Getting bored with your content marketing strategy? Time to shake things up

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck October 31, 2016
Companies have bought into content marketing, but there's still a learning curve to conquer - not to mention the danger of a tired content routine. Using fresh data from The Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 report, Barb Mosher Zinck offers new options for breaking out of the content doldrums.

The Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report is out, and it offers some insights into what I might suggest are missed opportunities.

The market for content marketing is alive and well, learning

The report said that 89 percent of marketers are using content marketing, with another 11 percent planning to launch a content marketing effort in the next twelve months. So it seems that most have bought into the potential of content. Not just content, but great content.

But while buy-in is there, many are still on the very winding road to content marketing nirvana (if it even really exists). The report breaks organizations down into maturity levels, and most survey respondents remain in the Adolescent and Young stages. These are the two stages where things are starting to work, but challenges remain, whether it’s measurement and scaling or developing a cohesive content marketing strategy.

A few other points for reference:

  • 41% say they know what an effective CM program looks like (30% don’t and 29% aren’t sure)
  • 53% say their current approach to content marketing is moderately successful (21% say extremely or very)
  • 45% say their approach has somewhat improved over last year (28% say it’s about the same, 17% say much more successful)

So the truth is, overall things are good. Content marketing continues to be a learning experience for many, and the answers to how to do it right are still often at arms reach.

Challenges in content marketing

The top challenges for content marketing include content creation, dedicated time and technology (lack of, or learning curves). The funny thing about challenges is that you can easily turn them on their end and list them as success factors, which is what what you see in this survey.

The other big thing? Forty one percent don’t have a documented content marketing strategy and 21 percent don’t have a strategy at all. Doesn’t the idea of producing content and throwing it at the wall to see what sticks thrill you? That’s about what happens when you have no plan at all. We should be way past that by now.

That said, only one third of those that have a strategy say it’s extremely or very effective, and 54 percent say it’s moderately effective. I guess there’s work to do on strategy. Maybe the work involves regularly assessing and adapting your strategy.

Missed opportunities - getting to know your audience

One of the survey questions asked how marketers get insights on their audience. Analytics was the top response which isn’t surprising.The third and fourth top tactics were employee feedback and competitive analysis. Both are good, but here’s the thing, they are used over tactics that speak directly to the customers or prospects.

Tools that were low on the list included customer feedback/panels, qualitative and quantitative primary research, expert advisory boards, usability testing and even auditing existing buyer data.

If you want to understand your audiences, you need to talk to them in some way. Your employees will have good ideas and points, but there’s a risk their voice is not fully customer focused, but product and service focused.

Competitive analysis is necessary I believe, as long as you don’t use it to “be like the Joneses.” Sometimes, when we look at what the competition is doing, we think we simply need to keep up or fall in line. What this information should tell you is where the gaps are, what’s your approach to standing apart, and what’s been done to death.

But nothing can beat getting it straight from the audience you want to reach. And that really requires talking to them.

Missed opportunities - content creation innovation

Another missed opportunity is content innovation. What are the top content marketing tactics according to the survey? Blogs, social media content, email newsletters, whitepapers and ebooks all top the list along with in-person events.

Tactics that listed low or very low? Interactive tools, mobile apps, virtual conferences, content hubs and others. These are all content tactics that have the potential to reach your audiences in places your competition hasn’t yet gone. They are much more interactive when done well, compared to blogs and email and they offer a larger platform upon which to understand and deliver on individual audience members needs.

Another area that needs better defining and effort is the intersection between content marketing and account-based marketing. With account-based marketing, customized videos, virtual conferences, and interactive tools are all great tactics to reach customers you know more about. Account-based marketing is an area that is set to explode, so it’s worth the effort to understand how your content marketing efforts fit in.

Of course, many of the less used tactics can cost more in terms of effort and budget. But they are worth the effort and can lead to significant reusable content in other areas like blogs and social media. Consider Adobe’s, a content marketing hub for CMOs, or Marketo’s virtual summit or MarketingProfs regular virtual conferences. All are good examples of innovative ways to reach out to new and existing customers.

One final area for content marketing that organizations seem slow to do - post-sales content marketing. Marketers give so much time to the top and middle of the funnel, but we all know how hard it is to keep customers, and we should know that great content is one way we can keep them engaged and loyal. Only 22 percent of survey respondents do post-sales content marketing. This is definitely where organizations can take a differentiated approach that can yield positive results.

Final thoughts

Yes, overall we are getting better at content marketing and at its basic level we understand the importance of content - quality content - but it feels like many organizations are basking in the normal. Everyone blogs, is on social media (there’s a better role for social media by the way), and everyone does the same kind of webinar over and over.

It’s time we saw some differentiation in the content marketing world on a larger scale. We need to think outside the box, spend more time understanding customers and finding better, more interactive approaches to connecting and engaging them.

Maybe some organizations will say “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and they’ll choose to stick with the tried and true methods. But consumers are getting smarter, and they are easily bored. Status quo won’t work forever. We need to not only produce quality content; we need to produce it smarter.

What do you think? Are you getting bored with your blog yet?