By Joe Pulizzi published May 11, 2013

13 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Might Fail

reasons content marketing might failThe Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has released benchmark research projects in North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom. One overwhelming consistency across all the marketers we’ve surveyed relates to content marketing effectiveness. Across the board, only 33 percent of marketers deem their efforts as effective. Now, if that was a batting average, we’d be all-stars, but…

There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that this whole content marketing thing, even though hundreds of years old, is still relatively new to us marketers. After all, who told us that we’d actually have to be content publishers at some point in our career? 

While each of us has our own challenges that we need to bear and break through, here are a few particularly troubling ones that have been on my mind: 

1. Your content is all about you: Remember, customers don’t care about you; they care about themselves and their problems. We often forget that point when we describe how wonderful our widget is (which no one cares about).

2. Your fear of failing paralyzes you: Taking chances with your content and experimenting a bit reveals the possibilities for your content marketing, and uncovers new and valuable customer stories.

3. You’re setting the bar too low: Your content marketing should be the best in your industry — better than all your competition, and better than the media and the other publishers in your space. How can you be the most trusted expert in your industry if your content marketing doesn’t reflect these high standards?

4. You’re not sourcing correctly: The majority of brands outsource some portion of the content marketing process. Don’t be afraid to find internal content champions — as well as outside journalists, writers, and content agencies — to help you tell your story.

5. You operate in silos: Are you telling different stories across your efforts in PR, corporate communications, social media, email marketing, etc.? Do all your departments follow a consistent corporate story line? Epic content marketing means that your company is telling a consistent story.

6. You don’t seek out discomfort: In his book, “Linchpin,” Seth Godin states that if we don’t consistently step out of our comfort area, then we are doomed to the status quo. Do something completely unexpected with your content from time to time.

7. You do not have calls to action: Every piece of content should have a call to action. If it doesn’t, at least recognize this, and consider the real purpose behind why you developed the content.

8. You are too focused on one particular channel: Stop thinking “email newsletter” or “Facebook.” Think about the problem you are solving for your customer. Then tell that story in different ways  — and tell it everywhere your customers go to seek authoritative information.

9. Your content isn’t owned: Someone in your organization (possibly you) must take ownership of the content marketing plan.

10. Your C-level doesn’t buy in: Organizations without C-level buy-in are three times more likely to fail at content marketing.

11. You are not niche enough: You need to be the leading expert in the world in your niche. Pick a content area that is both meaningful to your business and attainable and create content around that subject.

12. Your team’s too slow: As much as I hate to say it, speed beats perfection in most cases. Figure out a streamlined process for your storytelling.

13. You execute inconsistently: Your content marketing is a promise to your customers. Think about the morning paper (if you receive it): When it doesn’t come on time, how upset are you? You need to have the same mindset with your content marketing. Distribute content consistently and ON TIME.

I’m sure you’ve just thought of a few more reasons that are holding you back. Whatever the reason, nothing is insurmountable. What’s great about where we are as an industry is that there are so many amazing case studies and industry leaders helping us get to the next level. Identify your key challenges, tackle them, and move on to tell your story. You can do it!

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our quarterly magazine. 

Cover image via Bigstock 

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Linette Singleton

    I would add – #14: Your content lacks focus (and purpose).

    • Joe Pulizzi


  • George Symms

    I would also add your not distributing the content in a content style format like through Outbrain, Adblade or Google. If your not promoting it in that type of environment, no one will see/click it.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Agreed George…part of the strategy involves really focusing on your distribution channels.

  • Julie Mac

    Thanks Joe, good info to use

  • dougkessler

    Or #13: You haven’t read this post.

    • Joe Pulizzi


  • Yogesh Goplani

    Hey Joe, I find point#8, 9, and 12 very apt though others all also correct.

    Creating and sticking to an editorial calender, focusing on different marketing channels, and assigning a team for proper execution of the plan is mandatory.

  • Mark Evans

    Great points, Joe. I particularly like #1 because I think brands thrive when they deliver value-added content that meets the needs and interests of potential and existing customers.

    It’s the reason that I tell my clients to focus on providing thought leadership and commentary about interesting industry issues rather than writing about their own products. See you at mesh13 in Toronto later this week!


    • Joe Pulizzi

      Excellent Mark…nothing wrong with talking about products, services or the company, but most companies already have SO much of that content.

      Yes, see you this week!

      • Yasin Aydin

        I always say to clients with regards to content marketing make sales the outcome, not the purpose of the content!

  • Dan Norris

    This is solid. Particularly content is all about you and setting the bar too low. Good content will kill your content marketing. There’s already plenty of good content available for people.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Dan…I agree…it’s remarkable how many companies create run-of-the-mill content and that’s all.

  • Barry Feldman

    Joe’s killer list became an interactive Listly on my site, so after you comment here, contribute additional failure formulas at … Embed it on your blog and spread the no-no’s.

  • Jeff Sararas

    At first glance I read #11 as “You’re not nice enough”. What? I gotta be nice?

  • Donna Moritz

    Awesome List Joe. Enough said! :o)

  • Jen Havice

    I really like #6 and need to work on that myself. It’s important to push the boundaries a bit and see if it sparks conversation.

  • Kostadinka Dobreva

    Thank you for these useful tips! I think I have to learn a lot more about internet marketing, especially about No. 11. Could you advice me about my Etsy shop here

  • tractoBR

    It’s simply perfect. This is a kind of guideline for content marketers.

  • Jonathan Adcox

    Re-posted to my blog at: 13 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Might Fail.