Too often, executives who hear about novel (and cheap) methods of marketing think they’ve found a unicorn: a mythical, wonderful, powerful, and beautiful strategy to solve all their problems, cheaply and effectively.

They’re definitely right about the mythical part.

A month ago the Content Marketing Institute published a new report, which I was perusing today for insights into an upcoming venture. This results slide caught and held my attention.

All of it makes perfect sense — except for one number:

content marketing

It is not shocking that the most effective content marketers have a documented strategy. It is not shocking that the most effective marketers also have someone in charge of strategy. And it’s not shocking that successful content marketers try a large number of social media platforms and have a significant budget.

So is it really shocking to see that the companies that don’t have a strategy, don’t invest money, don’t have a leader, and try the fewest tactics on the fewest platforms are also the ones who are the most challenged to produce engaging content? Clearly, someone wants to harvest a crop despite not plowing, not seeding, not weeding, and not feeding.

In other words, someone wants a unicorn — like this Christmas video from a Canadian airline that is currently going viral:

“Our finding[s] tell us that there are distinct differences between those [who] have a strategy and those who do not,” Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi and Ann Handley say in the report. “Marketers who do are not only more effective but also less challenged with every aspect of content marketing.”

While everyone wants their content marketing efforts to hit the bigtime, go viral, and drive huge attention, massive marketing, and significant revenue, only novices expect it and demand it. Experience, successful, and hard-working content marketers hope for it, plan for it, spend for it, and work for it, but know that the magic pixie dust of the Internet is fickle and impossible to predict — so they create lots of content, use many different tactics, and try many different networks.

The most effective content marketers, the survey says, use an average of 13 different tactics to achieve success.

content marketing tactics