Today you’d have to look hard to find a brand that doesn’t have a blog on its web­site and is not pro­duc­ing at least some con­tent.

Over­sat­u­ra­tion is a real­i­ty and more and more mar­keters are find­ing it hard­er to suc­ceed with con­tent mar­ket­ing.

This year’s Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Insti­tute B2B report found that 76 per­cent of brands say they have only lim­it­ed or no suc­cess with con­tent mar­ket­ing.

content marketing

These results are star­tling when you con­sid­er the sheer amount of con­tent being pub­lished by brands every day.

If only a lit­tle frac­tion of it achieves its goal, is it worth the time and mon­ey that goes into it?

Yet, for a small minor­i­ty of brands, cre­at­ing con­tent is extreme­ly suc­cess­ful and worth­while.

So what is it that those brands are doing right, and how can you do that, too?

To under­stand what dif­fer­en­ti­ates win­ners from losers, first, you need to under­stand where so many brands go wrong.

Here are a few rea­sons why so much of con­tent mar­ket­ing does not achieve any sig­nif­i­cant results, and what you can do dif­fer­ent­ly.

Why Your Content Isn’t Working

Here are just some of the com­mon­ly cit­ed rea­sons for B2B con­tent mar­ket­ing fail­ure:

  • Lack of a refined strat­e­gy.
  • Bad con­tent pro­mo­tion.
  • Use of the wrong chan­nels.
  • Inad­e­quate SEO efforts.
  • Expec­ta­tions are set too high.

All brands that are strug­gling with con­tent mar­ket­ing make one or more of these mis­takes.

How­ev­er, for 99 per­cent of cas­es none of these ele­ments is the main rea­son why con­tent isn’t work­ing.

I believe suc­cess with con­tent starts deep­er.

Two ele­ments of your con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram are cru­cial. They must change and adapt as the indus­try changes and devel­ops if you want to run a suc­cess­ful con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram.

These two cru­cial ele­ments are your:

  • Con­tent ideation process.
  • Con­tent cre­ation for­mu­la.

These two con­cepts are the most impor­tant levers you have to make sure your con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram is suc­cess­ful.

Content Ideation (a.k.a. Clarifying Your Ideas)

The con­tent ideation stage is one of the cor­ner­stones of good con­tent. Mar­keters often tend to rush the ideation stage in order to get plen­ty of con­tent out.

The risk though is that by spend­ing too lit­tle time on devel­op­ing their ideas, they may end up hav­ing all their time wast­ed when their con­tent fails to make a mark.

To per­fect the pro­duc­tion of good con­tent ideas, adopt the fol­low­ing habits in your con­tent cre­ation process:

  • Write down your con­tent ideas: As Mark Trapha­gan sug­gests in 4 Ways to Gen­er­ate Fresh Ideas for Blog Posts, you must get in the habit of jot­ting notes: “…you need to devel­op the habit of jot­ting down any­thing and every­thing that might pos­si­bly stim­u­late a future blog post idea.”
  • Take your time with con­tent ideation: As Julia McCoy notes in 5 Cru­cial Con­tent Cre­ation Tac­tics You Might be Miss­ing Out On, there are many ways to gen­er­ate ideas, “vary­ing from con­sult­ing sites like Quo­ra, to polling users, or scan­ning a con­tent analy­sis ser­vice like Buz­zSumo for the most-shared con­tent in your indus­try. It’s impor­tant to have a large pool of top­ic ideas in order to orga­nize an actu­al con­tent plan down the road.”
  • Make sure you top­ics will be inter­est­ing to your audi­ence: As Ben Wood sug­gests in Using Com­peti­tor Research for Your Con­tent Ideation, a lit­tle com­peti­tor research can tell you a lot, includ­ing: which pieces of con­tent are being shared the most in your indus­try; trend­ing indus­try top­ics and themes; what types of con­tent earn links for your com­peti­tors; who fol­lows your com­pe­ti­tion and what they tend to share; and what types of con­tent big brands in your indus­try are using.
  • Fine-tune your idea with tools: As Vikas Agraw­al points out in Top 15 Tools That Will Help You Cre­ate Bet­ter Con­tent, “con­tent devel­op­ment is an art that requires mas­tery of the tools of the trade.” Use these tools to help cre­ate con­tent that is bet­ter than any­thing on the top­ic cur­rent­ly avail­able.

