Master the art of an effective 'no' in your content strategy

The pitfalls of being over-ambition and how you set up for failure

Let's dive into my rant about over-ambitious, not-achievable content strategies —developed by so-called gurus, content strategists, and agencies.

You instantly know it's heading for failure and operational disaster when you plot such a content strategy and its objectives against the available budgets and resources.

Unruffling that b*llsh*t, the most important part of a strategy is to have the guts to say ‘no.’  

You can't do everything and please everyone at once. It's not about more; it's about better. You have to make choices. Focus. 

Invest in quality over quantity. 


Why it matters

Creating content? Easy. Nailing it? A whole different ballgame. To do so, the first and foremost requirement is to have a solid, accountable, achievable content strategy that enables you to create high-quality content. 

→ You bring focus by saying ‘no’ to all the stuff that drains the resources without making an impact.

This is the essence of a content strategy: focus. How do you allocate your limited budget and resources to move the needle?

There are three domains where you should say ‘no.

  • Every request for content, it's better to focus on one thing really well. You start small, learn, and iterate before you spread out too thin.
  • Mindless prompt-copy-paste-publish with AI for content production. This is cutting corners to speed up processes and spending less budget. The quality suffers, and you show you don't care.
  • ‘No’ to vanity metrics and gated content. Embrace the dark funnel and accept that not everything can be measured.


1. ‘No’ is the power in your strategy

Of course, we want to produce all content for every department, tune for each audience, and fill all layers of the funnel. If that’s your wish, you'd better grab your wallet and dig deep. Qualitative content ain't cheap; it's f*cking expensive.

Usually, you are limited in budget and resources. Even worse, your content budget gets shaved off during the year, and you have to do even more with even less.

Determine what content really moves the needle and start there. Nail that before you expand.


My advice: focus on ‘help’

Usually, the ‘help’ content is the biggest win. That’s where you have longevity; you can tap into the ‘they ask you answer’ to claim leadership; it fills the top of the funnel and is great for SEO.

I know this ‘help’ content is not the sexiest and award-winning stuff. Yet, it’s indispensable for becoming accountable in the long term as this drives brand building and traffic. 


2. ‘No’ to relying on only AI for production

I get it; AI looks like the solution for fast and easy content production. Prompt, copy-paste, slightly edit, and hit publish.

That said, your audience notices that you’re cutting corners to save budget. It’s easy to recognize an AI text; it echoes what's already there, brings nothing new as AI is based on probability and predictive modeling, and the tone of voice is off-brand and lacks personality with a human touch. 

Using AI for productions is almost as if you don’t care about your audience and only about your budget. Not really the impression you want to leave.


My advice: ‘wingman’

I strongly recommend using AI as your wingman. It’s an amazing tool for research, ideation, discovery, and getting chunks in place. But it’s still the human that creates the content and makes the magic.

And please keep in mind that AI, ChatGPT, and Bard deliver written content. The first eyeballs and engagement you’ll get is on the visual that accompanies your copy. Finding, AI creating, and editing that visual is still human work.


3. ‘No’ to gated content and micro-data: embrace the dark funnel

This one might be a bit more applicable for B2B than for B2C. Don’t get drunk on getting data and email addresses. Don’t fall for the pitfall to measure everything that can be measured and collect as much data as possible. 

Nine out of ten, you’ll do nothing significant with that microdata except for shining in the boardroom where the one-eyed still is King on content. And if you have those email addresses, you have to set up a campaign to follow up and try to convert these super cold leads.

“70% of buying committee members say they prefer rep-free sales experience” (Gartner via Contently)

  • No one wants to feel like a ‘lead’
  • Consumers want to self-educate, make it easy and frictionless


My advice: love the dark funnel

There is nothing wrong with not knowing everything in the tiniest details. It's not about the data; it's about the results. Yes, micro-data can reveal what drives the results, and sometimes you just don't know, and then you zoom out and look at the macro-data. 

This is why the so-called dark funnel, where your prospects' activity is invisible to the brand, rules big time.

And be honest, if you have all that microdata on how your prospects move, or don't move, through your funnel... What the f*ck are you going to do with it? If you have hardly enough budget to produce amazing content, I severely doubt that you have the budget to analyze this micro correctly and follow up with new content, funnels, and A/B testing programs.

Publish your knowledge openly, no gates. And share what you know with your audience. This is the way forward to claim your leadership and become the go-to brand in your industry.



Long story short. Just say ‘no’. Just do it. 

  • Focus on quality over quantity; more is not better, especially for content. You better do a few pieces really great than double the number of pieces on a mediocre level. 
  • For sure, every department has content needs. And if budget and resources were unlimited, you'd be very happy to produce everything. However, in reality, money is tight, and teams are understaffed. 
  • Learn to embrace the dark funnel and say no to measuring everything on the micro level.


So before spreading too thin, focus on what's most important and do that really well. 



Inspired by, and bits and pieces stolen with pride from Contenly. 

Check out their non-gated whitepaper ‘Mastering the Content Matrix Innovative CMOs Rewrite the Rules of Engagement