Is Content Marketing a Waste of Time?

Businessman checking the time on his wrist watch

She was summoned to the office.

Anxiety, panic and stress surfaced. Am I being fired? What did I do wrong? But she had an idea of what the possible topic of conversation was about.

It wasn’t good.

It was 6 months into a 12 month digital marketing plan that had started well. They had created a content marketing strategy that had driven a lot of traffic to the website, there had been a lot of sharing on social media and the readers and viewers had been highly engaged with the great content.

The brand awareness had gone up and the corporate credibility had been improved.

But it was a short conversation.

The boss gave an ultimatum. “This content marketing looks like it is a waste of time and money. Where are the sales? If you want to keep your job I need more than just web traffic, social sharing and engagement. I need more leads.

Sound familiar?

Fun and fast content

Don’t get me wrong.

Content that drives traffic, gets engagement and creates trust and credibility is essential. But if that is all it does, you are leaving a lot of money in the bank.

So what sort of content is great for traffic and building brand awareness. The best type is of course is content that has a great chance to go viral.

This is hard to predict.

But what is the sort of content that people love to share?

Here are 4 ideas to get your neurons firing.

1. Controversial headlines 

One that worked for me was “Why You Should Forget Facebook“. It also ended up going viral on LinkedIn with 300,000 views and 1,000 comments!

2. Facts and figures in your industry

My top shared post in 2015 was “33 Social Media Facts and Figures You Need to Know in 2015

3. The negative or the dark side of a topic 

The top marketing post in 2015 according to Buzzsumo statistics was “Confessions of a Google Spammer”  with nearly 100,000 shares

viral headlines

4. Trends and predictions in an industry 

This one from Social Media Examiner “28 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2015 From the Pros“.

Top tips

1. If you want to accelerate your sharing then a great way to do that is get tips from the top people in your industry. They often have a lot of social media followers and they will supercharge the sharing on the post because they are mentioned in it. But you will need to get the tip and then let them know when it is published.

2. Some other ideas to consider include using large list headlines while seeming to  be redundant and overdone do work!

3. Use headlines that can be defined as having a “curiosity gap”. Don’t reveal the content of the post in the headline!

Need more ideas on creating great content that gets shared? Then check out these 2 posts.

15 Most Viral Marketing Posts of 2015
11 Types of Content That People Love to Share

So what else makes content move fast across the web?

It’s not just about the headlines and the content. You need to implement some other tactics. From innovative technology to some social media optimized

Here are 5 top tips.

1. Build your website technology for optimal sharing and subscribing

This includes not only social networks  but email. Buzzfeed and Upworthy have built in multiple ways to do this with in your face hover buttons and pop-ups

Sharing buttons


2. Create multiple headlines for the same article

David Ogilvy was famous for having written over 100 headlines for one advertisement. Upworthy have taken this practice and woven it into their editorial process. Their first step and instruction to all their content creators. “You HAVE to crap out 25 headlines for every piece of content”

25 headlines Upworthy


3. Emotion is a key

If you want people to click and share you need to not only reach their mind but touch their heart.

Emotion 1

4. Stack images in your articles

10 images are more shareable than just one! Twenty one is even better

Stack images in content Buzzfeed


5. Curation is a great way to scale your content creation

You don’t have to always be creating unique content.

Upworthy, Viral Nova and Buzzfeed are the masters of taking already popular content on the web and taking it viral. They often increase the traffic levels by 1,000% and more.

Try collecting and curating some of the top posts on blogs in your industry. Write an intro for each and create a collection.

Here is a great example by Daniel Knowlton at KPS Digital Marketing

15 top viral marketing posts

Content marketing needs to take off its short pants

Now viral traffic is intoxicating.

When your website traffic takes off you are almost transfixed. We all get excited when viral traffic starts showing up to our blog and website. If you started with zero then one hundred visitors a day is exciting. We all have to start somewhere.

So you still need traffic…

You do need engagement…..

You need to build brand trust and credibility…..

But at the end of the day content marketers need to achieve a return on investment. A big brand is usually happy with using content to build bigger and better brand awareness. But for small businesses it it less about the fluffy stuff and more about the reality of leads and sales.

You need to convert website traffic into sales. Otherwise your content marketing can be big a waste of money and time.

What do we mean by “content that converts”?

You will need to create content that converts. But what do we mean by conversion? In essence it is two key tasks.

  1. Capturing leads
  2. Getting sales

That’s it.

Content marketing Institute in it’s latest study revealed the top goals for content marketers.

Goals of content marketers

Leads and sales are key!

Leads for any business in a digital world now often starts with getting that all important email. A Twitter follower doesn’t count nor does a Facebook like…or even a connection on LinkedIn. That is top of the sales funnel attention.

“Social media is still essential for getting your content distributed and creating that all important brand awareness on the social web and beyond. And it’s great for the top of the sales funnel brand building. But don’t expect it to produce direct sales”. 

It’s just part of the equation.

An email is where it starts to get serious. Once you have that email subscriber then you have a lead. Your next challenge is to convert that into a sale. This exact process will vary for each type of company. If you are selling online then the engagement process is done there.

If you need to get in front of a person the lead can still happen online but then you need to get that all important face to face appointment.

The tools and resources

But before we get to looking at the content that converts we need to have a conversation about the tools, resources and and technology that make lead acquisition possible at scale.

The starter pack:

Getting started is sometimes the hardest thing to do but here are the essentials you need to to start capturing those leads.

Email marketing software: This could be Aweber, Mailchimp or any of the dozens of other entry and low cost email software packages that help you build and control your email list. Do not try and do this with just Gmail or Hotmail.

