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It’s Official: Content Marketing is Synonymous with the Word FAILURE

Date published: June 25, 2014
Last updated: June 25, 2014

Fact: there’s more perceived content marketing failure than there is success today. That’s been proven time and time again by many Content Marketing Institute studies. The excuses for perceived failure range from limited staff to inability to measure impact. Even worse, according to Econsultancy, only 38 percent of companies even have a content marketing strategy to speak of.

If all of this failure doesn’t turn into some form of success soon brands may start to abandon content marketing altogether. The livelihoods of my peers and I depend on companies adopting and succeeding at content marketing. So what do we tell all of these people who are failing at content marketing to get them on the right track? How do we help fix this?

Does your industry have an online content deficit or surplus?

This is the very first question all marketers should be asking themselves prior to deploying full-fledged content marketing. Why? Because the answer to this question will determine the actual strategy and tactics deployed and can point to exactly why campaigns are failing. The answer does not impact the goal of the campaign because goal-setting is not typically the challenge for most marketing organizations. It’s the strategy, tactics and/or measurement that falls short.

Content Deficits

Marketers that have been doing content marketing for the last decade remember a time when publishing content would attract large numbers of people quite easily. It literally was “build it and they will come.” It was that simple. Companies like Moz and HubSpot benefited heavily from this. Niche media outlets like Social Media Today, Business2Community, Social Media Examiner, SocialFresh and many others thrived in this environment.

The deck below explores the business impact on Moz and HubSpot from content marketing deployed in a time of industry content deficits.



These companies and media outlets formed at a time when the online marketing industry, in general, had a content deficit and social media, specifically, was emerging as a marketing channel. Translation: Lots of people were looking for marketing answers and there weren’t very many websites providing and delivering them.

Content Surpluses

Since around 2011, the age of digital marketing content deficits has come to an end. Hundreds, if not thousands, of agencies ramped up their blogs and so did marketing SaaS companies. Social broadcasting became the norm and content about digital marketing was everywhere. The industry entered into a state of content surplus.

Companies in the digital marketing space that launch content marketing campaigns today will find it extremely difficult to stand out in the marketplace using content if they deploy a “build it and they will come” philosophy. It likely won’t work in an age of content surpluses.

Audiences were built, grown and nurtured during the time of content deficits and they’re going to be really tough to pry away. Owned media alone is unlikely to do it.

What this means to you

Content deficits represent one of the only windows of opportunity for owned media alone to have a meaningful and sustainable business impact. BuzzFeed is one of the rare exceptions. If a brand’s industry is experiencing a content surplus, then earned and paid media channels can be leveraged to produce successful and repeatable results.

With more than 90 percent of companies reporting content marketing adoption, few content deficits exist today. Blogging alone will likely fail to achieve meaningful returns if an industry is experiencing a content surplus. This is because the audience a brand is trying to reach is likely already committed to the websites that delivered industry-specific problem-solving content and did so during the time of content deficits.

To overcome this, brands must get their content on the websites where their target audience already hangs out. There are several ways to do this. Some native paid channels include sponsored social promotion, content recommendations, and sponsored articles. Earned channels include media coverage, bylined article or column, syndication, and influencer advocacy.

For more information on the many different content promotion channels download this cheat sheet.

The mix of the content promotion channels used above will define a brand’s content marketing strategy. Marketers who question the impact of their current content marketing efforts or are just getting started must identify whether their industry is in a content surplus or deficit. It’s likely in surplus.

If that’s the case, converging current owned media efforts with paid and earned media tactics will expose a brand’s content to a much larger and targeted audience. Building an audience from scratch using last decade’s blog-n-pray approach is likely a recipe for failure today. Unfortunately, that’s why most marketers report their content efforts are not effective.


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