29 Signs Your Business Is Not Ready For Content Marketing

Michael Brenner on Apr 9, 2014 in Content Marketing

How do you know your business is ready for content marketing?

Do you sometimes get the feeling that content marketing has become the latest bandwagon people are jumping on before they really understand what it is and what it takes?

You’re not alone.

One question I get asked a lot is “how do we know our business is ready for content marketing?”

I try to answer that question regularly on this blog. We talk about culture and brand publishing and I try to point to examples of great content whenever I can.

But sometimes, it”s better to define all the signs that you are not ready to change your direction.

And that’s what I’m doing here, with these 29 signs your business is not ready for content marketing. I’m sure there are plenty more. But these are the ones that just flew right off the top of my head. Which ones did I miss:

29 Signs Your Business Is Not Ready For Content Marketing

  1. Your marketing leaders think content marketing is just a buzzword
  2. You don’t have a corporate blog
  3. You have a corporate blog but only publish press releases on it
  4. Social listening and share of voice does not drive your marketing strategy
  5. Your social channels are only used to promote and push your webinars, white papers and events
  6. You get asked to make sure your content talks more about your products
  7. You get asked “How can we create a viral video?”
  8. Your team thinks an E-Book (or any other type of asset) is Content Marketing
  9. You haven’t mapped your existing or future content to buyer stages
  10. You don’t have any early-stage or thought leadership content
  11. You haven’t defined an appropriate next step or “call to action” for your content
  12. You think content marketing is expensive
  13. You think you just need to hire a bunch of journalists
  14. You get asked how to re-create your own Oreo “dunk in the dark” or “Ellen Oscar Selfie” moment
  15. You don’t track how much of your content gets used and which does best
  16. You don’t monitor the content your competitors are creating
  17. You don’t know what keywords your customers are using
  18. You think content marketing is a campaign
  19. You don’t have resources to publish on a regular basis
  20. You don’t have dedicated testing resources for your content development and landing pages
  21. You don’t have a functioning content management system
  22. You haven’t defined any kind of editorial workflow
  23. Your business doesn’t train your employees on effective storytelling
  24. You’re resistant to “giving away” content for free (without registration).
  25. You don’t think about the”share-ability” of your content. Your website gets less than 5% of traffic from social networks.
  26. You don’t create visual content (videos, slideshares, infographics)
  27. You create content without thinking about how to distribute and amplify it
  28. You get asked “what is the ROI of my e-book?”
  29. You think content marketing is only for awareness

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook  and Google+ or  Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 23 comments
  • Ruth Zive

    Michael, these are all certainly barriers. And in some of these cases, it suggests a frame of mind that is simply contrary to the rationale of a content marketing strategy. And that’s insurmountable.

    However, if a company doesn’t have a blog, for instance, I wouldn’t say that means they ‘aren’t ready for content marketing’. I would say it means that before they launch a content marketing effort, one of the things they need to do is create a blog.

    I’m not meaning to parse words. I think it’s just a bit of a philosophical objection I’m having. There is a difference between not being ‘ready’, because you just don’t buy into it yet, and not being ‘ready’ because all of your ducks aren’t in a row. If it’s the latter, you must simply start putting your ducks in a row, so to speak.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Ruth, I think you are right. I was really having a bit of fun with this post.

  • Amanda Nelson

    I think there’s one thing that trumps this entire list: denial. If you are in denial about the items on this list, you are not ready for content marketing. However, if you admit that yes, you do some or most of these things, but you want to make a change, then you ARE ready for content marketing. It’s mindset over tactics. It’s mindset over what has been done in the past.

    • Michael Brenner

      I think you are absolutely right. It’s all about culture!

  • Troy Herrera

    I can totally relate to #6. Funny how this aligns very well to my post for today.

  • Anne Janzer

    Here’ a another quick litmus test: all of your content is written in the first person — “We do this — we have this — our product….” It’s a sign that you have yet to make the fundamental shift of considering the audience perspective.

    • Michael Brenner

      Great one Anne. It’s a great sign of the mental / cultural issue that needs to change from internal focus to external concern.