Premium content: This needs to been seen as valuable enough for someone to hand over their email address. A simple ebook or even a PDF for download will do.

Design and technology partner: You will need someone to help you ensure you get that premium free content producing those email optins. Most people can’t design even simple landing pages or connect a free ebook download to your email platform. Hire someone to do that for you.

The advanced pack:

After a while you will want to get serious. You need to surround yourself with the right resources and implement various technologies and tools to help you convert traffic and engagement into leads and sales.

Email capture technologies: This includes the tools that I recommend and use such as the Welcome mat from Sumome and the opt-in tool from Optin Monster that captures emails using “Exit on intent” app.

Landing pages: The simplest place to start is with Leadpages. But if you want to build longer landing pages then you have some other options. These include plugins for WordPress such as OptimizePress and finally custom designed and developed landing pages which are you most expensive option.

Digital marketing automation software: Using starter email systems like MailChimp while a good place to start as you grow you are going to need to look at digital marketing automation platforms. These include Infusionsoft, Marketo, Ontraport and Hubspot to name a few. For a better review you can check out this article on the 10 Top Digital Marketing Automation Tools according to review ratings on G2 Crowd.

Webinar software: There are a range of webinar platforms for hosting online seminars (Webinars). These include GoToWebinar, WebinarJam, Cisco Webex and Adobe Connect. Even the free service Google+ hangouts could be included in this category (but needs additional add ons) and a platform built on top of that is Webinars OnAir.

Payment gateways: If you want to convert leads into revenue online then you will need a payment gateway that allows you do that easily. Paypal is maybe your best option to start with. But some new players have emerged that are worth keeping an eye on. These include Stripe and Selz.

Copywriter: For writing that all important landing page and email copy you can do it yourself. But I would recommend that you hire a professional.

Designer: Making a landing page look great is where the designer comes in.

Video platform: – You will need a video platform so you can publish and own your videos. There are a bunch out there such as Wistia, Vimeo and many more.

Technology partner: Making sure that your website, blog or WordPress site can be updated easily and loads fast is not a job for amateurs. As you grow this is essential.

Content that converts

So you have the traffic and you have great content that drives traffic and engages your audience. Now comes the important last stage to ensure that your content marketing is not a waste of time.

What are 4 top types of content for capturing leads and turning them into sales?

1. Webinars

Webinars have proved to be one of the top types of content to collect those email subscribers.

These can be hosted on a range of platforms. This includes GoToWebinar, WebinarJam, Cisco Webex and Adobe Connect. Even the free service Google+ hangouts could be included in this category (but needs additional add ons) and a platform built on top of that is Webinars OnAir.

I use GoToWebinar because I can integrate it with my Infusionsoft to collect those important emails.

LeadPages has discovered that it is their top producing lead generator when they partner with other bloggers to promote. Here is an example of a Leadpages webinar landing page with a collaboration with Clay Collins.

Leadpages JV for lead building

To do this you will need to subscribe to GoToWebinar, setup a webinar landing page with leadpages and get these both integrated into your email system. Then it’s time to find someone with a target audience and good sized email list that you can collaborate with to add value to your audience with a great webinar that you jointly promote.

2. Ebooks

Short free ebooks are one of the best types of content for capturing leads. Another term that is used for this is “Opt-ins”.

But printed books can be a great way of capturing leads. These are now often used at the start of a product launch to drive a ton of email opt-ins!


Dotcom secrets book cover

3. PDF’s

If you are not up to writing an ebook then creating a 1-2 page PDF that provides a guide or lists some tools can be very effective. To put some perspective on this let’s consider the game of golf. All the amatuer golfers want to use the tools (clubs, balls and other equipment) that the pros use.

Offering a PDF that lists the tools (software, apps and systems) that you as a “Pro” have used to achieve success in your industry is a logical step to use as an incentive to build your email list.

Here is the one I use as part of my “Exit on intent” app from Optin Monster to build my email list.

5 Top tools PDF

4. Videos

In any successful sales and conversion funnel you will be using  videos that educate and build trust and credibility. In running a promotion it is worth keeping in mind that 75% of the time and the content should be educating and not selling.

A marketing funnel is in essence more about an educational process with sales and a call to action only being a small part of the tactics.

Below is a screenshot of a video, with Chandler Bolt using it as part of the sales process of his course “Self Publishing School

video 2 Chandler Bolt

Over to you

Is your content marketing just about traffic and engagement? Is it a waste of time and money? Could you do better?

Building leads and converting them into leads is on is not as much fun as content creation and viral traffic. It’s hard work. It means doing things like A/B split testing, wrestling with apps and grappling with technology.

Maybe it’s time to get the right tools and and technology and modify your strategy and tactics.

Over to you.



  • Yogiraj Mishra

    As per now these are well known tips for me but hard to apply.
    Anyways great post :)

  • Daniel Knowlton

    Wow, what a great piece of content Jeff, what a great example of ‘practising what you preach’. Thanks for featuring my viral blog post round up too! I’m currently creating a guest blog tutorial for Social Media Examiner outlining the exact strategy I used to create the ‘viral round up’ blog featured. I’ll hit you up with the link when it’s posted!

    I’m a big, big believe in how effective content marketing is in terms of generating leads and sales. I’d be interested to know what advice you’d give when trying to communicate this to potential clients?

    I am converted. I know this stuff works. But the challenge is convincing other business owners that it does.

    • Jeff Bullas

      Yes, the challenge is educating the client without going broke!