’s harder than ever to stand out in a crowd.
If you want to succeed, you need to produce better content than the average content marketer. It’s not easy, it’s not cheap, and it won’t happen overnight.
Homework: Make a list of five things you can do to create better content.
5. You’re in a tough niche.
The content marketers who are struggling the most are those who are in really hard industries:
- Industries where people aren’t online
- Industries that not many people know about, mostly B2B
- Industries that are unsexy. “Stud welding techniques” isn’t quite as viral as “how to get a million more Twitter followers.”
If you’re in a tough niche, there’s no magic key that will produce instant success in your content marketing. You’ve simply got to strategize regarding the most effective form of content and keep at it.
Homework: Create a list of the most effective types of content in your specific niche. Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing, especially if they are in different niches.
6. You’re up against a Goliath of a competitor.
There are times when you’re simply facing a dominating competitive landscape. How can you compete with huge companies that produce huge amounts of awesome content?
This is a serious issue, but it’s not insurmountable. I have a few suggestions:
- Keep producing content. Don’t back down just because the competition is bigger than you are.
- Curate a small but devoted group of followers. Work harder to create an intense fan base than trying to draw the audience away from the competitor. Often, the best audience isn’t the biggest audience, but the most devoted audience.
- Out-content them. Spend time analyzing your competitor, not so you can copy them, but so you can out-content them. Identify what forms of content they are missing out on or producing poorly. Use these holes as opportunities for your own content.
7. You haven’t waited long enough.
Content marketing takes time. Don’t expect results in a matter of a few weeks or even a few months.
Give your content time to gain traction and deliver organic results. Content marketing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.
Homework: Keep producing top-quality content, and wait to see results.
8. You need to improve your SEO.
There is no competition between SEO and content marketing. Instead, the two work together in a complementary relationship.
If you’re doing content marketing but have poor SEO, you might as well not even be creating content. No one is going to find it.
Homework: If your SEO is questionable, hire an SEO consultant or agency to conduct a thorough audit on the status of your SEO. Then, you can produce content with confidence.
9. Your expectations are too high.
I’m one of the planet’s biggest fans of content marketing. I can tell you stories of other successful companies and even share statistics of the insane amounts of traffic and revenue that I’ve been able to generate from content marketing.
But maybe all this breathless excitement over content marketing has raised your expectations a bit too high. Let’s all step back, take a deep breath, and get realistic about content marketing. You might not double your traffic or triple your revenue.
Homework: if you are getting results from content marketing, be satisfied with it. Look for gradual improvements, not an overnight success.
10. You’re not having any fun with it.
You know what I think is a big problem?
You’re way too serious! Come on and have some fun with content marketing. It’s not supposed to be a painful, awful, or dark journey through despondency. Lighten up.
If you can’t be light and humorous with your content now and then, you’re probably doing something wrong. Shift gears a little bit, and make content fun again.
Homework: Produce at least one piece of fun content this week.
There are a million reasons why content marketing might not be working for you, but chances are, you’re somewhere in the ballpark of these ten reasons.
I’m convinced that 90% of the businesses in the world can use content marketing and can use it better. Take your business where it is right now, put on your strategic mojo, and start to ramp it up.
And please, have fun!
Have you experienced a content marketing slump? What helped you pull out of it?