Think You’re Not Good at Content Marketing? Try Simplifying Your Strategy

The masters of content marketing have become the masters of the digital universe. Those who excel at this craft enjoy as much as 7.9 times more site traffic than those who fall flat. They experience higher engagement levels, generate leads at a fraction of the cost of outbound marketing, and see conversion rates that are six times higher than marketers who practice traditional marketing techniques.

And, content marketing is not advertising. By mid-2015, 200 million people had installed ad-blocking software. Millions more have developed the phenomena of ‘ad blindness.’ Customer surveys find that 91% of people feel that ads are more intrusive now than they have been in the past 2 to 3 years. Many people search for the information they are looking for on the web and navigate around those brightly colored pop-ups and intrusive blocks of text advertising, let alone click on them.

Content marketing has become the welcome solution on all sides, providing value to consumers when done well, and for marketers, a cost-effective way to build brand awareness.

How Effective Is Your Content Marketing?

So, what do you do if your content marketing strategy isn’t working? You publish content, you follow as many of the rules to the craft that you can. Yet, you’re not getting the results that you expected. And – you’ve been at it for over a year, or more.

The truth is, only 42% of B2B marketers believe that they are effective through their content marketing. What are the other 58% doing wrong?

Part of the problem is that there are so many rules, techniques, and should-do’s. And these benchmarks are constantly changing.


This is how you should approach SEO, right now. These are the most relevant social media strategies, today, but this one’s peaking and another new one is emerging – unless you are in these industries, then you should take an entirely different approach. You should use Xthousand words, post once a day right after sunrise, use these colors in your infographics, and video, oh god, don’t forget video.

While all the insight you can gather from the successful content marketers out there is valuable, collecting these pearls of wisdom and trying to apply them isn’t necessarily going to work. These are guidelines, sources of information, inspiration, and even comradery along the way. You still have to develop your style of content marketing depending on the unique needs of your brand, your buyer personas, and even what your team are capable of producing with your limited resources. You are still going to have to go back and refine your campaign based on your metrics and consumer response.

If your content marketing isn’t working, that doesn’t mean you aren’t good at it. There are a million different ways to skin this cat. Marketers are creative by nature. You can figure out how to be a successful content marketer.

It takes time to develop your method of successful content marketing. Don’t assume the solution is to just produce more content. In fact, until you figure out what works for you, less may be better.

What it does mean, is that you may need to simplify your content marketing and then build from there. Build from what works for your brand.

The Three Questions You Need Answers To

Chief brand strategist for Brand Driven Digital, Nick Westergaard suggests answering three questions that will help marketers realign with their purpose.

  • Why?
  • Who?
  • What?

More important than knowing the 17 (thousand) things that Google expects websites to have in order to rank well, or how to get the most shares on Facebook, are these three small, unassuming words.

Ask Why with every action you take. The Why helps you determine what is the driving force behind a strategy or even tomorrow’s blog post. How will it help you achieve your goals as a marketer? Is it for:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Lead or sales generation
  • Educating consumers
  • Customer engagement
  • Market research

Now the Who. Who are you creating content for? This is where the quality of your buyer personas gets tested. Are you clear on what their preferences, expectations, and needs are?

Westergaard explains, “Good content has to solve problems for our audience. It needs to serve a need in their lives.”

If you have a vague idea of who you are working so hard to craft useful, value-driven content for, such as their demographic profile only, then you may have stumbled upon why your content marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they should be.

Use well-thought out surveys, market research, and research the major influencers in your industry to help you better answer Who.

And finally, the What. Knowing your objective (Why) and your audience’s needs (Who), you are now in a great position to determine what content you should create to best serve the first two questions.

For example, if your objective is to engage your tech-savvy millennial audience, who are interested in what is going on in pop culture, then you know a video campaign on your social media sites that is relevant to their style preferences is just what you need to get those social media shares and likes.

Trying to inform busy 30 and 40-something professionals about the nuanced benefits of liability insurance? Publishing an infographic on your website may be the way to get your message across quickly and clearly. The visual format will also make it easier for your audience to remember the information you shared.

By first answering these essential questions, you can create powerful content marketing that is valuable and effective. You can also take a lot of the headache out of trying to figure out the matrix of rules that exist today in content marketing.

There’s no reason to pour all your energy into the latest trends in an attempt to get your inbound marketing just right, if you aren’t producing relevant content that serves a business objective and provides a solution for your audience in the first place. Master the essentials and you’ll have a strong foundation to build upon. You can also feel satisfied in knowing that you aren’t just publishing content and building traffic, you’re making an impact and driving solutions.

Image Credit


Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

2 thoughts on “Think You’re Not Good at Content Marketing? Try Simplifying Your Strategy

  1. Great post, thank you for validating the “I’m a fraud” feeling that often comes with content marketing.

    One question: it’s great to simplify down to the why/who/what, but it seems like many organizations, particularly the large ones, will have multiple versions of those–multiple personas and objectives that each have their own appropriate batch of content. In that case, does simplification become a prioritization exercise?

    1. Great question Aimee! I think it’s important to create one master plan and consider the different personas as “slices” of that plan. But especially the why should be a common mission that the entire organization can buy into. Then add separate action plans for each “who” and “what.” But I strongly advise my clients to consider a single platform for a couple of reasons:
      1. a single platform is easier to focus on, measure, and optimize.
      2. It makes overall SEO, social and distribution approaches easier
      3. There is often more overlap between audiences around a master topic than persona-based platforms realize
      4. multiple platforms spread resources out and dilute the potential impact.

      There are other reasons but those are the main ones. The only caveat is if you have a business that has VERY different product lines. A consumer and a business-to-business brand for example. Or when you sell one product very specifically for SMB vs. Large enterprises. But even then, I think a single platform can work!

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