In July 2015, the CMO Council released a report based on a content survey conducted with syndication platform Netline. The organization published a well-written press release that drew me in and pointed to one overarching conclusion:
“Most view their content marketing process as ad hoc, decentralized and driven by internal stakeholder interests.”
In reviewing the actual report – Lead Flow That Helps You Grow Report – I came to different conclusions on some of the findings:
1. Content marketing is maturing slowly and steadily
About half of all respondents label their content marketing maturity as either “high performance engine” (12%) or “steadily paced and planned (34%). Another third credits “individual performers” (28%). At the lower end of maturity, about a quarter label their organization’s efforts as “one at a time” (16%) or “the wild west” (10%).
Takeaway: Businesses that are just getting started face a serious handicap. The gap between companies that do content well and those that do not will be more and more obvious. It’s not impossible to catch up, but it is harder, because there are so many nuances both to the art and science of content – from writing for the web and headlines to incorporating visual media, basic SEO skills and distribution – that add up to a competitive advantage. For benchmarking, I find the TopRank content marketing maturity model useful.
Also see these related posts:
11 Simple Ways for PR to Score Content Marketing Points
The Struggle is Real in B2B Content Marketing [UML]
Big Brands: Content Marketing isn’t a Campaign, It’s a Culture
2. Content marketing is proving effective for demand gen
Forty-four percent of marketers rank content marketing effectiveness somewhere between “highly effective” and “moderately effective.” One-third (32%) put effectiveness “someplace in the middle” while just 11% label content, in some degree, “ineffective.”
Takeaway: While the published report emphasizes low marks for higher end, I believe this is actually a bright spot because the vast majority report some level of effectiveness. “Moderately effective” is completely fixable with an audit, analysis and creative application. My experience tells me content is probably having a far greater impact and you probably already have (untapped) data to prove it. Marketers think and report linearly, but the sales cycle is not a funnel, it’s at best cyclical and at worst centrifugal. Prospects or suspected prospects need more touches than ever – research shows upwards of 10 to 12 touches along the buyer’s journey.
3. Brochures saddle marketing; kill effectiveness
The most created content? Brochures topped the list with 84%. Marketers are creating brochures. The report sets this finding up well.
“When asked to then rate content based on the quality of great leads that are produced, some interesting variations appeared between what is most created and what is most effective.”
“What is clear is that product and corporate brochures more often produce poor leads than great ones as 15 percent of marketers point to lackluster results while only 9 percent get great leads from product brochures, and 5 percent get great leads from corporate brochures.”
This particular section points out that some marketers are pouring resources into content they know to be ineffective – and yet continue to focus efforts on this type of content.
Takeaway. The last time anyone ever called that toll-free number for a free product brochure was 1982. Most millennials wouldn’t recognize the device used to place that toll-free call. Transforming a slick brochure into a PDF to host on the corporate website is not content marketing. It’s not even content…if the definition requires someone outside the organization having even a mild interest in scanning the bulleted benefit points. This section of the report underscores an easy way to derail content marketing from the outset – one “driven by internal stakeholder interests” as the report concludes, rather than the needs of the market.
4. Marketers latch on onto distribution
More than half (55%) place their distribution strategies into the “effective” column. Twenty-six percent rate distribution effectiveness “someplace in the middle,” while about one-fifth (19%) dare use the word ineffective.
“Marketers also seem reluctant to venture beyond their owned or paid channels to leverage third-party content syndication partners (38 percent currently don’t use), email promotions to purchased third-party lists (40 percent do not currently use), and magazine publishing partners (47 percent do not currently use).”
Takeaway: While the report doesn’t break out channels by class, I’d bet the primary channel is email. Surely it’s the most effective, but for that reason, it’s also the most saturated. There’s no greater place for competition in marketing than an email inbox. Distribution is where content marketing stumbles because marketing is so focused on creation. I’d bet dollars-to-donuts a well-executed distribution with mediocre content will outperform great content poorly executed. Despite the report finding fault with distribution, I think the data shows marketers are warming up to the other side of the content marketing equation.
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5. Context is the top barrier to lead generation
Nearly all of the barriers listed in the report relate to context or relevance:
- Not developed for target audiences
- Lacks relevance
- Not reaching the right person
Takeaway: This is the problem that has nagged advertising for ages. Content planning is best considered by a) where the buyer is in the cycle; and b) the level of experience:
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The full report includes interviews from major brands including IBM, CA and SAP that provide some color commentary after the presentation of data. It’s worth perusing for yourself and drawing your own conclusions.
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Photo credit: Flickr, Pedro Hespanha, apples and oranges and… (CC BY-ND 2.0)