Business-to-business marketers have embraced content marketing as a way to create greater engagement with their audience, build trust, and ultimately create long term customers. That’s awesome, and it’s very forward thinking. But here’s the problem – it ain’t going so well.

The hot off the presses 2014 Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks Study shows that a whopping 93 percent of B2B marketers say they are using content marketing tactics. However, just nine percent of them rate their efforts as “very effective.”

People – that’s not good enough.

There are a couple possible explanations for why B2B marketers feel this way.

One, expressed by Content Marketing Institute honcho Joe Pulizzi, is that their expectations are just too high. Pulizzi wondered this past weekend if organizations “understand what a ‘win’ looks like, and how it fits into achieving overall marketing goals.” In other words, there’s a disconnect between what content marketing can deliver, and what management wants it to deliver. Management and content marketers have heard the (occasionally deafening) hype about content marketing, and maybe that hype has raised their expectations too high; content marketing can be very powerful, but it is not necessarily a magic bullet. You still need a sales team to work closely with marketing to nurture prospects into leads into clients.

Another possible reason B2B marketers are dissatisfied with their results is that they’re doing it wrong. That could mean a lot of things. Maybe their content marketing isn’t truly audience-focused, and is therefore failing to find an audience. Or maybe the distribution simply isn’t good enough.  Maybe the quality just isn’t there.

I suspect there are a fair number of B2B marketers that just aren’t quite getting it right. The shift from the way in which most B2B firms have traditionally marketed themselves – by utilizing hardcore sales messages – is a long way from the Youtility-based approach that content marketing requires. So it’s understandable that the transition from that old mindset is taking some time; muscle memory quickly kicks in for sales-oriented executives – when a prospect shows a little bit of interest, their instincts kick in to CLOSE THE DEAL and GET THE COMMISSION! I get it. It’s worked that way for years. But you have to change in order to make content marketing work; over time, the upside is far better relationships and higher top-line revenues.

For B2B marketers struggling to properly execute a content strategy, here are the philosophical four pillars of content marketing:

Audience-focused.

Repeat after me – your content should not be about you, your products or your services. If all you do is talk about yourself, you’re just like that obnoxious guy at the party that no one wants to hang out with. Don’t be that guy. Your content should focus outward. Bring a journalistic ethic to your content, reporting on and analyzing the big occurrences in your industry.

Helpful.

Your audience is under siege. They’re busier than ever before. Help them. Provide them content that helps them do their job. Do that, and they’ll turn to you again and again, and they’ll begin to trust you. And in this day and age, they have to trust you before they buy from you.

Well-presented.

This means well-written, well-designed and delivered well to your channels. It means you need to have good writers. It means you need to properly engage the audience through social media, email, and other platforms and networks.

Share-worthy.

The previous three bullets make your content it interesting. They make it good; now it’s time to make it great. In order to draw an audience, you need to hit some home runs, and you can’t hit home runs if you don’t swing for the fences. By creating what Pulizzi calls “epic” content, you will truly break through and begin to succeed. Of course, you can’t just decide to do make something awesome – you need to have talented people put in the hard work in order to make it happen. When you do, your content will be truly share-worthy, and that’ll get people talking.

And it might even make you give your content marketing efforts a higher grade next year.