New research suggests that corporations are less inclined to earmark budgets for digital marketing, while marketers’ confidence that the creative content industry is pushing forwards has taken a hit. Perhaps it’s time more of us let go of our inhibitions.

You know how to stop a good ship from becoming stranded? Push the boat out a bit.

We are in the throes of essentially re-shaping how we do business. It’s happening for the most part, however, there are anchors that are yet to be lifted, and we’re still dragging along the seabed. The case for a creative content strategy still needs to be constantly made.

There are anchors that are yet to be lifted

Cautious budgeting

Econsultancy and Oracle’s seventh annual Marketing Budgets Report reveals that 72% of marketers plan to increase their digital budgets this year. But that’s down on last year’s apparent peak of 79%. However, 54% plan to recruit more people into their digital teams this year, which is an improvement on last year’s figure of 51%.

Furthermore, the Robert Walters UK Job Index recently revealed that demand for marketing professionals is notably high, with job vacancies in the first quarter of 2016 up 16% on the same period last year.

So, demand is high, recruitment is steaming ahead, but the budgets are only cautiously up and the industry’s progression seems tempered thus far this year.

Demand is high, recruitment is steaming ahead, but the budgets are only cautiously up

Is there a reason for the slow progress? Respondents to Econsultancy’s report say they’re faced with a restrictive company culture, significantly more so than last year, while the amount of respondents that feel they have managed to secure proper boardroom buy-in has dropped significantly from 71% last year to 57% now.

And tellingly, in 2014 and 2015, the number of respondents that would make very little distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ marketing budgets was 48% and 47%, respectively. This year, that dropped to 35%. In other words marketers’ confidence that the industry is progressing towards becoming ‘the norm’ is suddenly waning after a steady period.

This tells me three things:

  1. That some companies have not restructured properly to embrace content strategy
  2. That budget holders are not playing the long game, or are at the very least experiencing a period of cold feet
  3. That we as a marketing industry need to now, more than we did previously, push the boundaries of creative content

Old habits

In all instances, the case for letting old habits die hard must be made. We need to think bigger, bolder and more creatively, and commit to a long haul campaign. We also need to maintain a focus on being able to show return on investment, and you can download our white paper on content marketing ROI for more on that.

Firstly, going back to company structure, one of the key takeaways from survey respondents is that marketing teams are too often faced with breaking down traditional internal silos, and this is a problem that stifles innovation and prevents digital transformation and growth. Plus only last week I reported on the clear association between content strategy and company reputation.

Secondly, if digital campaigns are apparently not producing results with the guys in charge of the company wallet, does that mean it is the campaign, or the entire practice that is to blame? I’d hazard a guess the former is more likely. Good content works, bad content doesn’t. The ROI can be shown – when it works.

Three times as many respondents would click on a call to action after seeing good content versus bad

Marketing software manufacturer Acrolinx in the US recently sought to prove this exact point, by pitting high quality versus low quality content in a head-to-head and the results were pretty stark. In the study, 800 professionals were divided into two groups and each were shown marketing bumf from a fictitious company. One group was shown high quality content, the other low. You can download the full report here. But to put it simply, only 23% of participants that saw bad content had a good first impression of the company, versus 55% who received good content. Three times as many respondents would click on a call to action after seeing good content versus bad, and twice as many would buy something from the company on the back of good content.

This is really all a question of more trust. The results are clear: good content makes for good business. Budget holders need to put more trust in the creators, the creators need to put more trust in themselves, go a bit wild, and every department in the company needs to put more trust in each other to create a truly cohesive experience for the most important person in the chain, the one that above all else must implicitly trust your brand – the customer.

We should be sailing right now; let’s all raise the anchor a little.