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10 Common Reasons Why Content Marketing Isn’t Working for You

Everyone’s doing content marketing. 94% of small businesses, 93% of B2Bs, and 77% of B2Cs use content marketing. Basically, that’s everyone.

Either way, 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 9% of B2B marketers consider their content marketing efforts to be “very effective.” In other words, all this content production doesn’t seem to be working.

1 how b2b marketers

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 gods 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 it 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 2014 survey of B2B marketers. Of the successful marketers, 66% have a document content strategy. Of the unsuccessful marketers, only 11% have a documented content strategy.

In the B2C world, things are equally bleak. Only 27% of all marketers have a documented strategy. 50% have a content strategy that is “not documented,” which is to say, no clear strategy at all.

2 b2c marketers

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.

3 percentage of b2c marketers

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.
  • 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, to write your content, and to 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.”

4 comparison of most effective b2b content marketers

There is a big difference between 16% and 39% — 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.

5 spend 44 billion

Image: DCustom.com.

Is content marketing expensive? Yes.

In response, marketing tightwad businesses decide to spend less on content marketing. But this is only half the story.

Is a Formula 1 car expensive? Yes — about $9.4 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 $373, but with content marketing techniques it’s only $143. B2B companies with strategic content marketing generate 67% 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’ve gotten strategy aligned, you’re read 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?

Wrong!

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:

  1. Create content.
  2. 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.
  • Google+ posting.
  • 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 creation, 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 sucks.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I got to say it. Sometimes, the content just plain sucks.

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 sucks:

  1. 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.
  2. You simply hired an inexpensive writer. 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.
  3. You’re 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 crowded content marketing.

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 that 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 your 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?

Homework:

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 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 have horrible 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 breathe, and get realistic about content marketing. You might not double your traffic or triple your revenue.

Homework: if you are getting some 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 and 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 even a little bit and make content fun again.

Homework: Produce at least one piece of fun content this week.

Conclusion

There are 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?

About the Author: is a lifelong evangelist of Kissmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

  1. Great article Neil. Even though content marketing has been around for a few years now, the successful practice of it, still eludes many online marketers. We recently did a survey and the results show that at least one in ten online marketers struggles with implementing content marketing successfully.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Great article, and points 4 and 10 really nail it.

    If you’re boring yourself, you’re boring everybody else. Often it’s worth reducing volume and spending the extra time on making a few pieces that really sparkle.

    Yes, I did learn this the hard way. :)

  3. Lynda Radosevich Nov 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    As Derek says – really great content is the only thing that really matters. Interesting, readable, different, thoughtful. It’s a high bar.

  4. Whew, You blew it out of the water. It’s amazing how many of these points ring true time and time again. My biggest issue with clients is that they expect near immediate results, but that isn’t the way content works if you’re building an audience.

  5. Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300%.Wow, this is a surprise. I despise marketing email. If the 4,300 is to say they generated leads or reached the target audience, then okay, but converted to a sale? Really?

    Sandy

  6. Great article…have been searching for this long time.

    Content Marketing is king, but usually companies underestimate the cost and time of investing in it.

  7. This is a great article for honing in on what makes great content marketing. Strategizing always seems to be the toughest part to me, especially since I don’t work f/t at the organizations I write for.

  8. Andrew J. Coate Nov 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Spot on, Neil! And thanks for linking to Kapost’s stats page.

  9. Veronika Oster Nov 27, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    Hello,
    It is really an awesome and a practical post which is actually showing the causes of Content marketing failure. I also think that to plan a strategy for content marketing is your job and not of the company which is writing or publishing content for you because it is you which can better know the needs of your business.
    Thanks

  10. Andrea Hewett Nov 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Neil,

    Your article really resonated with me. We often tell our clients to pay attention to what the competition is doing but we often focus on finding the platforms that work best for their business type rather than from the perspective of finding holes in what the competitors are doing. I love this outside of the box thinking!

    I also really appreciated that you gave attention to the importance of metrics. I see people focusing on the quantity and quality of content without setting goals all too often. My company thrives on key performance indicators… Unfortunately (and surprisingly) it is one of the most underutilized tools in business!

    Great post, I look forward to reading more from you!

  11. Great article about content marketing strategy, which is the most important factor for high ranking. Keep on the good work!

  12. karthik kumar Nov 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    This post show how content marketing works in big time, I have missed email marketing, and its amazing to know about the ROI in that. Its huge and I am sure I’ll try to do that. This give me ideas to promote the content. Let me try them. Thanks for sharing this article.

  13. These are such excellent points! Thanks for posting this. I spend weeks developing strategies for clients, which they never read or implement and then wonder why the aren’t seeing the results they want.

  14. Bill Marshall Jun 02, 2015 at 4:51 am

    A good survey and also a good indication of the sort of things that content marketing *should* consist of. Unfortunately for most clients and far too many agencies it looks nothing like that. Clients have little idea of what the term means, and thus need an agency or consultant to tell them and guide them to a strategy. Sadly far too many agencies grabbed “content marketing” as a scalable task they could charge for when cheap and nasty link building got nuked, and they don’t understand it either. Far too much scattergun tactics with no cohesion, no planning, and no end result. And don’t get me started about the appalling quality of much of the “writing” that gets done under this banner.

    I’ll bookmark this and point confused clients at it as one of the clearer indications of what they should be doing.

  15. Great article, Neil, as usual! Your advice to have fun with it is right on. As a former magazine editor in chief (and now the owner of a fairly new editorial website), I’m always surprised by the wholly business-like approach that some marketers take when planning content. I try to make brainstorming for article ideas a fun and exciting experience for me every time. After all, if the ideas don’t excite me, why would they excite readers? I think part of what marketers need to do is let go of all the “business speak” from their minds when they plan their content, and just think as readers. Then, when they put that content to work, it’s time to think like a serious strategist. Thanks in part to some of your tips, I recently pushed an article of mine to beat out Buzzfeed for the number one spot for a popular keyword search. To write that article, though, I had to not think about any of those things and just focus on what I thought readers would truly want to know. Thanks again for sharing your ideas!

  16. One more reason:
    11. You are using an old technology for your content marketing.
    Example:
    – when you are promoting a blog post, everybody understands that you are promoting your blog/company.
    – BUT when you are promoting “a course” it is considered as something much more valuable. So your potential customers come to you and see you as an expert.

    That’s what I found while building my previous startup. And now we help other SaaS-companies to create their own academies and courses.

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