What We Can Learn about Content Marketing from 217 Professional Marketers

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Content Marketing is a term that has gained a lot of traction recently, even though the actual practice has been carried out by marketers for decades. The reason behind this renewed popularity is the increasing inefficacy of traditional marketing methods.

With the advent of social media and proliferation of the World Wide Web, consumers are found to be turning to online mediums for information, which inevitably influences decision making and has given birth to several thought leaders. Today everyone has the power to publish content freely, which means corporations and businesses (big and small) need to step up and join the game to keep up with change.

However, there are certain challenges in implementing a professional Content Marketing program, and here we will take a look at the results from a survey involving 217 professional marketers, carried out by Unisphere Research, sponsored by Skyword.

Why Content Marketing?

If you already have a content marketing program, what are your goals? What do you hope to achieve with it? Don’t just jump on the bandwagon and start a program without formulating your goals and objectives first.

According to the survey, 68% of the marketers are aiming to engage customers and prospects while 44% hope to increase their brand awareness. Acquiring new leads and customers are goals for 38% and 37% marketers respectively while only 12% are hoping to improve their search rankings.

Content Marketing Objectives

Firstly, if your main objective is to improve search engine rankings, you are doing it all wrong. Content Marketing is a much more powerful tool and its full potential lies in increasing engagement and awareness.

Moreover, if you look at figure 3, the largest business gains are also in engagement, awareness, new customers and retention.

Benefits of Content Marketing

Lesson: Content Marketing is a successful technique for improving engagement, creating brand awareness, acquiring new leads and customers and retaining them.

How important is a Content Marketing Strategy?

Just because the benefits mentioned above are easily obtained by Content Marketing does not mean you can go about it without a plan. Content Marketing is a long-term strategy which requires organized and consistent efforts.

Each and every item or piece of content published as part of your program needs to have a goal and should work towards a clear objective.

Figure 4 shows the large difference between benefits gained using Content Marketing when those with plans were compared to those without them.

Content Marketing Managers

While leaders were able to benefit considerably, ‘laggards’ (those without any plans) were only able to achieve around 20 – 50 percent of what leaders did in the same domain.

Lesson: Dedicated Content Marketing managers and proper plans are essential to see results and gain the intended benefits.

Content Marketing and Promotional Channels

Like all content, items produced as part of your Content Marketing campaign also need to be promoted to see results. The social network of choice for most marketers turned out to be Facebook, which was closely followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.

Content Promotion

While this appears to be a sound strategy for social media (focusing on the top 3 networks), the engagement level results in Figure 12 show that the best ROI was from promotions on branded blogs.

Social Media Engagement

This might have to do with the increasing noise on social media and branded blogs being seen as recognized and credible destinations for industry related information.

Figure 15 shows that social media promotion is mainly targeted at generation X and Y (Late 90s and 21st century), and that should come as no surprise.

Social Media Targeting

Lesson: Having a sound social media marketing strategy is important, but promoting content on your branded blog is not to be overlooked. Don’t rely on social media alone.

Areas & Types of Content to focus on

Another important question concerns the areas your content should target and the type of content used to further your objectives.

Most of the marketers believe product-related content is the most important, followed by industry best practices, thought leadership and news. The lowest priority is given to entertainment driven content.

Content Areas to Focus on

While these categories are important from a marketing perspective, it is essential to balance your content between them. If you solely publish product related pieces you will start to see diminishing returns.

However, best practices are a safer bet, educating potential customers while building your credibility in the industry. The same goes for content promoting thought leadership, but it is important to know when to publish such content and in which form.

Figure 26 shows that articles are the predominant choice of content, closely followed by videos and photos. Press releases and blog posts are also important along with infographics. The least shared and produced type are ebooks and whitepapers.

Types of Content Shared on Social Media

More than 50% of the marketers in the survey believe that the number of articles and videos produced should be increased along with customer testimonials. An Increase in the number of blog posts and infographics is second on their list.

Lesson: You should focus your content on your product, industry best practices and thought leadership and use articles, videos, photos, blog posts, infographics and testimonials to deliver that content. 

Measuring Content Marketing Efforts

Presently, one of the biggest challenges faced by marketers is the measurement of their Content Marketing efforts. How do you know whether your efforts and investment are paying off? Fortunately, social media channels are effective measurement tools and are widely used.

Most marketers believe comments, shares and traffic are the most important factors behind determining the efficacy of the content produced. Likes, downloads and retweets are also considered important for assessment.

Measuring Content Marketing

If you don’t already have a plan for measuring your campaign you should leverage social media because content is otherwise difficult to monitor and assess in terms of efficacy and impact.

Lesson: Social Media indicators like shares, retweets, referrals and comments are good ways to measure the impact of your Content Marketing efforts.

Challenges in Content Marketing

Like any other marketing strategy, there are challenges in Content Marketing as well. The biggest one, marketers feel, is the production of targeted and relevant content to engage their audience. This is essentially the key factor behind any successful campaign, because if your content fails to target your potential customers, or is not relevant for them, you won’t see any gains.

The second biggest challenge is the production of enough content. Quality content obviously needs time and demands effort. Even with a dedicated Content Marketing team, the frequency of production can only be moderate.

The challenge of quantity takes us to the challenge of quality, which is also a major concern for marketers. Managing and finding good writers is also a problem, though not as big as the aforementioned ones.

Content Marketing Challenges

The solution to this problem lies in a better process to identify customer needs and the involvement of in-house employees in your content marketing campaign. Only hiring third-party writers to outsourcing your content production is not the answer here.

Lesson: The biggest challenges are producing a good quantity of relevant, high-quality content which generates more leads. The solution involves a better analysis of customer needs and involvement of in-house employees in the content production system.

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