Surveys Say Content Personalization and ROI Are Still Concerns

Jun 13, 2016

Article ImageSavvy marketers realize that content marketing and personalization are two keys to engaging their target audience. A pair of recent surveys suggests that marketers know this, and yet also believe that measuring the results of their content marketing and personalization efforts is very challenging. Rapt Media's survey, "The Future of Content, Part II: Measuring Content Performance," shows that marketers have significant challenges gaining insights and measuring the ROI of their content marketing efforts.

The survey of 500 marketers found that 59% of respondents say that "gaining deeper insights is their biggest concern when investing in content." According to the report, "The biggest challenge for marketers today is a lack of any meaningful insights from the content they produce."

Jennifer Burak, Rapt Media's VP of marketing, says that even sophisticated marketing tools are not at the point at which they allow marketers to measure if their content-let alone specific parts of their content-resonates with the intended audience. "With marketing automation, you're still only measuring the intent of the content, that initial consumption of the content, but not the actual consumption of the content," she says.

Another report finding is that 60% of respondents "say they're unable to measure ROI on the content they produce." But marketers need to know if their efforts are resonating with the audience and helping to push them down the funnel. "And if you can't get any insights as to what the individual is doing with the content, how do you actually measure the return on investment of the actual cost of producing that content?" Burak asks.

Rapt Media has a cloud-based tool and editing suite that lets customers create interactive videos. But after the videos are published, content creators still struggle to learn if their efforts hit the mark. "OK, you've got the video content in front of the right person, on the right website, at the right time-but did the video do what it was supposed to do?" asks Erika Trautman, Rapt Media's founder and CEO. "That still continues to be a blind spot for content creators and that's because the technology today is just now getting to the point where we can offer mechanisms that derive data that can provide those insights; interactivity is just definitely a key component of that."

The second survey, "Content Marketing's Evolution: The Age of Hyper-Personalization and Automation," which was conducted by Demand Metric in partnership with Seismic, found that marketers also struggle with personalization. Despite the fact that 61% of respondents say they personalize content on some level, "content created for marketing meets objectives well or very well for only half the study's participants," according to the report.

Another key finding is that when it comes to content personalization, more is not necessarily better, according to Jerry Rackley, Demand Metric's chief analyst and the report's author. He was surprised by the survey finding that the companies reporting the best results from content marketing personalize between 21% and 40% of their content.

"I had a kind of assumption going into the study that if you're going to personalize content, the more the better, right?" Rackley says. "You know, you personalize as much as you can, and the more you do, the better off you're going to be. And the study actually came back and said no, not really. You don't have to do everything. You don't have to go crazy."

While the technique is effective, personalization is only as good as the underlying data used to personalize content. "The norm is to not have complete data, to not have accurate data, and to not have a good hygiene process," Rackley says, adding that content marketers who attempt to personalize without good data will struggle. A separate study by Demand Metric shows most organizations don't have good enough data to do content personalization well, Rackley says. "That's probably an Achilles' heel to personalization-the quality of the data," he states.

Rackley says the study results suggest that marketers need to assess their personalization efforts and determine what pieces of content need to be personalized, concentrating on the "ones that really are going to advance you in the sales cycle or the customer experience."

Marketers should feel free to experiment, he says. "If you're just now getting started, you pick a piece of content, you pick a tool that you probably already have, and you go run some experiments and measure them, just like we do with everything else in marketing," says Rackley. "And I think what most organizations are going to find out-wow-it makes a difference, it works; let's do more."

As marketers dive deeper into personalization, they may find that they'll "bump into the limits of some of the tools they have," causing them to look for newer, more powerful ones. "That's good," Rackley says. "I would encourage those who are already doing some level of personalization ... to keep pressing towards that and all along the way, measure to see where the sweet spot is. It's going to be different for everyone." Rackley says the survey shows that personalization is "pretty effective. If you can figure out how to get there, it's going to buy you quite a bit."

Marketers are increasingly being held accountable for their investment in content marketing. Trautman mentions a survey in which a high majority of respondents say that they were not held accountable to business outcomes for the content they create and they didn't think it was important to measure it. "I can tell you, your CFO certainly thinks that's important to measure," she says.

Trautman says it speaks to the disconnect between the content creators and the reason that the content was created. "That link has not been made yet, and it's impacting the ability for marketers to be effective," she says.

With 98% of Rapt Media survey respondents saying  they would buy content marketing technology if it addressed their content measurement concerns, it seems as if there's a large opportunity for both vendors and marketing pros to find the content measurement sweet spot.