By Joe Pulizzi published March 29, 2016

Content Marketing: Forget About the 5%


At the end of Karen McGrane’s keynote speech at Intelligent Content Conference 2016, she talked about getting to 95%. Specifically, she discussed how a responsive web design can get you to 95% of your goals … so don’t be in such a rush to get to adaptive or personalized content (the last 5%). If you reach the 95%, then (and only then) go for the last 5%.

Exactly a week later, I was keynoting an event for Business Marketing Association’s Milwaukee chapter. Before the keynote talk, I had a fantastic conversation with the executive digital team at a large B2B enterprise. The team was really trying to figure out how they were going to start personalizing their content for their customer base. At the same time, the group had no documented content marketing strategy, had multiple internal issues, was experiencing content quality issues, and knew the content they did produce wasn’t getting seen.

Basically, they were jumping over the 95% to get to the 5%.

The 5% doesn’t matter if the 95% is broken.

Let’s just jump to the end right now: Before you focus on the nice to have, focus on what’s important.

Poor decision-making in play

As we end the first quarter of the year, it’s time to get your team together to see how the year is progressing and to get your priorities straight.

Just over the past 60 days, I have seen the following cases (do any of these sound familiar?):

  • Implementing a marketing automation system, while the e-newsletter isn’t sent consistently to the subscriber base
  • Launching an initiative on Snapchat, while the in-person customer event was put on hold
  • Creating a new series of customer video tutorials, while the podcast has been left for dead
  • A company was ready to disband its blog after a year for nonperformance, but yet not in one of the 52 weeks did they ever consistently deliver blog posts.
  • A manager wanted to kill the e-newsletter because “nobody” reads email newsletters anymore, not recognizing that their e-newsletter was a pure sales pitch that made “wanting” it challenging.

We marketers always seem to look to the new, the exciting, the different instead of focusing on doing correctly what we we’ve already committed to.

Market moving to less

According to our CMI/MarketingProfs annual content marketing research, the average enterprise uses 13 to 15 tactics (e-newsletters, webinars, events, blogs, etc.) to communicate with their customers. Too many? Probably so.

The average enterprise uses 13 to 15 tactics to communicate with their customers via @cmicontent #research Click To Tweet

I had a wonderful conversation with a marketer at a large B2B manufacturing company last week. She was interested in how they can take one content asset (a white paper, for instance) and break that asset apart into 10 or 15 assets. Here was my response:

“Breaking up one piece of content into dozens may be a good use of your resources, as long as you plan up front for how and why you are doing this, and set up the process to minimize human involvement.

But here’s my question: Is the main asset (your white paper) amazing? Is it unlike anything else out there? Is it truly telling a different story? Because if it’s not, then you are breaking up one mediocre content asset and turning that into an additional 12 equally mediocre assets, which at the end of the day will not move the needle for you one bit.”

Don’t worry, I was nice about it, but what I said is true. You can be delivering content in every channel on the face of the earth to dozens of audiences, but if it’s not relevant, not compelling, not differentiated and not consistent, IT WILL NOT WORK.

If your content is not relevant, compelling, different, and consistent, it will not work via @joepulizzi Click To Tweet

For my money, I’d rather have one amazing e-newsletter, one amazing video series, one amazing in-person event, or one amazing blog rather than 100 content pieces that don’t inspire any kind of behavior change.

You know, there is something about focus. There’s something about being truly remarkable at one thing. The problem is that it requires you to choose. It requires you to stop doing all the little things and focus on what’s really important and what will really move the needle.

Take the rest of today and think about what you are doing with your content plans. Maybe by focusing on your new initiatives and not doubling down on doing a few things really well, you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. Maybe you should stop thinking about that personalization project and just make sure you’re continually telling a different story to a very specific audience. Maybe instead of creating another video series, you should make sure your content marketing strategy actually makes sense.

Maybe the 5% can wait.

Want to strengthen your 95%? Content Marketing World 2016 is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge and be inspired to focus on what matters for your brand. Register today and use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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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  • carmenhill

    Halle-freaking-lujah, Joe! This is right on…and a great first post to read on my first day back from vacation. Focus, focus, focus. Thanks!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hey…welcome back! The pictures on FB looked amazing!

  • Doug Kessler

    Bravo, Joe — had to be said. And welcome back Carmen!

    I hate seeing whole teams re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…

    • carmenhill

      Thanks Doug!

  • Mike Myers

    Ah, such sound advice (that I hope marketers will listen to). It’s just so tempting to go for that shiny new thing, when the things you already have aren’t being fully utilized…and could be quite shiny on their own. Well said, Joe.

  • DougMcKerson

    Great post – a very timely reminder that it is not necessary or effective to jump on new channels for the sake of being on them. Email and a strong blogging approach are so consistently underrated.

  • Todd Sledzik

    I’m often hit with a wave of relief (and sometimes disbelif) when I talk to clients about scaling back, focusing on just a few things. Sometimes asking “why” is the most important thing I do. And who doesn’t love Karen, btw?

  • Datascribe Digital Marketing

    Rightly said most of us rush over 5% and broke the 95%. Thanks for the instructions and reminding us to focus on what’s really important.

  • Lydia Cockerham

    So honest. So (painfully) true. This is something I’ve been struggling with recently, so it’s great to hear you saying that which needs to be said. Thanks for the kick in the right direction!

  • Stacy A. Cross

    Having a blast with our content marketing strategy. When its true, real and from a place of pure purpose then it’s easy. When I try to fake it – the shit stops working.