“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” – Michael Porter

More than anything else, this quote has been in my mind lately. I think all of us content marketers need to be mindful of this.

As many of you know, I’ve been working with the team on my latest book Content Inc., which will be released at Content Marketing World 2015 in September. In the book, I’m working on dissecting the business models of enormously successful entrepreneurs who grew an audience through content before launching a product (my initial Content Inc. podcast is now available).

At this point, I’m not going to get specific about the individual companies (I’ll leave that for the book and podcast), but we’ve discovered something interesting. In almost all cases, these successful content marketing-driven companies put all their energy into one channel. It was just a blog, just a series of videos, or just a podcast. Then, after many months and years of success, they began to diversify the content offerings. There’s something about building a loyal audience on one channel before giving them additional options.

Now hold that thought.

Just look at the greatest media brands of all time – The New York Times, ESPN, The Huffington Post … you get the idea. Each one of them started out by dominating through one channel (in this case, a printed newspaper, cable television, political blog) before launching additional channels.

One channel, then diversify

It’s unclear how long it takes or how large an audience needs to be to create a tipping point, but there is overwhelming evidence that there is a standard formula that works – completely focus on one core channel and grow a loyal audience over time before adding additional channels.

When B2B marketers have it wrong

OK, now let’s take a look at a few stats from our latest 2015 B2B research. (While I share B2B statistics, the same holds true for B2C and nonprofits.) Of all respondents, 62% said they were not currently effective with their content marketing. Of those, they:

-Published content using an average of 12 tactics
-Distributed content on an average of five social channels

I think it’s safe to assume that these “less-effective” content marketers are not launching beloved brands like The Huffington Post. They are not developing loyal, opt-in audiences by becoming the leading informational providers in their industries.

Let’s take a closer look. These marketers think they are failing. At the same time they are publishing content using an average of 12 channel types. This means they are blogging, podcasting, creating webinars, producing eBooks, creating in-person events, distributing a print newsletter … and the list goes on.

Everything in my gut AND the research tells us that this is the wrong strategy.

The prescription

I say in presentations all the time that “there is no silver bullet for effective content marketing.” I’ve seen it work in a hundred different ways. I’ve also seen it fail in a hundred ways as well. That said, you are probably doing it wrong (sorry).

Odds are that you:

-Produce lackluster content in too many channels
-Have not built a truly loyal audience in any one channel
-Target too many audiences with your content

Is this you? This is what the research is telling us. B2B marketers are creating a lot of content (and planning to create even more) in a lot of channels with not a lot of results.

My advice? Start making decisions on what you are not going to do.

A few years back, LEGO killed its popular LEGO Universe platform to focus on other initiatives. At the time, I thought it was shortsighted. More than a million kids had signed up for the platform and it looked like a huge success. Little did I know what LEGO had in the works (uh, LEGO Movie anyone?). Sometimes, to succeed in one area, you need to say no and pare back.

And look at 2014 Content Marketing Award overall winner Guitar Center. Its singular focus on “helping musicians improve their craft by delivering inspiring musical experiences and performances” has been paying off … as it is adding thousands of subscribers each week to its YouTube channel (oh, and blatant pitch here…Content Marketing Award submissions are now open).

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Be honest in your own analysis about what isn’t working and start killing stuff off. At the same time, reinvest and refocus your efforts on what you believe can make the most impact on your customers.

With today’s technology, we can publish in literally thousands of places to reach our audiences. But that doesn’t mean we should. In 2015, less is more. Focus on your audience and be great … first in one channel … and then you can see what’s next. OK?

Are you ahead of this curve? Are you focusing on your audience and having content marketing success? We’d love to know about it. Submit it to the Content Marketing Awards by May 1.

Published with permission.

Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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