I gained early access to the “B2B Content Marketing Trends 2011” research report this week, because I partook in the research, and it makes for an interesting read.

We all know that content is king as we move into the future of marketing right? Therefore if we believe that, content marketing is a key strategic asset for any company seeking to grow and influence buying behaviour by delivering top notch content that helps guide prospects throughout the total buying cycle. But it’s not easy.

As I read through the report, I broke it down into three areas:

 The Good

  • Content marketing is growing dramatically, with 71% of respondents “doing more of it than a year ago” – and most of us can attest to this fact if we look at the growth of marketing content in our inbox… it’s a bit overwhelming some days right? But the businesses/professionals who push out quality rise to the top and always get my attention. Therefore persistence and quality are key to success
  • The biggest benefit of content marketing is to drive awareness, leads and engagement with prospects – it’s essentially a strategy to educate and influence buyer behaviour
  • The top five objectives for content marketing are lead generation, thought leadership, lead nurturing, brand awareness and sales – a great message for sales/marketing unity
  • Corporate marketing owns content marketing
  • Approximately 20% of marketing budgets are allocated to content marketing – a number expected to grow

The Interesting

  • The most popular content formats are case studies, live presentations, whitepapers, online articles and videos – what, no social media? Webcasts, blog posts, print articles, slideshows, eBooks, Infographics and Podcasts were all next BUT the challenge is measuring the success of social media, and it is this that is limiting marketing executives’ ability to gauge value. Things are certainly changing on that front and the results don’t mean these tools aren’t valuable, executives are just unsure of their value right now
  • Popular channels for content – Websites, events and email… yes, I was surprised too
  • Most executives believe three is the target number of communities they can focus on and do an effective job with content marketing. That’s good guidance for a company serving 10 vertical sectors, with multiple points of influence needed within each organisation they need to influence. At least a focused start with three targets means you can grow your offerings to meet specific audience needs as your capacity to create and deliver more compelling content develops

The Challenging

  • Producing great content is the biggest challenge marketers face, backed up by producing enough content. This is an important aspect of the research for me and here are the common challenges for marketing content:
    • Producing truly engaging content
    • Producing enough content
    • Getting content delivered to the right audiences
    • Measuring results
    • Talent to produce content
    • No consistent content strategy
    • Lack of budget to produce content
    • Understanding buying personas and decision stages
    • Buyers don’t want to register to consume content
    • Getting executive buy-in
    • Buyers attention too short
    • Poor content quality
    • Lack of process
    • Lack of domain expertise
  • This flows into ownership – corporate marketing owns content marketing – yes, it’s in the good pile too and this is because I don’t know if this means global HQ are driving and owning it or regional/local marketing operations? If global HQ, which certainly seems the case out here in AP, I don’t think it’s such a good thing. Why? If budget is not being allocated to local content development and regional teams rely on global content, then you’re not going to make the impact you want. Think about it. An executive in the Philippines is facing very different challenges to an executive in Australia, who is also facing very different challenges to someone in the US… So centralisation at a global level is not a good thing for all and I believe it will impact success – targets will “switch off” if there’s nothing specific in it for them
  • Another challenge is measuring success – if you can’t measure impact, you’re not going to be able to grow your budget to do more – simple. This is going to change as success becomes more measurable, but the important thing to note – content marketing is a very expensive initiative for corporations. You can’t outsource this to a “low-cost” market – it needs to be done by highly skilled and knowledgeable people, most of the time locally, where the content is needed. So factoring in the high cost of this work is definitely a challenge for marketing executives today as budget time comes around

The growth of this sector is promising, executives know that they need to focus on it, but the regions of the world are at very different stages in this evolution. I have met with many companies in Asia Pacific in recent months – global, regional and local – and they are all struggling in how to deliver on the promise of their content strategy. The good thing is no one wants to do a bad job BUT Asia Pacific remains a long way behind the US and Europe in its content marketing revolution and businesses want to get on the case, but even finding the place to start is a challenge. Based on this research, at least do great customer success stories – as a minimum.

In conclusion, I do have to say that I have two concerns with this report. The first is 500 people responded to the research, and while that’s a great result for a two week push – bravo Holger Schulze – I wish a lot more of the 20,000+ members of the Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn responded, because it is a great group and it would have been really powerful to get the perspective of the larger demographic. I suppose I don’t quite feel convinced that it measures the true pulse of the global market in regards to content marketing.

The other aspect lacking is it’s not segmented by region. The fact of the matter is there are very different priorities in regions around the world and it would have been great to see that reflected in the research. For example, what’s going on in North America is very different in Asia, even within the regional operations of the big American companies, so that being reflected in future would be a powerful addition. To meet my needs, this research needs to answer a key question – where is everyone sitting in this evolution by region? It’s also a great motivator to get regions moving who are lagging behind.

And finally, for young people looking to define their career goals or older folks looking for a career change, learn how to write, make videos, develop podcasts, and focus on your communication skills, because there is a huge opportunity opening up for people with talent in these areas.

Andrea Edwards

Managing Director

SAJE