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According to the Content Marketing Institute, nine out of 10 marketers are using content marketing. However, only 9 percent of B2B marketers consider their content marketing efforts to be “very effective.” Another 33 percent rate it as only “effective.”

Content marketing is a great tool, but clearly some marketers don’t feel it’s working for them. Frankly, content marketing is not a magic bullet that will increase your brand awareness or sales overnight. You have to work with the tool to make your content marketing effective.

Here are some things you should examine if you believe your content marketing is not working.

Develop a strategy

As George Harrison sang in “Any Road” (and the band Dawes sang in “From a Window Seat”), “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

Simply put, in order to be successful, you need a strategy. You need an overall marketing strategy and you need a content marketing strategy that aligns with your goals.

In 2014, the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs conducted a survey of B2B marketers. They found that of the successful marketers, 66 percent had a documented content strategy. Of the unsuccessful marketers, only 11 percent had a documented content strategy. With B2C marketers, only 27 percent of all marketers had a documented strategy. Another 50 percent had a content strategy that is “not documented.”

It’s just not good business to get into content marketing for the sake of “having content marketing.” Flying by the seat of your pants will only make you frustrated because you will not see the results you hope for. You need to establish your goals so you can create a plan to reach them.

If your first efforts don’t succeed, don’t despair. Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, says, “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.”

Consider these tactics:

Know your audience: Relevance engages an audience. They only way to find out what is relevant is to understand your audience. This can be achieved through polls, direct inquiries and examination of data and trending topics.

Neil Patel suggests creating a “buyer persona,” a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customers. Knowing your visitors allows you to tailor content to their specific wants, needs, concerns and behaviors.

Set your goal: By using content marketing are you hoping to obtain a certain amount of subscribers to your newsletter? Do you want to achieve a specific number of monthly visits to your blog? Will success be measured by the number of conversions?

Establish your voice: How do you wish to come across in your blog postings and social media? Are you casual? Serious? Playful?

Create a budget: There is no way you will ever stick to a budget if you don’t have a budget. Here, again, you cannot make the mistake of making decisions as you go along. You will most likely end up paying too much for too many things. If you have a budget, you will know when you need to cut back and where you might splurge.

Create content and be consistent: Simply publishing content is not a strategy. Deciding to develop a blog and writing articles is not a plan for true success. Expert marketing strategist Cathey Armillas, author of the award-winning book “The Unbreakable Rules of Marketing” reminds us that the medium is not the message. “There’s no single, magical medium that will make it stick or make it go viral. The magic that does that is the message itself,” she says. “If you have an amazing medium and a terrible message, it will go nowhere. Now, if you have a great message, it somehow finds a way to spread and resonate.”

Thus, you have to have good, solid and relevant content for your intended audience. Start by creating an editorial calendar. This will help you stay organized and plan your next steps. Be consistent with your message and deliver content on a regular schedule. Not only will it help with your SEO, it can help with your ROI.

You get what you pay for

The Content Marketing Institute found that generating a lead through traditional marketing costs $373, but with content marketing techniques it is only $143. B2B companies with strategic content marketing generate 67 percent more leads than companies without a content strategy.

While it is true that companies who spend a lot on marketing are able to grow their markets faster than companies that don’t spend as much, just throwing money at content marketing won’t deliver instant success.

To get the best ROI, go back to your overall plan. What is your strategy? Can this be accomplished through text? Video? Infographics? When you know what may work best, spend your money on these efforts.

Consider hiring a good content marketer, writer, graphics designer and/or video producer. A good content marketer will know where to spend your dollars most wisely. A good writer will research, write well and be accurate. A professional graphics designer will understand which colors, fonts and designs are most user friendly. A video producer can save you hours of time with pre-production planning and create visuals that captivate a viewer.

Good content is most important

Understanding your audience and being relevant is important, but you also have to deliver content to them that is accurate, unique and helps solve their problems. Be engaging and mix things up accordingly.

First and foremost, don’t post low quality anything. Putting up a bad photo is worse than no photo at all. Inaccurate information or misspellings will show your lack of care for what you present. Posting a video where the audio does not work is a recipe for a disastrous response. Don’t expect that any viewer will accept content that is “less than.” There is too much out there these days. Customers find good content elsewhere if your content is bad. Furthermore, one bad experience can go viral just as quickly as a great experience. Do not present an opportunity for your potential customers to find fault in what you deliver.

Do you best not to be boring. There are a lot of companies out there who post a lot of mind-numbing content. Make sure your content is focused, valuable and engaging. Remember that content does not have to be text only. Consider other options such as infographics, webinars, videos and slideshows. See how your audience likes their content delivered and present those formats.

Got it? Promote it!

Once you are satisfied with the content portion of your content marketing, do not forget the marketing piece. Many marketers who look at the ROI and see a poor success rate may have forgotten about promotion. You can’t simply create content and hope for organic results. Visitors will rarely come to you looking for your content. You have to engage with them via:

  • Social media: Facebook postings, Tweets, Google+, etc.
  • Email newsletters
  • Pitches to influencers in your industry who will share your content

Create a list of the most effective types of marketing and monitor the metrics. See what works well for you. Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing. Get creative in your approaches.

Be patient and make changes as necessary

Content marketing is a great tool, but it isn’t a lightning fast one. It takes time. Don’t expect results immediately. Allow visitors to find you and learn to love you. When they do, they will begin sharing your message as well.

Keep an eye on your traffic. As you continue to produce top-quality content, look at the results. See what works best and create more of the same. Alter content or promotions that don’t deliver the success you wish. Whatever you do, don’t move forward blindly. Use metrics to help you craft content that delivers results. And always go back to your foundation: your audience and your overall strategy. Double-check to be sure you are always aligned with your message.

If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Tempesta Media is a managed services provider of custom original content for digital agencies, website developers and PR firms.  We can help you develop a content strategy that meets all of your goals.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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