The State of Content Marketing Today
Today, many B2B companies tend to jump on the content bandwagon without any substantial strategy—much like their approach to social—and wonder why they aren’t getting any ROI. Think that’s a reach? Think again. A recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that 88 percent of B2B marketers use content as part of their marketing strategy, yet only 32 percent have a strategy for those efforts.
Furthermore, only six percent of survey respondents said their content marketing initiatives were “very effective” (see Figure 1 below). That’s dismal at best, but it gets a little worse: So far, it’s supported by data that many marketers don’t have a content strategy and that what efforts they are making aren’t delivering results. Fifty-five percent of B2B marketers, though, said they don’t even know what a successful content marketing program would look like within their organization. If there is no goal, how can you strive to reach it?
There’s clearly a disconnect between what marketers want from their content initiatives and what they’re getting. All hope is not lost, though—the first step in finding a solution to any problem is to fully understand the underlying challenge. Let’s take a look at what’s routinely plaguing our clients on their quests to content marketing success.
Top Content Challenges, Explained
Here are some content challenges that we see and hear from our clients most often:
- Mapping. To get the most traction from a piece of content and provide the most value to your customer, it’s best to map your content to a particular stage of the buyer’s journey. What’s relevant to consumers when they’re in the awareness phase, for example, won’t be as helpful when it comes time for them to make a decision. Many businesses have trouble grasping this skill.
- Tone. Knowing how to develop content in different iterations to support the aforementioned buying journey can also be a struggle. The marketers’ inclination (and the sales team’s as well) is often to sell, sell, sell. My thought on that is barf, barf, barf. And trust me, your customers feel the same way. The know when they’re being sold to, and they aren’t interested in being inundated with your BS marketing messages. They want information. They want resources. They want to learn everything they need to know before they have to sit through your demo or sales pitch. If every piece of content you produce is a thinly veiled marketing piece, you’re not going to get very far.
- Measurement. Measuring success of content marketing is critical to establishing the business case for further investment down the line, but exactly how to do that isn’t always obvious. Many marketers need help when it comes to the tools and systems they’ll need to quantify the efficacy of their content initiatives.
- Patience. Good content marketing takes time (just like networking, relationship building, etc.), but that’s hard for many marketers to swallow. There’s often a desire to establish authority with content, but you can’t go into that expecting it to happen overnight. Reputations don’t get built overnight, networks don’t get built overnight, thought leaders don’t magically appear. That is all stuff that you have to commit a budget and resources to, work on, and earn. This disconnect between perception and reality of the process can lead to frustration. Marketers need to allow time to get buy-in from senior leaders, too, so they can start putting them out front with bylined content and a social presence—all steps that ultimately help to develop trust and credibility in niche markets.
- Credibility. Yes, executives need to develop and maintain credibility in their industry by publishing smart, authoritative content under their bylines. This trustworthiness, however, isn’t reserved for the C-suite alone. That same credibility needs exist in general for blog content written by other members of the content team. As mentioned above, if you want to get credibility, you’ll need to earn it.
- Budgeting. It probably goes without saying, but budgeting is a challenge for marketers—especially marketers looking to find some sort of ROI on content that may or may not be effective (or that they don’t know how to measure).
- Personnel. Internal conflicts can arise when content initiatives aren’t well planned. Marketers need to remember that not everyone with a keyboard can write for the web, and unilaterally soliciting content is a quantity-over-quality approach that will fail. Also, executives shouldn’t be expected to contribute to the corporate blog at the expense of doing their jobs. For example, no one is ever going to put writing a blog post ahead of serving a customer or completing another billable project—this is where outsourcing your writing can deliver big value.
- Approvals. All too often, blogging gets tied up in approval processes. When content has to go through too many channels and get past too many eyeballs, progress can slow. And when your legal team is driving the train, expect even more delays. Learn to trust your marketing team on this front, and your content teams. Chances are good that they’ll deliver.
- Distribution. Writing great content is easy. Getting anyone to read it is the difficult part. And this is where many content marketing initiatives fail, as far too many marketers overlook this distribution step. This is where a legitimate presence in the social space, and ongoing social community building and engagement come into play. This is also where strong networks, great relationships, internal advocates, and influencer friends can make or break your content operations.
- Commitment. Succeeding with content marketing takes a commitment to an entirely new, constantly evolving set of rules. Writing teams have a lot on their plates—understanding the nuances of SEO, writing effectively for the web, adapting tone to different personas, understanding what content works for each part of the customer journey and knowing how to create that are just a few examples. In short, ideating, developing, and effectively distributing the right content in the right channels, and knowing how to evaluate and measure the efficacy of that content takes a grand commitment from an organization.
If you’re going to commit to content marketing, you’re committing to a shift in how you serve your customers, how you develop and utilize your resources, and how you measure your success. If you do well, the payoff can be huge—getting around some of those initial challenges, however, can be difficult. But it’s do-able. And when you do it right, content marketing delivers—for you and for your customers and prospects.
What solutions can you offer to the challenges listed above? Any problems you’ve had that I’ve left off this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.