Nine Beliefs That Doom a Content Marketing Strategy to Failure

October 4, 2023

In my role as a marketing coach, I spill a lot of ink providing insights and guidance on how to develop and implement an effective B2B content marketing strategy.

As a business strategy coach, I also guide leaders to ask what might go wrong and how those risks can be managed, mitigated, and minimized.

Combining the two begs the question: How might content marketing go awry, and how can you avoid those pitfalls?

Looking back on the content marketing struggles that I’ve witnessed, as well as cases documented by others in this line of work, I’ve shortlisted nine misguided beliefs that underlie many (if not most) of the problems.

Here’s an express guide to what those beliefs are, how they manifest, the impact they have on your marketing efforts, and how to choose a more productive approach.


Belief #1: Content Marketing is Just Writing

This is a dozen similar beliefs wrapped into one: “Content marketing is just {fill in the blank with a seemingly menial task}, how costly can it be?”

Many leaders mistakenly believe that content marketing requires nothing more than crafting a few blogs and social media posts.

Consequently, they underinvest in content marketing and their teams produce erratic, poor quality content, which in turn diminishes their company’s brand reputation.

Delivering high-quality content involves research, skillful writing, collaborating with competent designers, and effective promotion.

Once you’ve adjusted your belief away from “it’s just…” toward“ it involves many skills”, establish a realistic budget that appropriately resources every aspect of content creation and distribution.


Belief #2: We Know What's Best for Our Clients

A lack of customer understanding causes teams to produce content that they find captivating, but which fails to align with customer interests and pain points.

Such content fails to engage the audience because it doesn’t resonate with them or help them, leading to disappointing results and wasted effort.

Effective content should always address the needs, aspirations, and specific pain points of your target audience.

Switch your mindset from “what we want to talk about” to “what they want to hear”—an “always be helping” mindset—and then invest the time and effort to develop detailed buyer personas and buyer’s journey maps.  

Furthermore, actively seek customer feedback on the content that you publish, since even the best analysis is full of assumptions and imperfections.


Belief #3: A Few Quick Posts Should Give Us Immediate Results

Many leaders expect to see content marketing results virtually overnight.

This leads to the premature abandonment of strategies that could deliver tremendous success, if only they were given enough time to bear fruit.

Contrary to social media clickbait, B2B content marketing is, by nature, a long-term strategic play that requires effort and investment.

The essence of content marketing lies in nurturing trust and building lasting relationships.

Switch to a long-term mindset, where setting and hitting 12-month goals is more important than how many followers you added last week.

Crucially, recognize that the impact of effective content marketing grows cumulatively.

Practicing patience is key. The longer you stick to the plan, the more the benefits will compound.


Belief #4: Third Parties Don't Get our Brand Like We Do

In today’s interconnected world, where growth in the gig economy is outpacing any other sector, collaboration is key.

Nevertheless, many leaders are averse to working with third party resources because they fear it will dilute their brand identity.

While I’m sympathetic to the need for a third party to learn your brand before they can effectively create content on its behalf, failing to tap into high-quality external resources leads to missed opportunities for enhanced content quality, quantity, and reach.

Unless you’re running a large and highly skilled team, engaging third parties is the only way you can bring specialized skills, scalability, and fresh perspectives into your company.

Dial back the hyperbole and lose the idea that only your team knows how to write about your business, products, or sector.

Properly vetted partners with whom you build a trusted relationship can significantly amplify your content marketing efforts.


Belief #5: Our Product Features and Benefits Speak for Themselves

Yeah. No, they don’t.

Product-centric content is great when the audience is a group of purchase-ready prospects, hungry for the specifics they need to make a final decision.

For everyone else, it’s salesy, annoying, and uninteresting.

Most of your audience isn’t actively in the market, ready to buy. They’re eager to learn about the sector—and even about your solutions more generally—but they don’t want to exclusively hear why yours is better than the other guy’s.

Even when it becomes appropriate to include features and benefits in your content, this belief bubbles along below the surface, leading to an overemphasis on features without placing them in context or explaining how they will benefit the buyer.

This can cause potential buyers to see your brand as self-centered, rather than as a genuinely helpful solution provider.

Remember that prospective clients are seeking solutions, not bells and whistles.

