The real challenge of content marketing is when you don't have a strategy
Two reports were published this month by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute that assess the state of content marketing in 2013 to project a picture for 2014 in the US from both the B2B and the B2C perspectives.
Each report – The State of B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends and 2014 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – are worth considered study to see what similarities and differences there are between two facets of marketing – to businesses, and to consumers.
What I zeroed-in on in both reports are the challenges facing people in organizations, large and small, who communicate news and information about their businesses and the things they think will interest their customers and other people they want to connect with (aka content marketing).
Many think this activity is largely the same whether it’s to-business or to-consumer. I agree in the sense that it’s all about people talking to people whatever the business type. B2B tends to have more layers of complexity compared to B2C. Other than that, I think there is very little difference. (Christopher Penn has a pretty good comparison between the two.)
On those challenges I mentioned, what keeps content marketers up at night depends on the size of their business according to the reports.
For instance, the biggest one cited by B2B content marketers in large companies (over 1,000 employees) is producing the kind of content that engages – 16 percent of those surveyed said that – closely followed by lack of integration across marketing (15 percent), lack of budget (13 percent) and lack of time (also 13 percent).
Yet that isn’t the same case for B2B marketers in small companies (less than 100 employees) where only 8 percent said producing engaging content is their biggest challenge. What concerns them most is lack of time: a huge 34 percent said that compared to 13 percent in large companies.
It’s the same in B2C content marketing – much depends on the size of the business according to the reports – with producing the kind of content that engages being the biggest concern in large companies, with lack of time the biggest in small companies.
Overall, it’s a more complex picture than you might think and both reports go into considerable nuanced detail to examine strategy, tactical usage, social media usage, business goals, and more.
And on that topic of strategy, here are some alarming metrics.
According to the reports, almost 50 percent of B2B marketers have no content marketing strategy, while more than 50 percent of B2C marketers (52 percent, to be precise) have no content marketing strategy.
Perhaps worst of all, a small but significant percentage in each camp is unsure whether or not they have a strategy for content marketing.
There’s your biggest challenge right there, no matter whether you’re B2B or B2C nor how big or small your business.
First and foremost, you need a foundation, a strategy. You need to know:
- What you’re trying to achieve,
- What measurable goals the content marketing activity supports,
- What your tactics will be to execute on the strategy, and
- How you’ll know whether it works or not.
Once you have your documented strategy, I’d argue that all those other things that B2B and B2C marketers are concerned about will seem less challenging.
And one final point to consider – content dissemination aka distribution.
It seems to be a common view that a primary goal is to just get your stuff “out there,” spreading it as far and as wide as possible. Does that make sense?
Mitch Joel doesn’t think so, arguing that there is too much content in too many places. In his thought-provoking post The Failing State Of Content Marketing, Mitch offers his view of what is the true success of content marketing:
[…] You do have a distribution strategy for your content marketing platform, right? The sad reality is that many brands still struggle with a consistent editorial calendar and haven’t really thought all that much about what the distribution model looks like (and what it can become) beyond posting it on their own sites. I recently spent some time with an individual who has quickly risen the ranks to become one of the most beloved bloggers in the world. The strategy for success is more distribution [than] creation. They test things on Facebook, and then blow it out into a newsletter article if it gets traction on Facebook. Once they get the analytics from their email newsletter, they decide which pieces have done well enough to be blogged about. From [there], this individual has a handful of very diverse third-party publishers interested in their content. What does this equate to? For every hour of writing a piece of content, they spend two to three hours working on the distribution of it – within their own channels and beyond. The frequency of publishing is reduced in order to spend more time on the distribution of it.
As Mitch says, great content means great distribution. It means effective distribution. And it has a major place in content marketing.
Time to work on that strategy.