The second CMI State of Enterprise Content Marketing (2015) report draws on the results of the discussion at the recent CMI Executive Forum, together with observations from Content Marketing World 2014, as well as experiences gained from CMI’s work over the last year. The CMI Forum gathered together senior marketing executives from more than 30 enterprise brands to collect their views on the state of content marketing, and to learn from their experiences implementing their own strategies.
The results suggest that while tremendous progress has been made since the last report, many challenges remain in what is becoming an ever more complex marketing landscape. The report identified key insights across three main themes that provide a picture of the challenges and opportunities facing content marketing teams.
Scaling Content Marketing Across the Funnel
The report identified a need to scale content marketing efforts across the entire sales process, but concluded that too many enterprises start the journey at the very top of the funnel. Understanding what content your customers require at each stage of their path to discovery (which is what it is as much as it’s a path to purchase), and providing that information and those resources along the way is important. Based on our own experience, we are at the early stages of brands, especially those in the B2B space, really understanding this. Lee Frederiksen, from Hinge, shared this graphic in a recent business2community.com post:
Don’t allow technology to drive strategy. Today’s marketers are easily swayed by the “shiny new object” syndrome, and often content, email, and lead nurturing tools and platforms direct the process more than the marketing team does. Easily measurable conversions shouldn’t be your be-all end-all goal, especially if that causes your content strategy become so robotic you forget there are human beings on the other end, who will be consuming (hopefully) your content.
Consider longterm impact, not just number of customer touchpoints. Technology might show you that X-campaign strategy touched a number of customers, and that’s great, but what did those touches actually mean to your potential buyers? Producing a large number of pieces of content over the course of a year, say whitepapers, might speak to your current campaign’s objectives. But, producing a smaller number of those whitepapers, of a much higher quality, might result in 20 key executives actively engaging with that content, and, because of the higher value you’ve delivered, deciding that your organization is the one to trust, and the one to hire.
Think “always on.” Marketers need to develop an “always on” mentality in place of a procession of campaigns. Historically, marketers have been campaign driven. Develop one, launch it, see what happens, develop another. That’s extremely simplified, but you get my drift. Today, marketers need to be agile when it comes to campaign development and, while we can still certainly continue to concept, develop, and launch campaigns, the real-time, always on nature of our customer base requires us to be likewise always on and paying attention to the data and insights afforded to us every step along the way. One campaign can ultimately morph into something not originally planned, based on what our real-time results (and the data) are showing us. Content needs to be developed to support those agile campaigns in an equally agile way. Quick thinking and quick action can lead to some impressive results. Unfortunately, most organizations and their marketing teams, especially at the enterprise level, aren’t built for speed.
Separate content from marketing. One thing the report’s authors suggest with regard to your content operations, is that it’s worth considering breaking your content team into a distinct function within the marketing department. That way, content strategy can augment marketing strategies, business development strategies, customer service, retention strategies and the like in a way that’s most often not happening at this point. Content marketing requires a level of expertise entirely different from marketing in general, and lumping it all together sometimes get in the way of producing optimum results.
Building a Media Operation From Within
The amount of data offered by a fully engaged audience as a result of your content marketing efforts can enhance the business case for an internal media operation within an enterprise. If you’re a content marketer, you no doubt understand that content is a method by which brands can build trust with their customers and prospective customers. It’s a way to add value by understanding their needs and serving them, and it’s a way to help meet specific goals, especially those associated with business development and lead gen.
Your content team should have unique KPIs, ones that compliment and contribute to other parts of the marketing journey. Don’t build a media operation into a marketing department. Instead, build a marketing component around your in house media operations. As CMI notes, the amount of data you will gather from an engaged, media consuming audience will be staggering, and quite different to the data you glean from more traditional customer touchpoints like lead generation or email drip campaigns. That alone, along with making sure you have the right people onboard to analyze that data, should be a compelling enough argument for a media group to function independently within the enterprise.
Measuring success and the ROI on content are always at the top of the list when it comes to a discussion about content marketing. The report covered how scaling and measuring content marketing efforts continues to be a challenge for the marketing team, and we certainly see this, especially with our enterprise level clients.
