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Get Back to Reality: 9 Content Marketing Expectations Busted


As the popularity of content marketing grows, marketers and business owners are churning out ideas about what everyone should be doing.

Despite a wealth of data about B2B and B2C content marketing, some unrealistic expectations are still being set.

And the realities are, unfortunately, quite different.

Expectation 1: We’re going to create amazing content

I don’t intend to knock you for aiming high and wanting to create amazing content. That’s what we should all shoot for: content 10 times better than what your competitors are creating, and 10 times better than what your audience is normally subjected to.

But the reality is that creating amazing content is hard. You can’t expect to create amazing content every single day.

It’s not realistic. It’s not practical. It doesn’t help anyone.

You can’t expect to create amazing #content every single day; focus on how to provide value says @NeilPatel Share on X

What you should be focused on is how to best provide value to your audience.

That can come in the form of a 15-second video tip, a 300-word blog post, or even a simple post on social media.

You don’t need to create amazing content with high production value in order to help your audience.

38+ Examples of Brands Doing Great Content

Expectation 2: We’re going to produce content every day because more content means more reach

A lot of sites – TechCrunch, Mashable, Content Marketing Institute – do well by creating content on a regular (daily) basis. This strategy helps generate hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of visits each month.

That doesn’t mean you should push out a ton of daily content to extend your reach.

The reality is that you should focus on perfecting the art of producing better quality content that helps your audience. If you’re just focusing on quantity then you’re going to miss the mark on quality.

Just look at wiseGEEK. It has tons of content, but its consistent focus on lesser-quality content eventually caused it to be penalized by a Google Panda algorithm penalty.

Expectation 3: Everyone is going to share our content

As Jay Baer has said, the content you create is like fire, and social media is the gasoline. You definitely can expect your content to spread using social channels, and you should be using social to drive awareness of your content.

The #content you create is like fire, and #socialmedia is the gasoline says @jaybaer. Share on X

But that’s not going to happen automatically.

In fact, you’ll create plenty of content that barely makes the social needle twitch, especially if all you’re doing is publishing the content and limiting promotion to your own social circles and brand channels.

Getting virtually no social play out of content can be frustrating, but you can fix that by taking these actions:

  • Actively promote content to your audience.
  • Push content to your lists.
  • Promote and boost your social posts.
  • Share your content with communities where they hang out (including Q&A sites like Quora).

Keep in mind that it takes time to grow trust and get shares to increase. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Expectation 4: No one is marketing like we are, so we’re going to kill it

You have competition. There’s a good chance someone in your industry is using content to get the attention of your audience. It might be video, podcasts, email, blogs, or some other effort.

Just because they’re doing it differently, doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong. And just because you’re doing it differently, doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.

Don’t assume that just because you’re taking a different approach to content marketing it’s going to be effective.

Knowing how your audience wants to receive and digest information is just as important as knowing what kind of information they’re looking for.

Expectation 5: Our customers are going to love this content

With every piece of content, people in your audience likely will respond differently, with phrases (spoken or thought) like:

  • “Meh.”
  • “Read it before.”
  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “Oh wow!”
  • “This makes me want to punch someone. I hate this.”

It’s not about making people love your content. It’s about triggering a reaction that makes them want to stay engaged and share it.

The goal of your #content isn’t making someone love it; it’s about getting a reaction says @NeilPatel. Share on X

Something you write could be helpful, so they begin commenting about it on Facebook.

The next piece of content could be thought-provoking but drives enough anger that people begin writing responses. Perhaps a blogger writes a full-blown article in response to yours, sparking a full-scale debate, complete with responses to responses, and comment storms.

Not everyone is going to like or love your content. Your content will appeal to different members of your audience in different ways – and that’s OK.

The key is to understand how different segments of your audience think so you can customize content that talks to them when it’s their turn to pay attention.

It’s fishing with a full tackle box instead of going out with just one lure.

Expectation 6: Our success will come from highly polished content

Highly polished content is great, and it can lead you to be considered a thought leader among your audience. But do you need highly polished content to be successful?

Not necessarily.

It’s a smart approach to leverage highly researched content geared toward thought leadership as well as low-effort content like simplified posts that quickly address a specific question.

Not every aspect of your content marketing needs to be highly researched or unprecedented to make you successful.

Expectation 7: We’ll post the best content to our site to get the most traffic benefit

It might make sense to host your most popular pieces on your site to get more traffic and backlinks, but that’s not always the case.

What if I told you that you could see 10 or 100 times the reach if you posted it elsewhere?

Just look at Aaron Agius from Louder Online. When he publishes marketing-related topics on his blog, he can see upwards of 1,500 hits, if not more. But when he co-wrote The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand with me and published it on my site, Quick Sprout, the content generated more than 120,000 views within 30 days.

Aaron’s content got 82 times more exposure by leveraging Quick Sprout. This is just one reason why he has grown to be a well-known contributor in other popular industry blogs and landed a high-profile client to boot.

Make posting content to other sites, including guest blogging, part of your content marketing strategy. You can only benefit from the increased referral traffic and exposure.

Expectation 8: Our content marketing is going to drive serious revenue

The right kind of marketing can certainly make it rain. In a perfect world you would see sales roll in every time you publish new content.

But that is rare, even for major brands. Most of the content you create won’t directly increase your revenue, and it certainly will not happen immediately.

Content marketing is a great way to nurture relationships and build a loyal audience. Eventually, that loyal audience will look at you and think, “These people really know their stuff and their content is great. I wonder …”

And they eventually tumble toward the bottom of your sales funnel, resulting in a purchase.

That’s why the most successful marketers have a documented content marketing strategy that focuses on capturing leads, nurturing the relationship with content through various channels, and leading them toward a conversion.

They don’t push a sale on every blog post, email, and social post.

The most successful marketers don’t push a sale on every blog post, email, & social post says @NeilPatel. Share on X

Just because you can’t tie content back to revenue doesn’t mean that your efforts aren’t working. There is real value in building your brand and gaining the loyalty of your audience.

Expectation 9: We’ll only post long content because that drives the best results

I’ve always been an advocate for writing longer posts and was a huge believer that “the longer the content, the better” when it came to content marketing. I’ve even written posts on how meaty content helps capture more search traffic.

But then sites like Upworthy started to tip the scale in the other direction and show us that longer doesn’t necessarily mean better.

They showed us that it’s possible to get millions of visitors with fewer than 100 words on a post, and you can even rank for some of the most competitive keywords with that kind of strategy. Those kind of results help remind us that the emphasis should always be on the quality of the content.

It’s entirely possible to tell a story and make an emotional connection in fewer words. You don’t necessarily need a text-heavy blog post put up every day to succeed.

Sure, if you’re writing for a B2B audience you may want to put more focus into longer posts to help build trust – but again, it’s not a requirement.

Find a mix that works best for your audience and deliver the value they’re looking for.


Content marketing works. There’s no doubt about it. But it only works if you set realistic expectations based on your own goals rather than using industry or competitor activity as benchmarks. From that you can create a documented content marketing strategy that will bring you the most success.

Have you experienced a reality check with your content marketing? What lessons have you learned?

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).