Research shows many businesses don’t have a content strategy and, not surprisingly, aren’t seeing results. Getting the most from content initiatives involves a shift both in the way marketers operate and how they serve and support sales teams, and they face many challenges along the way.
Let’s examine the state of content marketing today and the major challenges we face.
Many B2B companies jump on the content bandwagon without any substantial strategy—much like their approach to social media—and wonder why they aren’t getting any ROI.
Think that’s a stretch? Think again. A recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that 88 percent of B2B marketers use content as part of their marketing campaigns, yet only 32 percent have a strategy for those efforts.
Furthermore, only 6 percent of survey respondents said their content marketing initiatives were “very effective.” That’s dismal, but it gets worse: Data show that many marketers don’t have a content strategy and that what efforts they are making aren’t delivering results.
Fifty-five percent of B2B marketers, though, said they don’t even know what a successful content marketing program would look like within their organization. If there is no goal, how can you strive to reach it?
There’s clearly a disparity between what marketers want from their content initiatives and what they’re getting. All hope is not lost, though—the first step in finding a solution to any problem is to fully understand the underlying challenges.
Let’s look at what’s routinely plaguing content marketers in their quests for success:
1. Mapping. To get the most traction from a piece of content and provide the most value to your customer, it’s best to map your content to a particular stage of the buyer’s journey. What’s relevant to consumers when they’re in the awareness phase, for example, won’t be as helpful when it comes time for them to make a buying decision. Many organizations have trouble mastering this concept.
2. Tone. Knowing how to develop content in different iterations to support the buying journey can be a struggle. The marketers’ inclination (and the sales team’s as well) is often to sell, sell, sell. My thought on that is barf, barf, barf. Trust me, your customers feel the same way. They know when they’re being sold to, and they aren’t interested in being inundated with BS marketing messages. They want information. They want resources. They want to learn everything they need to know before they have to sit through your demo or sales pitch. If every piece of content you produce is a thinly veiled marketing piece, you’re not going to get very far.
3. Measurement. Measuring the success of your content marketing is crucial to establishing the business case for further investment, but exactly how to do that isn’t always obvious. Many marketers need help when it comes to the tools and systems they’ll need in order to quantify the efficacy of their content initiatives.
4. Patience. Good content marketing takes time (just like networking, relationship building, etc.), but that’s hard for many marketers to swallow. There’s often a desire to establish authority with content, but you can’t expect it to happen overnight. Reputations don’t get built overnight, and networks don’t magically appear. That is all stuff that you have to commit a budget and resources to, work on and earn. This gap between perception and reality of the process can lead to frustration. Marketers have to allow time to get buy-in from senior leaders, too, so they can start putting them out front with bylined content and a social media presence—all steps that help to build trust and credibility in niche markets.
5. Credibility. Yes, executives must develop and maintain credibility in their industry by publishing smart, authoritative content under their bylines. This trustworthiness, however, isn’t reserved for the executive suite. That same credibility must support blog content written by other members of the content team.
6. Budgeting. This is a challenge for marketers—especially those looking to find ROI on content that may or may not be effective (or that they don’t know how to measure).
7. Personnel. Internal conflicts can arise when content initiatives aren’t well planned. Marketers should remember that not everyone with a keyboard can write for the web and that unilaterally soliciting content is a quantity-over-quality approach that will fail. Also, executives shouldn’t be expected to contribute to the corporate blog at the expense of doing their jobs. For example, no one is going to put writing a blog post ahead of serving a customer or completing another billable project; that is where outsourcing your writing can deliver big value.
8. Approvals. All too often, blogging gets tied up in approval processes. When content has to go through too many channels and get past too many eyeballs, progress can slow. When your legal team is driving the train, expect even more delays. Learn to trust your marketing and content teams on this front. Chances are good that they’ll deliver.
9. Distribution. Writing great content is relatively easy; getting anyone to read it is the difficult part. That’s where many content marketing initiatives fail, as far too many marketers overlook the distribution step. A legitimate presence on social media and ongoing online community building and engagement come into play. This is also where strong networks, great relationships, internal advocates and influential friends can make or break your content operations.
10. Commitment. Succeeding with content marketing takes a commitment to an evolving set of rules. Writing teams have a lot on their plates—understanding the nuances of SEO, writing effectively for the web, adapting tone to different personas, understanding what content works for each part of the customer journey and knowing how to create that. In short, conceiving, developing and distributing the right content in the right channels, along with knowing how to evaluate and measure the efficacy of that content, takes a grand investment by your organization.
Successful content marketing requires commitment to a shift in how you serve your customers, how you develop and use your resources, and how you measure success. If you do it well, the payoff can be huge. Getting around those initial challenges, however, can be difficult. When you do it right, content marketing delivers—for you and for your customers and prospects.
What solutions can you offer to the challenges listed above? Any problems you’ve had that we’ve left off this list? Please contribute your thoughts in the comments section.
A version of this post first appeared on V3B’s blog.