Ever tried your hand with content marketing? Almost every marketer has. 88% of B2B companies and 76% of B2C companies are doing at least some form of it, according to research from the Content Marketing Institute.

But that same research points to a serious problem. The bulk of people doing content marketing aren’t getting good results from it. Only 30% of B2B marketers say their content marketing is effective. Only 38% of B2C marketers can say the same.

This is troubling, but it especially worries me for small businesses. These aren’t companies with millions of dollars in marketing budgets or huge teams of content creators. In fact, most content marketing teams are made up of just one to three people.


There’s another thing that troubles me. Most companies aren’t following content marketing best practices. For instance, they’ve got the content creation part down, but they aren’t actually marketing that content. Or they’re getting content marketing confused with advertising and trying to sell too hard.

To help you avoid those pitfalls, I’ve put together a short list of the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them. Follow these and you’ll have a shot at being among the happy 30/38% of marketers who do say their content marketing is effective.

1) Have a strategy.

Ever heard the saying, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail”? Well, it applies to content marketing.

Fortunately, creating a content marketing strategy is not rocket science. Just think about what your customers need to know as they move from never hearing of your company to becoming repeat customers. Then write every step of that process down. If you’ve got different types of customers (known as “personas” in the biz), write down their different paths, too.

Once you’ve got that map, develop content ideas to cover your prospects-into-customers every step of the way. This will give you the discipline to create content that actually supports your business.

Still not sure about this? Want a more specific plan? Check out Meghan Casey’s book, The Content Strategy Toolkit. It’s a workbook-style guide to hashing out a realistic, actionable content strategy.

2) Repurpose your content.

One of the biggest challenges for content marketers is to create enough content. But incredibly, most of them create content in only one format… and leave it there.

This is a major lost opportunity. Every blog post, ebook, video or whatever you create can be repurposed. Turn it into at least a few social media posts, a simple infographic, newsletter content and much more. In other words, start thinking about your content more like Thanksgiving turkey. There’s at least a week’s worth of leftovers there.

To give you an idea of how much this one trick will put you ahead, consider the pie graph below. It’s from a study done by the company Scoop. It, based on how over a thousand people filled out their content marketing assessment tool. You need to be among that 17%.


3) Reshare your content.

Here’s another super-simple way to “re-use” your content: Share it more than once. Coming up with content to share on your social media accounts shouldn’t be a struggle. Tools like Hiplay and MeetEdgar let you easy share and re-share content.

Worried you’ll bore you audience by re-sharing your content? Stop. Remember: Facebook reach is in the single digits. Tweets have a lifespan of less than an hour, max. The reality is that your audience is seeing less than 10% of what you publish anyway. That means if you re-share content once a week for several months, they’ll probably see each piece one time, if that.


Caption: 77% of bloggers share their posts only three times or less. This is a massive wasted opportunity.

4) Use email marketing.

Don’t let anybody tell you email’s dead. It’s as alive as ever. Even millennials love it.

Email also happens to be one of the most effective marketing and content distribution tools ever created. It’s got an ROI that meets or beats every other channel. Even better, it’s easy to use and affordable. $30 a month will get you a full-featured account, or you could use one of the many “free trial” accounts like MailChimp’s.

We were delighted to see how many small businesses have already figured this out. Our WASP 2016 State of Small Business Report found that 54% of small businesses are using email marketing. That’s an even higher percentage than those that have a website or use social media.


5) Don’t limit yourself to customer acquisition.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”

Small business owners appear to have figured this one out, too. In our WASP State of Small Business Report, their #1 strategy to increase revenue was to “improve existing customer experience & retention”.


Content marketing can absolutely help with retention, but too many marketers think of it only as an acquisition strategy. But once you’re armed with a documented content strategy plan, you’ll know exactly what you need to keep existing customers engaged.


Content marketing was easier in the early days. Then it got more competitive, and some peoples’ results started to fall off.

That doesn’t mean content marketing doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t mean your business can’t do it effectively. But you do need to refine your tactics and get more disciplined. We need to kick things up a notch.

It’s time for documented content strategies; time to put the marketing back into our content marketing. And time to think of content as not just an acquisition tool, but a way to keep existing customers engaged as well.

What do you think?

Are there any other content marketing best practices you think more people should employ? Don’t keep them to yourself – tell us about them in the comments.