  • Jonathan Gebauer

    Let me add one: You hired an intern for your content and social media marketing. And expect him to work miracles.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Jonathan, you mean that doesn’t work? Heehee.

      I actually did hire an intern and converted her to full-time because she did work miracles. But it was certainly not the strategy. I think I just got lucky!

  • Lindsey LaManna

    As your former intern, I wish there was a “like” button for your last comment Michael 😉

    Let me add one too: You think content marketing is just blogging. In reality, content takes many different forms, especially visual, which is increasingly essential (videos, slideshares, infographics, etc)

    And one more: You think only marketers create content.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks so much Lindsey. I thought you would like that. And great additions to the list!

  • Bev Burgess

    How did you handle the argument around un-gating your content? I hear your campaign effectiveness went up once you gave content away without asking for registrations, when others thought it would go down. Is this true? Thanks.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Bev, I think gating content for demand generation is still an effective approach. But there needs to be a strategic assessment of what needs to be open and what can and should be gated.

  • Catherine McGavin

    Michael, this is perhaps the best post and dialogue I’ve seen about the cultural foundation needed to support content marketing. As a new member of a company just starting down this path, it helps me explain how we face in the right direction. My team will be relieved to read Ruth’s post! To Lindsay’s excellent post I would add: You think only marketers and salespeople should know how to articulate your company’s value proposition.

    • Michael Brenner

      Oh thanks so much Catherine! You just made my day.

      And another great addition to the 20. I believe very strongly in activating employees outside of marketing and sales to tell better stories!

  • Brodie Tyler

    Thanks Michael. It’s refreshing to see honest evaluations of this sort of (certainly potentially valuable) tech/net trend stuff and its value for individual businesses. That is, as opposed to breathlessly insisting upon an immediate bandwagon-mounting RIGHT NOW for online SURVIVAL, and some thrown-together instructions on how to do so.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Brodie, this was written as somewhat of a rant. Very happy to hear it resonated with you.

  • Bill King

    Nice post Michael. Often times I see clients with one foot in, one foot out. As you’ve touched upon, content marketing can only be successful if your culture understands why it’s important beyond the obvious factors like attracting new visitors & nurturing leads.

    You could argue that content marketing is a function of culture. Having a team who’s open to vulnerability & truly loves the people they engage with.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Bill, I really like your point about vulnerability and culture. To create new relationships, you have to have a culture that is willing to be open and to sometimes be wrong.

  • Andy Detweiler


    Thanks for the perspective. Good stuff.

    I understand you were having some fun.

    It brings up an interesting point, though. Even if I recognize I’m not ready for content marketing (for any number of reasons you listed here), what do I do if I’m currently using antequated techniques? I mean I’ve got to try something, right? I think that’s what businesses struggle with the most. It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to change their ways or “be ready.” It’s that they don’t necessarily have the time/resources — or even know what time/resources are required.

    I think this paralyzes a ton of businesses. And another large amount wind up doing something half-a**ed, which results in nothing (see intern comments above).

    It’s a Brave New World out there right now. And seems like stuff that worked for folks yesterday, won’t be working for them the next.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Andy, you bring up a great point and in many ways it’s the “innovators dilemma.” You try new stuff until something works and then you bake that into the way you do things and that blinds you to the new things you should continue trying.

      I think the way the world is changing, businesses need to support innovation as a core part of their culture AND their budgets. Some percentage of every resource and budget decision should be for testing new things, challenging established norms. And the way I see it, businesses can’t afford to stick to tactics that don’t work.

      I often say that as a content marketer, you CAN’T continue methods that you know don’t work and yet most marketing is exactly that. We ignore the metrics, we ignore the opt-outs, we ignore the money wasted on the things we do that we know won’t work. Instead, that time and effort should be spent on “failing on purpose,” testing new things that at least we don’t know if they will work or not.

      That’s my view at least. But I know how hard this is inside businesses. Trust me, I know.

  • Andy Detweiler

    Thanks for the additional thoughts, Michael. I share the sentiments all around.

    It reminds me of one of my favorite personal sayings: “what’s wrong with failing?” Personally, I’d rather fail over and over than continue doing something clearly not working.

    But it is hard, as you said. Very hard.