A few weeks ago, the Content Marketing Institute released its highly anticipated annual report on the state of content marketing in the B2C world. Every year, CMI, the most trusted source on content marketing news and insights, releases a report highlighting how marketers are incorporating content marketing into their overall strategy. A lot of interesting things popped up this year, and I want to share just a few important takeaways that stood out.
1) Measuring content marketing success = difficult
One finding that has a lot of people talking is the loud and clear statement from marketers that they are having difficulty measuring the success of content marketing efforts. The study found that only 23% of marketers are having success tracking the return on their content marketing investment.
Does this mean that content marketing isn’t effective? The short answer is no. However, since I’m not one to be short and sweet, I’ll elaborate a bit. A big part of the problem is lack of education on the topic. While there is no shortage of material on best practices, how-to guides and case studies, you have to search a lot harder to find quality material on measuring ROI for your content.
In 2015, it’s our responsibility as content marketers to start creating more material about this subject. By educating marketers as to how they can prove that their efforts are working, confidence in the practice will rise as we move into the future.
2) Confidence rising
The research results showed that marketers expressed an increased confidence in their ability to be effective with their content. While the number of marketers that feel they are effective may still seem a bit low, coming in at 37%, there was actually a three-percent increase from 2014 and a five-percent total increase over the last two years.
This stat shows that education efforts by organizations like the Content Marketing Institute and others that work hard to disseminate learning materials to the masses in the form of blogs, research, white papers and other formats are paying off. Not to mention that marketers are crossing the boundaries within their own organizations to educate from within and break down barriers that stand in the way of their effectiveness.
3) Breaking down the silos
I’m excited to say that the study found that 45% of marketers say their organization has a dedicated content marketing group. Even more impressive, to me anyway, 28% of respondents stated that the group works across organizational silos. This is a critical finding.
Content marketing shouldn’t be something that’s done in a box. Cross-functional teams, composed of members from a variety of departments, can lead to increased productivity, new ideas, inclusive messaging that encompasses the mindset of the entire company and a stronger dedication to the brand.
It’s a great sign to see this trend. I’ll be keeping an eye on this to see whether the percentage of companies that are thinking beyond the silos they create continues to rise. Brands are definitely starting to get it, and this is just one sign that brands are starting to approach content marketing the right way.
4) Setting the right goals
Lead generation and sales should be two critical goals for any organization. But they can’t be the number one stated goal for your content marketing, and brands are starting to get that. The concept of the practice is to add value to your audience, develop and strengthen genuine relationships with customers and stakeholders and position your brand as an industry leader. When companies make the mistake of selling first, their content is doomed to fail.
This year’s research showed that the top three goals for organizations’ content were customer retention/loyalty, engagement and brand awareness. Sales came in fourth. Don’t get me wrong, without sales the company fails, but the important thing to keep in mind is that when a company focuses on the first three, that fourth one follows closely behind, likely more-so than if all marketing materials focused solely on getting the sale.
Brands are getting better and better at setting the right goals for their content. They’re slowly picking up on the importance of having the right focus. However, problems arise when the approach to achieving those goals focuses on production without strategy. Increasing the amount of content your company produces should only be a goal for you if you have the resources to do it on a high-quality level, with a well-developed strategy and objective for each piece created.
5) Content creation is increasing
This last one is both a positive sign and a cause for concern. 69% of marketers stated that their companies are creating more content. While this is a positive sign that marketers are grasping the benefits of content creation, it’s also concerning in that a lot of poor-quality content is being put out across the web.
Content for the sake of content is not a good thing. Each piece of content that an organization creates should have a clear strategic objective attached, whether it’s brand awareness, lead generation, engaging with your target market or any number of other objectives. We need to be strategic and really put thought into each piece of content that we create, otherwise, people will start to develop distrust toward the practice.
Overall, the report shows that content marketing is headed in the right direction. While many organizations are still struggling to keep up, a lot of others have caught on and are doing a great job. Reports like these go a long way in keeping marketers informed and helping to keep us all moving forward.
What other takeaways stood out to you? Let us know in the comments below.
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Anthony Gaenzle – Director of Marketing