This past week, MarketingProfs, in collaboration with the Content Marketing Institute, release a report called B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America. The report represents two very particular, very important trends that I find extremely disturbing in the online world today, so with respect and no bashing, I want to talk about this report a little bit and tell you what bothers me about it.
First, some background. It’s hard to go to any blog site these days without encountering a post about content marketing. More than Pinterest even, content marketing has grabbed the hearts and minds of social media practitioners. In fact, content marketing has become such a focus that it has continued the trend of marketers drowning out anything that is NOT content marketing. Content marketing, if you read most of these blog posts, is just about shoveling out stories and using those stories for your blog, your Facebook page, your e-newsletter, and more. If you are not doing content marketing right now, it seems to be insinuated that you are really missing the boat.
The first few slides of the report seem to support the fact that content marketing is an increasingly powerful tool in the B2B world. The first slide notes that 91% of marketers polled are doing some kind of content marketing. The fifth slide shows that 87% of marketers polled use social media while only 3% use “content marketing” in print. A few slides deeper and you find out that 54% of marketers polled plan to increase their content marketing over the next year. This all looks pretty good for the content marketing fan club.
However, when you get to slide 19 out of the 23 total slides, you find something quite shocking. Of the marketers polled, only 36% felt they were using content marketing effectively. To me, this should be the headline of the study, and it certainly adds a different aura to the information already cited. Marketers want to invest more time and money into content marketing but they aren’t sure that what they’re doing now is working? Marketers want to continue to increase usage of social media to distribute content marketing, but they aren’t sure their content is good?
What is going on here? To me, this seems like a breaking news problem.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that these marketers probably read a lot of the same blogs I do. They read about how stories regarding their company, their corporate leadership, their products, and more would entice customers to get to know them better. They listened to the folks who said that content marketing is about relationships and how it’s not transactional. I would guess that these marketers felt the urgency of jumping into content marketing and just started writing without any plan as to how best to distribute that content. Maybe these marketers started blogging but aren’t getting a lot of comments or shares because they are writing about things that their audience doesn’t care about. Just like social media, I would hypothesize that these marketers heard that content marketing was the big new thing and they jumped into the swift tides without a plan or a life jacket.
This brings me to my other concern about the report. There is no mention, really, of integrating content marketing as a tactic into anything else. Interestingly, it is noted that marketers found in-person events most credible – that would be trade shows and conferences among other things. Social Media may supplement those events but it is not the core of the issue. There is no talk about how increasing an investment in a tactic you aren’t good at may impact you negatively if you are leaving behind things that have worked. There is no indication that the marketers were asked if they were integrating their social media/content marketing efforts into other areas of their marketing campaign. It’s all content marketing, all the time. Again, this is all the more disturbing if over 70% of marketers polled feel they’re not even doing content marketing well.
Writing good content has ALWAYS been important to marketers. Marketing master David Ogilvy was all about content. In fact, he developed ads that looked more like editorial pieces because they were so full of content. Case studies, press releases, radio spots – all of those have depended on strong content. If the content was not strong, the effort would fail. Nothing has changed but where content is placed and how it is approached. You still need to figure out what kind of marketing materials are most likely to attract future customers. You still need to figure out what kind of content they like. While talking about storytelling is popular these days, some companies may find that their customers find that sort of content too fluffy. They want “how to” hard information. Conversely, perhaps you are providing solid “how to” information when your audience really wants to see a more human side of your company.
You MUST do the work. You MUST have a plan. And you should not be wishy-washy about whether what you are doing is working or not. Slapping blog posts onto a site and then sharing those posts via Facebook and Twitter is not a strategy. It will not work unless you plan it out, and you will not know it’s working for you unless you have a methodology for tracking it.
I know it is tempting to jump on to whatever the hot topic is amongst social media practitioners. A few months ago it was Pinterest. It’s been content marketing for awhile now. If you can’t do it effectively, whatever it is, do NOT do it. Either ask for help or stick to what does work for you. Just because content marketing is a social media darling does not mean your company will shrivel up without it. It does not mean it’s a perfect match for you. You must be the advocate for your own company. Do not throw money at whatever the bloggy tides tell you is hot now.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/o5com/4912022499/ via Creative Commons