Survey Shows the Difference Between Competent and Masterful Content Marketing is a Storytelling Mindset

Jan 23, 2018


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Skyword, a content marketing software and services company, released the results of a year-long investigation into the work of nearly 1,000 content marketers worldwide. Through an in-depth survey of marketers who had taken Skyword’s Content Marketing Continuum Assessment, the research team uncovered a critical set of characteristics among the highest-performing content marketers. These provide a roadmap for marketers seeking to transform their teams for story-centric marketing.

According to Skyword, among the more interesting findings of the research was how few content marketers had adopted the craft of storytelling as part of their content marketing program. While marketers broadly recognize the value of storytelling in building and engaging audiences, the research reveals that they struggle to put it into practice in a meaningful way. Only 27% of marketers surveyed reported strong adoption of storytelling techniques, but of the highest-performing content marketers (the top 2% of respondents), that number rose to 83%, highlighting the incorporation of storytelling as one of the key differences between competent and masterful content marketing.

The research uncovered six shared characteristics of the highest-performing marketers:

  • A Storytelling State of Mind—100% of visionary marketers report using storytelling techniques in their content creation. Of this group, 87% report that content marketing is at the core of their marketing team. These advanced teams can focus on delivering quality editorial content rather than prioritizing a company message or action. And 83% of visionary content marketers say that a storytelling ethos permeates their organization.
  • Disciplined Creativity— The top-performing content marketers rely on both brand standards and thorough editorial guidelines that address multiple content types and storytelling guidance. One hundred percent of visionary marketers have created editorial guidelines that cover multiple content and media types. And all visionary marketers are implementing a content marketing calendar.
  • Excellence in Execution— While marketing pundits are likely to say that content creators should focus on quality over quantity, the top performers are managing to do both. Visionary marketers are creating more stories across every content type: 91% are creating articles, videos, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, sales or product content; 87% are producing movies, conferences, or concerts; and 78% are engaging in display, banner, or native advertising; while another 78% are creating serial or episodic stories.
  • No Organizational Templates— Leaders take diverse approaches to building their content marketing organizations, adapting their team to fit their individual needs. No one model works best. At 45% of top organizations, the content strategy rests with a specific content or creative team. Meanwhile, the responsibility for producing content varies greatly, with 32% of leaders and visionaries employing a combination of in-house and freelance editorial creative teams.
  • Iterative, Agile Measurement— Whereas early-stage content marketers focus on measuring traffic, leading organizations use a broad range of metrics to form a holistic picture of content’s role throughout the customer journey. Visionaries are much more likely to focus on strategic measurements, such as whether content is driving sales (91%), or whether it’s converting goals online (96 percent). This is a stark contrast to the 18% of total respondents who do not measure their content at all.
  • Universal Challenges— Even visionary marketers share many of the struggles of less advanced content marketers such as limited resource and budget, onboarding creative talent, and building digital experiences. However, visionary marketers have succeeded in painting a vision for brand storytelling. Only 9% of them list organizational buy-in as a top obstacle or pain point.