Here are some suggestions for you and your team to consider moving forward:
Content marketing teams must be strong. A successful content marketing team needs to be able to maintain their style and opinions, despite any “corporate blowback” that might come their way. This is an ongoing struggle, and one that my team and I live daily. It’s a given that the people within the organization who don’t understand how to talk to customers in a down-to-earth fashion and how to create compelling content that is not just another corporate sales brochure or pitch, far outnumber those who do. In many cases, a content marketer and his or her team are change agents, and it’s important to understand that your role is really that of a teacher when it comes to these concepts.
Content teams must defeat the “culture of no.” Content marketers need to push the boundaries of traditional marketing to defeat the “culture of no” that might exist within the organization (and within the marketing department), and to also nurture and forge new alliances. Much like what I mentioned above, getting to the ‘no’ is often a lot easier than getting to the ‘yes’ for many people, and change is hard. Content marketing isn’t an easy sell, and it doesn’t produce instant results. But it works, and you know it does. This is where you and your content team have the opportunity to find your internal adopters, folks who get it, and who will go along with you on this journey. Once you’ve got some willing allies and can start showing them some success, this becomes your proof of concept, and can work to silence (or at least dim a little) the naysayers. Before long, everybody wants a piece of the action. At least that’s how we’ve seen it work, which can be really awesome.
Change, Competition, Challenges
Change. The good news is that change is happening. The CMI report finds the value of content marketing is being realized and the benefits of a move from paid media to owned media are finally being understood and appreciated. Of course, there are still roadblocks in place, particularly with the very different KPIs and cultures that live in the ‘revenue producing’ advertising departments versus ‘relationship building’ content creation teams. The former may well produce more immediate and measurable results, but the latter has the potential to produce even greater long-term benefits, at what is often substantially less cost.
Competition. Change is also happening among competitors, and this is definitely something content marketers can use to their advantage. It might be a hard sell to get the budget or the buy-in for the content marketing that you seek, but when you pay attention to what your competitors are doing and present that information as part of your pitch for resources or funding, that can make all the difference in the world.
The proliferation of cost effective publishing tools, as well as a plethora of distribution channels, means that businesses with even the most modest of budgets can produce real results, as long as the right people, and the right content strategies, are in place. This isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” scenario. On the contrary, while throwing big bucks at a content campaign might produce short-term results—if you don’t strategically deliver consistent value and relevant content to your engaged and focused audience, your short-term results will never evolve into long term success. If your competitors get this and you don’t well, that’s a problem.
Challenges.The report concludes that while content marketing is gaining strength, scaling up its implementation and effectiveness will continue to be a challenge—and this is no surprise to anyone already working in the content marketing space. My friend, Robert Rose, CMI’s chief strategy officer, made a pretty powerful statement about the future of content, “…content driven experiences are becoming as important as product development itself.” Successful marketers, he goes on to say, “will adapt and change in a constantly evolving media operation that focuses on creating delightful experiences to inform, entertain, engage, and evolve the customer – that’s the business’s sustainable competitive advantage.”
Enterprises have been developing content for years now, but using that content as part of the marketing equation, understanding how different content impacts customers at different parts of their journey, and developing and serving it to them when and where they need it—that’s uncharted territory for many. Content is no longer something you plop into your website’s “Resources” section, it functions as a sales enablement tool, as a customer education tool, as a customer retention tool—so many different things, with so many different uses. Traditional marketing methods need to be balanced with a content strategy that takes both a short-term and a long-term view, with measurement systems in place to track both. To achieve this, the mindset of marketers needs to change in a way that is best summed up in another rather succinct quote from Robert Rose, “Marketing doesn’t change content’s purpose. Content changes marketing’s purpose.” If you’re a content marketer, I’ll bet you think that makes perfect sense. I know I do.
Want to know more? Check out this Slideshare presentation from the CMI State of Enterprise Content Marketing 2015 Report.
Enterprise or no, I’d love to hear your take on the information reported here. Does this mirror some of the experiences (and challenges) you and your team experience? Do you have any tips for success with content operations not covered here? If so, you know I want to hear about those as well.
Other resources on this topic: