Traditional marketing and advertising are under increasing pressure to demonstrate return on investment. And with ongoing concerns over the ethics and accuracy of programmatic placements, the case for content marketing has really began to sink in.
It’s crunch time.
Brands need to muster a more meaningful approach to marketing, and this has been reflected in the recent UK Benchmark Report from industry giants, the Content Marketing Institute.
In search of a better way to engage and convert their audiences, marketers are shifting focus away from “meaningless metrics” and investing more budget into content.
“Of course, reach is important,” says Rik Strubel, Global Vice President for advertising at Lynx. “We're a mass brand that needs to reach as many people as possible, but just reaching them, meaning that you appear somewhere, you're only there for a second. So we've done a lot of work on conversing more."
Marketing is all about striking up a conversation, and content enables this. So while Lynx has previously achieved extensive reach through smart and provocative advertising, the brand is now making the switch to content marketing.
But as the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) annual survey reveals, there’s still a hell of a lot of strategic thinking, planning and hard graft to be done before brands begin to see and achieve their full potential in this discipline.
Here we eyeball some of the biggest findings from CMI’s report...
86% OF BRANDS INVEST IN CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing helps brands to build trust, establish a distinctive brand identity and move up the search rankings, not to mention the all important business of generating leads.
So it comes as no real surprise that CMI's report shows 86% of companies now use content marketing. This is great news. But what isn’t so promising is that 25% (yes, 1 in 4) companies are still only investing 9% or less of their marketing budget in this area.
While not impossible, delivering sophisticated, and ultimately successful, content marketing on a shoestring budget isn’t an easy task. If marketers aren’t prepared to invest in the design, build and maintenance of the machine, it’s going to break down.
For many brands this reality has hit home, with 45% of people expecting their budget to increase over the next 12 months.
23% OF COMPANIES LACK A CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
Astonishingly, nearly a quarter of marketers lack a content marketing strategy.
While many plan to have one in place ‘in the next 12 months’, they are currently flying blind, investing precious budget (30% of their total marketing budget on average) on a scattergun approach. This makes it hard to measure success, and even harder to learn what works, and what doesn’t.
CMI and Marketing Profs have stated in the past that, “Marketers who have a documented strategy are not only more effective, but also less challenged with every aspect of content marketing.”
And that runs true in their results, with 68% of marketers attributing the development and adjustment of their strategy to increased success over the last year.
HubSpot suggest there are six key consideration when developing a content strategy:
LESS THAN HALF OF Content marketers MEASURE ROI
Having a strategy should also include a way of measuring success (HubSpot would happily agree that this is the implicit seventh step).
ROI is what tethers us to delivering value for the business, it’s what justifies the thinking and boosts boardroom buy in and budget allocation.
However, CMI report that only 45% of respondents are actually measuring the ROI on their content marketing activity. While less than half (43%) can confidently claim they do an ‘excellent, very good or good’ job at aligning metrics with their goals.
Optimisation also relies on effective measurement of the impact of content marketing. But while 83% of marketers can demonstrate how it has increased audience engagement, and 68% are able to show how it has increased the number of leads, only 28% say content measurement contributed to increased success last year.
Knowing what you want to achieve before you plan and execute your activity is paramount to success.
If you can first pin down exactly what you want to achieve, defining what success looks like, you can then go about looking at how to measure that progress.
68% OF MARKETERS SAW GREATER SUCCESS IN THE LAST YEAR
Content marketing packs a punch for many brands, with 54% claiming that their activity was ‘somewhat more successful’ than the previous year (and 14% saying it was ‘much more successful’).
We can expect this to continue growing as brands learn more about effective content marketing, and remover key roadblocks to efficiency, engagement and tangible results.
Brands are raising their game. 22% of respondents say they are creating less content than a year ago, but driving greater results, thanks to a more focused approach.
As Lynx’s Strubel said, “The days when we would pay millions for an ad to run… that's not what we're doing anymore. We're being efficient, but big budgets are going into content. It’s been a real step-change and we're investing more in content than I ever have in my time with the brand.”
It’s a sign of the times, but brands must treat it the same as any marketing discipline - devise a strategy, know your audience, and measure your success.
CONTENT MARKETERS HAVE COMMITMENT ISSUES
Let’s wrap it up with a final thought.
According to CMI, only 5% of organisations who are ‘somewhat committed’ to content marketing report high success. No big surprise!
In a recent newsletter, our MD Liane Grimshaw spoke (passionately) about commitment issues in content marketing…
“Half-arsed content marketing is like an unused gym membership. How can you expect to see any real transformation if you’re not sweating it out? Truth is, there are no shortcuts. Only when we introduce process, purpose and patience do we see results.”
We know successful content marketing relies on goals, direction, and a clear plan of action.
But what it also desperately needs marketers to believe in it, to invest in the long term and commit, commit, commit.