Content marketing is a hot topic among publishers, marketers, and content providers in general. Despite the buzz, confusion still abounds. From how to define content marketing to how to execute a strategy-and reach your goals-many companies are still struggling with the details of content marketing. But a big influx of cash--and man power--looks as if it is in the future.
"Content marketing provides us, as marketers, a great opportunity to engage with our audience at a much deeper level than we have in the past. However, there are two main ways to respond to this opportunity," says Michael Gerard, CMO of Curata, Inc. "The first one is more of a spontaneous, tactical reaction. More specifically, marketers identify the opportunity to engage with buyers through content, and therefore begin producing and delivering as much content as possible through multiple digital channels in a sporadic, unplanned fashion."
Gerard continues, "The second way to respond to this opportunity is to take a more strategic approach. This involves investing the time and resources needed to develop and execute a content marketing strategy that will, in the long term, be more effective than simply pumping out as much content as possible without regard to its quality, delivery, or impact."
It seems as though many companies are poised to make just the kind of strategic investment that Gerard mentions. In 2014, a whopping 71% of companies plan on increasing their content marketing budgets, according to Curata's "Content Marketing Tactics Planner." "That's certainly in line with what I've seen-and what the CMI research also has found over the last couple of years," says Robert Rose, chief strategist at Content Marketing Institute (CMI). "Generally, that's the trend-marketers are increasing their budgets. ..."
The bulk of this money, according to Curata's findings, will be spent on people and technology. "Most of it right now-and this part is anecdotal-is going to content creation and optimization, meaning getting content executed and then spending money on promoting it," says Rose. "I would also guess that people are lumping social media spend into that number as well. So, yeah, ultimately it's more writers, more tools, and some promotion." However, 57% of companies also say they do not currently have an executive directly responsible for content strategy, says Curata. This may be why results aren't always matching up with goals.
According to Curata, driving new sales and leads is the highest priority for many companies undertaking content marketing, but their efforts are having the biggest impact on awareness building. In fact, content marketing appears to have the least impact on lead quality and quantity. The report advises that not all is lost: "Content marketing is more focused on the upper part of the customer creation funnel, as evident by its greater impact on awareness building. However, its impact on the lower part of the funnel is also quite significant, with almost 2/3rds of companies indicating an increase in lead quality and quantity due to content marketing."
In order to bring goals and results closer together, Gerard suggests that putting an executive directly in charge of content marketing outcomes will help-but isn't a miracle cure. "I do think that many marketers ‘get' what content marketing is and should be about; however, they struggle to execute on that vision. ... From a strategic perspective, they need to overcome political and functional challenges internally," he says. "Content has historically been produced across many groups within an organization, albeit the wrong types of content to meet the needs of today's Buyer 2.0. Getting the organization to invest in a new role, content marketing executive, who will coalesce all of the content-related resources across the organization is no easy feat. From a tactical perspective, content marketing requires a detailed understanding of the digital marketing space. Many marketing executives continue to struggle to keep up-to-date with this rapidly developing space while dealing with the everyday pressures of managing a large marketing organization."
Rose also has advice for content marketers looking to boost the effect of their work on lead generation. "My experience is that different parts of a content marketing process (e.g., the paid, owned, and earned media strategies) as well as the content-type typically have different kinds of effects," says Rose. "So just a couple of hypothetical examples: high-level, emotional, brand-oriented content, distributed through an owned and paid strategy typically fares much better for brand affinity lift than for lead generation. Content that is highly educational, on the other hand, and distributed through an earned and owned strategy can provide for much greater velocity or quality of leads through a sales funnel."
In some ways, content marketing efforts have suffered because the barrier to entry is so low. Anyone can create a company blog, start posting, and hope it turns into sales. No one is surprised when those efforts fail, but even more experienced marketers often fail at content marketing. According to Gerard, there are a few reasons for this: treating content marketing as a part-time job; focusing too much on quantity of content versus quality of content; not marketing their marketing; and not measuring the impact of their content. But there is a solution to all of these problems: putting one person in charge.
"Successful executives, regardless of their functional orientation, understand that in order to develop and execute a new process across an organization (e.g., content marketing), someone needs to be put in charge of that process ... someone needs to be accountable," Gerard says. "For example, simply telling a couple of marketers to create content in their spare time will be insufficient to successfully support a content marketing initiative. Forty-three percent of companies have already taken this step by putting someone in charge of content marketing. This doesn't mean that they-and their teams-are fully responsible for all tactics, however, they will be responsible for assembling and aligning all of the resources that are necessary to optimize a content marketing strategy."
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