To offer real­ly good and deep con­tent, you have to spend more time on the ideation process through all of the above stages.

Your con­tent ideation is also strong­ly tied to the con­tent cre­ation for­mu­la you choose.

Your Content Creation Formula

When we look at brands that use con­tent suc­cess­ful­ly to mar­ket them­selves, we’ll often notice that they fol­low a spe­cif­ic for­mu­la.

The ele­ments of a con­tent for­mu­la, accord­ing to Jim­my Daly, are:

  • Chan­nel: Where you will engage your audi­ence.
  • Cadence: The rate at which you can pro­duce qual­i­ty con­tent.
  • Per­spec­tive: Your unique point of view regard­ing the top­ic.
  • Tone: The way you make peo­ple feel.
  • Exe­cu­tion: Whether you meet the expec­ta­tions you’re set­ting.

Often the for­mu­las we fol­low are dom­i­nat­ed by what we see oth­ers doing well and what is being shared by peo­ple on social media.

Using an estab­lished for­mu­la may nev­er lead us to recre­ate the suc­cess of those who came up with it in the first place, though.

Daly argues that all too often con­tent across dif­fer­ent brands with­in the same indus­try tends to fol­low the same for­mu­la. Usu­al­ly those who come up with the for­mu­la are those who suc­ceed with it because they have the time to per­fect and exploit it.

Mean­while, every­one else is just attempt­ing to repli­cate their suc­cess end­less­ly, yet nev­er quite mak­ing it.

The prob­lem is not with using for­mu­las in the first place but rather about prop­er­ly assess­ing whether the sit­u­a­tion we are in calls for fol­low­ing or cre­at­ing a for­mu­la.

He sug­gest the fol­low­ing approach to think­ing about con­tent cre­ation process:

If a for­mu­la­ic approach can work, do it. But if a for­mu­la­ic approach turns your blog into a com­mod­i­ty, you need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate.”

So when should you fol­low a for­mu­la and when should you dif­fer­en­ti­ate?

When to Follow a Formula

Accord­ing to Daly, fol­low­ing an estab­lished for­mu­la is best when your com­peti­tors are weak or the mar­ket you are in is new.

In this case, you can suc­cess­ful­ly cap­ture your audi­ence through con­tent by improv­ing an already estab­lished for­mu­la that’s not “owned” by any­one in your mar­ket.

The key is to out­pace your com­peti­tors by improv­ing on the for­mu­la. Your mas­tery should be so great that you are seen as own­ing the for­mu­la.

While this approach is not par­tic­u­lar­ly provoca­tive, it can build up to guar­an­tee a strong stream of organ­ic traf­fic for your web­site. This is the approach AdE­spres­so used to become one of the lead­ing sources on Face­book adver­tis­ing.

When to Create a Formula

When you are up against many strong oppo­nents, it can be hard to improve on an already estab­lished for­mu­la. This is when you may need to con­sid­er tak­ing a risk, and try­ing out some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent — a for­mu­la that breaks the mold.

By try­ing out new pos­si­bil­i­ties with­in these ele­ments, you can find a voice and approach that will be unique to you, and make you stand out.

As Gin­ny Mineo puts it: in find­ing your own for­mu­la you may estab­lish that only blog­ging is not enough or that you need to con­sid­er shift­ing your strat­e­gy toward dif­fer­ent con­tent chan­nels.

While cre­at­ing your own for­mu­la car­ries risk because you will be enter­ing unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry, it may prove to be more pro­duc­tive in the long run since you will not be com­pet­ing with oth­ers who are doing the same thing.

It may take a while for you to estab­lish your for­mu­la. It took Buffer a few years, yet by stay­ing focused and build­ing on their con­tent over time, their approach is still deliv­er­ing huge amounts of traf­fic on a month­ly basis.


If it is increas­ing­ly becom­ing hard­er to achieve busi­ness goals through con­tent mar­ket­ing, then you need to rethink what you are doing.

Two cen­tral aspects of con­tent mar­ket­ing that are impor­tant in this process are the ideation stage and the con­tent for­mu­la.

The for­mer is the stage in which you devel­op, research, and refine your ideas, and the lat­ter is the frame­work you use when putting those ideas onto paper.
Hon­ing your con­tent cre­ation skills by work­ing on all stages of the ideation process, and care­ful­ly choos­ing the for­mu­la to fol­low can help your con­tent out­shine your com­pe­ti­tion and meet the goals you are set­ting.