By Joe Pulizzi published January 18, 2012

Content Marketing and the War of Attrition

There are a lot of reasons why content marketing doesn’t work for some companies. If we were making a list, they would include:

  • A lack of understanding reader/customer needs
  • Focusing on the wrong metrics and objectives
  • A soloed approach to content marketing
  • Poor execution
  • Bland storytelling
  • Lack of authenticity
  • Creating information that, simply put, is not helpful or engaging
  • Sales pitches disguised as content

And the list goes on…

But the biggest culprit (and it’s not even close) is a lack of consistency, and, in some cases, a content stoppage.

Research from IBM in 2010 stated that about 80 percent of corporate blogs never post more than five entries (hat tip to Rebecca Lieb). That is a truly unbelievable stat…a stat that gets to the heart of the matter.

Content Marketing is a War of Attrition

Moneyball - The MovieOne of my favorite books (and movies) is Moneyball, the story about how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane (played in the movie by Brad Pitt) revolutionized the sport of baseball in 2002 by focusing on the statistic of on-base percentage. To Billy, nothing else mattered more in the game than getting on base.  The more people that got on base, the more opportunity to score runs.  Scoring runs becomes primary and all the other statistics like slugging percentage, fielding, steals and batting average are secondary.

During a critical part of the movie, Billy Beane states in a team meeting:

“Everyone wants to attack. Quit trying to attack. Let the game come to you. There’s no clock on this thing. This is a war of attrition…Let them [your competitors] make mistakes…and when your enemies are making mistakes, don’t interrupt them…this is a process, a process, a process.”

Now think about your marketing. Many companies are looking for the big burst (ala advertising campaign) instead of putting in the time, day in, day out.

Simply put, most content marketing mistakes happen because the content, for whatever reason, stopped.  You will win at content marketing because you keep your customer promise and work the process.  Every day, every week, every month, you work the process.

The Best and Worst Content Marketing Example Ever

By now, we all know about the Old Spice/Twitter/YouTube campaign from last year.  It was brilliant.  One of the best real-time content marketing and social media examples I have ever seen.

It’s also one of the worst.

Why?  Because it stopped.  They treated that content marketing initiative just like every major campaign in the history of advertising…they gave it a time limit.  Somewhere along the line, they confused the amazing content for advertising.  Ouch.

Like a savvy publisher, they could have continued to adapt and evolve the content. They could have continued the engagement (and revenue growth).

Sorry…off to a new campaign.


Today’s post marks #600 in just less than five years.  Not mind blowing, but respectable.  Except for two weeks (where I took a vacation), I have had at least two blog posts every week for over 230 weeks.

The result.  This blog was (and is) the single-most important activity that has led to our success as a company.

Sure, I like to think that this blog has served as a valuable resource for many, and helped to drive the industry forward.  But more than anything else, the reason for its success is that I am still here, typing away at this blog, trying to make a difference. You can do the same.

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. – Napoleon Hill

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute , Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill) and the new book, Content Inc. Check out Joe's two podcasts. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Chris Meyer

    Respectable? I’ll say. Your brand is equal parts focus and stamina, and 600 posts validates ’em both. Go, Joe, go!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Too kind Chris…too kind.

  • andrew

    As a long-time reader (mostly a lurker) who respects a lot of the content that comes out of this blog, I have one thing to say: This is your best post ever. Great message for everyone to absorb.

    And congrats on 600!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Wow Andrew…really kind of you to say…and I appreciate all the support.

  • Jeff Korhan

    Joe – Most important is not to stop, because if you stay in the game and practice one can ultimately resolve all of those challenges you listed.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    That’s a crazy statistic that 80% of corporate blogs never post more than 5 entries. But it’s believable. So many businesses go into blogging with the best intentions but they don’t make it a priority. Blogging isn’t going to result in a load of new sales and leads overnight. It’s a long term strategy and those that don’t get it throw in the towel too quickly.

  • Lindsay Bayuk

    Nice post Joe. Couldn’t agree more! Nice stats, too. Thanks for sharing.

  • James Debono

    Hi Joe,
    Creative content marketing strategies are all about persistence.
    Too many businesses are hung up on short term results. Longevity and constant action in the form of valuable content creation on a regular basis will pay off!
    Thanks for the post!

  • Liz Manning

    Thanks for this, Joe (as well as your terrific, high-value site). Yours is a powerful, straightforward observation. But, as you suggest, straightforward doesn’t mean easy. ; ) It takes serious commitment. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Liz…appreciate you stopping by.

  • Tig Tillinghast

    One reason why the efforts may have stopped is that after the initial execution, the marketer did the calculation of how much value they got out of continuing versus putting the same ongoing execution $ into other efforts, such as Adwords or trade advertising. It may be jarring for the reader to see the marketer fail to add content, but for many, many b2b marketers, content marketing eats up an enormous share of their quarterly budgets. I think the industry is of 2 minds on this and that’s why you see schizo behavior.

    There’s less of an excuse for major brands that have wide budgets on which to draw, but for those innumerable companies that have $25,000 to $100,000 a quarter to spend on marketing, having a “content guy” or a firm doing it for them might seem like a big weight, if their sales organizations require a fat pipe of new prospects (as opposed to loyal listeners).

    Expect more orphaned sites, and then as things mature, a binary environment where people are either doing it or not. That’s my guess. -Tig Tillinghast

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Tig…interesting point. Yes, if they want instant results, content marketing is not for them. But if they someday don’t want to rely on paid media as much as they do, they need to BE the media source instead of having to rent the media for eternity.

  • Mark @ Make Them Click

    Old Spice guy was also a flop because it didn’t make any money (profit). That’s why they stopped it.