Content marketing has reached a crossroads in 2017. It has established itself as a genuinely useful weapon in the armoury of brands and agencies in a digital-led world. Yet now it’s time it came of age, pushing on to become an even more influential player.
The current state of play is shown quite clearly in Zazzle Media’s newly released State of Content Marketing study.
The survey, which saw marketing professionals quizzed for their take on the industry, reported that 79% of decision makers feel that content marketing is either very or quite effective.
Buoyed by that, 70% of those asked said that they expect their investment in content marketing to increase this year – and not one decision maker said they planned to reduce the amount of money they were spending on content marketing in 2017.
We can see the taps being turned on – brands and agencies see that content marketing works and are prepared to commit further investment, while CFOs are being convinced of the value of putting their money into content marketing.
Yet that’s not the full story. The survey also shows the challenges that must be overcome if the industry is to clear the next hurdle and take an even bigger slice of the marketing pie. (Currently it accounts for less than a quarter of marketing budgets.)
The challenges largely boil down to a shortage of two things: staff and knowledge.
Dealing with the latter point first, we can see that even though study respondents are clear about how effective content marketing is, they’re not as confident about showing how and why that is the case. Indeed, 62% of respondents said they were unsure of how to measure the ROI of content-led campaigns and, remarkably, only six percent said they were “definitely clear” on how best to run their content marketing output.
Zazzle managing director Simon Penson said: “It is staggering that – even when speaking to expert marketers – only six percent feel they are ‘definitely clear’ on best content marketing practice. It highlights a clear need for education, together with more robust measurement strategies that will give marketers the confidence to invest in the content space.”
On top of that, three in five respondents said insufficient staff is their greatest challenge, while nearly two-thirds admitted that they found it tough to produce engaging content, and a third struggle to unearth the creative talent needed to deliver content marketing campaigns.
Given that the investment is increasing in 2017, it’s clear where the money needs to go: A recruitment drive that enlists the right professionals (including people from outside marketing, such as journalists), an investment in education, and spreading technical expertise are required to convince CFOs and clients alike.
What can executives do to overcome these challenges and deliver content marketing success in 2017?
Here’s five things to consider right away:
- Widen the net in your search for marketing talent. Journalists look for jobs on websites such as Hold The Front Page; try looking for writers in places such as this.
- Don’t be a slave to SEO rules that you learned four or five years ago. Best practice is a moving target. Moz’s beginner’s guide is still the best place to start for everyone. Share it among staff, and encourage everyone to develop a base level of understanding with an open mind to change.
- Don’t allow parts of your marketing team to sit in silos. SEO needs to inform the content writing process, and the reverse is true too. A team ethic is crucial to success and to bridge the knowledge gap. Encourage meetings and presentations between teams to share tips and advice.
- Review your targets, set some KPIs that are relevant to your business and your marketing activity, and measure success this way. These should then guide your campaigns. You’ll take a different approach to a brand awareness campaign than one more specifically targeted at conversions, for example. Be clear in your goals, and you’ll be clearer with your activity.
- If you can’t handle it in-house, then find the best agency you can. This piece from Forbes offers some useful tips on what to look for; overall you need to ensure that they can spell out with confidence how they are going to deliver quality content, consistently in a way that meets your specific aims. If you’re not happy, then they’re not the right fit for you.
Long gone are the days when social media was the exclusive purview of the marketing department. See How to Weave Social Media Into the Fabric of the Business.