With that belief in mind, construct your content around narratives that place the customer on center stage and make them the hero of the story.

Emphasize how your product or service can resolve their challenge. The features and benefits that allow it to do so can be explained later.


With a budget for paid promotion, even the best content will struggle to be seen

Belief #6: Great Content Promotes Itself

This is the content marketing equivalent of “build it and they will come”.

Leaders believe that their audience will naturally find and engage with their content, negating the need for promotion.

However, without adequate promotion, even stellar content can go unnoticed, leading to a cascading set of beliefs about how content marketing doesn’t work.

In practice, even the best content needs a promotional push to maximize its reach.

This is especially true when you are in the early stages of content marketing and your direct audience is small.

While owned media—such as your website, blog, and social media pages—is the cheapest to operate, it will have very limited reach until you grow a huge following (which usually takes years).

Earned media—where your content is shared by influencers, bloggers, podcasters, and others who already have a large online audience—must be, well, earned.

You must publish consistently and well to get your content noticed and be judged worthy of sharing with an influencer’s hard-won audience.

The remaining option, paid media, can be expensive, but is the only way you can guarantee that your content is seen by a meaningful audience.

Start from the point of view that buying eyeballs for your content is non-negotiable.

Then, allocate resources for strategic content promotion on whichever channels your audience turns to when seeking new and helpful information.


Belief #7: We Should Publish Whenever We Find the Time or Inspiration

One of the characteristics of successful content, whether measured through audience engagement or how favorably it is treated by a search algorithm, is consistency.

You must publish content of consistently high quality at a regular cadence if you want to get noticed.

Inconsistent publishing disrupts audience engagement, erodes audience trust, and reduces domain authority as calculated by the AI-driven search engine.

Recognize that consistent publishing keeps your brand top of mind, fosters trust, and allows your audience to build reliable expectations for your future work.

Create and enforce a content calendar to ensure material is produced, edited, and published on a regular basis, and that it meets your company’s brand guidelines and other quality standards.


Belief #8: Our Content Feels Right—We Don't Need Numbers to Prove It

Oof, another dose of over-confidence and “we know best.”

Too many leaders downplay the importance of analytics in evaluating and optimizing their content marketing efforts.

Seldom has the time-worn adage been truer: you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Without data-driven insights, ineffective strategies continue unchecked and the opportunity to identify and double-down on impactful content is missed.

Embrace the belief that you “don’t know what you don’t know”.

Analytics offer invaluable insights into what’s resonating with your audience, and what might need revision or be utterly irrelevant.

The second part of this trap is a belief that measuring the numbers is good enough.

In addition to gathering the data, you must also invest the time to regularly review your metrics and adjust your content strategy based on data-driven conclusions.


Belief #9: This is How We've Always Done It, and It Works Just Fine

Most people avoid change like the plague, especially if something appears to be working.

The problem for content marketers is that success is a moving target.

The market changes, customer preferences shift, competitors respond, and tactics that worked great last quarter show diminishing returns over time.

Finding a winning combination of marketing channels, content, and creative elements is a never-ending game of experimentation.

Sticking exclusively to tried-and-tested formats and tactics will severely limit the engagement potential of your content.

The material itself will become monotonous and predictable, causing stagnation in audience engagement, and you will be out-marketed by competitors who are experimenting with and adopting new approaches.

In contrast, embracing innovation can help differentiate your brand as well as catering to evolving audience preferences.

Be open to experimenting with different formats and staying updated with marketing trends that are impacting your sector.


Which Unhelpful Beliefs are You Harboring?

I hope that exposing and naming these misconceptions and the associated consequences will help you to adeptly navigate around them.

Which ones did you recognize in yourself or your team? Did any make you cringe?

If they did, know that you’re not alone.

These are prevalent beliefs, many of them fueled by misleading information circulating on social media.

Always remember two things:

1.    Your overarching goal is to deliver relevant, helpful information of genuine value to your audience.

2.    Content marketing isn’t quick, cheap, or easy; it takes time, costs money, and requires hard work.

By staying alert to the unhelpful mindsets I’ve highlighted, you’ll be able to take a thoughtful, practical, and strategic approach to producing content that sets your business up for long-term success.


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Image credits: Adobe Stock


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