It’s rare that you see an entire industry segment agree on something. Such is the case among digital marketers, at least according to data from the recently-released Content Marketing Survey Report 2012 published by Econsultancy and content discovery platform Outbrain. One of the key findings of the Report (based on a survey of more than 1,300 digital marketing professionals working for brands, publishers, and agencies conducted in July and August 2012), is that over 90% of respondents believe content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months.
Well I could’ve told you that.
The Report also has many other fascinating nuggets of information relating to content marketing usage, objectives, strategies, tactics, organizational barriers and promotion.
Here is a brief summary of what I found most interesting (it should be noted that the respondents were split about evenly between “in house” marketers working for a brand and agency representatives or consultants speaking about client usage of content marketing).
CONTENT MARKETING USAGE
According to the Report, 91% of in-house marketers use content to market their product or service (given that virtually everything these days is regarded as content, what are the other 9% are doing?). Importantly, 90% of in-house marketers and 93% of agencies/consultants believe that content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months (1% of marketers in both categories think it will be less important…someone needs to fire them).
CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
This part interested me. When asked if their company or clients have a defined content marketing strategy, the majority said no (see chart below):
This admission is especially shocking for agencies and consultants, with fully 29% not even planning on shaping a content marketing strategy for their clients over the next 12 months (for those clients, shoot me an email after reading this – we should talk).
CONTENT MARKETING GOALS
In-house B2C marketers listed increased engagement (52%), increasing traffic to site (49%), and raising brand awareness (38%) as their top three content marketing objectives. B2B marketers largely agreed, citing increased engagement (58%) and increasing traffic to site (34%) as driving factors; however, they also included generating leads (44%) as a top content marketing objective.
Agencies and Consultants answered similarly, although they added sales into the mix of top content marketing objectives: increased engagement (43%), increasing traffic to site (39%), and increased sales (37%). This latter number makes sense, given that agencies/consultants are being paid to add to a brand’s bottom line.
These top content marketing objectives are somewhat predictable, and in any case not nearly as interesting as those not-commonly cited:
• In-House Marketers: thought leadership (18%), nurturing leads (11%)
• Agencies/Consultants: thought leadership (22%), nurturing leads (11%)
This data suggests that many digital marketers haven’t fully wrapped their heads around the import of content marketing, regarding it as a tool or “thing” for engaging consumers and driving web traffic rather than seeing content marketing as a new approach, a long-term paradigm shift in how brands communicate with their target audience.
CONTENT MARKETING BY TYPE
Looking at the type of content many digital marketers are using also shows some revealing trends. For example, in-house marketers list social posts and updates (46%), email newsletters (50%), on-site news feature articles (29%), and press releases (27%) as the primary types of marketing content used.
All of this content seems brand-focused and promotional rather than consumer-focused and relevant to users. Yes, prospects and consumers want to receive information about new products and services. However, with the exception of blogs (63%), in-house marketers are largely ignoring the types of content that tend to provide a value add to consumers, such as ebooks (12%), whitepapers (23%), webinars/podcasts (23%), and Infographics (25%).
Agencies/Consultants perform a little bit better on these counts, but not by much: ebooks (13%), whitepapers (31%), webinars/podcasts (18%), and Infographics (25%).
The types of content marketing favored by the majority of digital marketers surveyed don’t seem to match up with their own description of effective content. When asked what simple phrase or adjective they would use to describe the kind of content that is most effective for marketing, the top words offered up were: Engaging, Informative, Relevant, Interesting.
Moreover, when asked whether they agreed or disagreed with certain statements pertaining to content marketing, the top three statements receiving the most universal agreement from agencies and in-house marketers alike were:
- Content marketing is key to creating an emotional connection with customers.
- Brands are becoming publishers.
- Content marketing is more effective than advertising for consumer engagement.
If this survey is emblematic of the industry, than the majority of digital marketers believe one thing and do another. Granted, barriers exist that may be stymying their ability to implement cutting-edge content marketing services. In fact, a large number of digital marketers surveyed cite company politics, lack of human resources, budget constraints, and a genuine lack of understanding as barriers; these are all common issues faced by marketing technologies in early-stage adoption.
Having said that, those who are able to transcend these barriers and deliver quality, consumer-focused content are going to be the real winners in the new era of online content marketing.
Graph Image courtsey of eConsultancy