Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 27 September 2021

New Research Reveals Content Marketers’ Biggest Battle

A crucial step in the journey to content marketing maturity involves converting senior management enthusiasm into an in-depth understanding of the benefits of a strategic approach, and what is required to establish one.

For many marketers, the biggest problem in adopting new channels and technologies is getting company leadership onside. With content marketing, that battle has been won. The problem is turning management approval and enthusiasm into concrete support.

This is a key finding of a new report from London Research in association with social media and content planning software specialist ContentCal.

The research, based on a survey of more than 1,500 marketers, found that less than a quarter (23%) of companies have “a clear content marketing strategy aligned to business objectives, with full company leadership buy-in”. This is despite Hubspot finding in 2020 that 70% of marketers were investing in content marketing, and 40% saying it was a very important part of their strategy.

Without the key pillars of a clear strategy and full leadership backing, content marketers find themselves on a treadmill. They’re constantly creating content to meet short-term imperatives and don’t have the resource to allow them to stand back and work out what’s important, rather than just urgent.

As Jake Smith, Head of Branded Content at Sift, pointed out during the research: “It’s very hard to take a step back and be as strategic as you’d want to be. The day job really can get in the way of being able to be strategic, even in a business that truly believes in content.”

Follow the Leaders

The Content Marketing Maturity Report 2022 examines the behaviours of those content marketers who do have a strategy and management buy-in – the ‘leaders’ – to find out what they do differently, and what the rest of the content marketing community can learn from them.

The key findings are that leaders are significantly more likely than mainstream companies to:

  • create overall KPIs based on the strategy of the business, and to ladder down from these to individual channel metrics;
  • share content marketing reporting and analytics on a regular basis across the organisation;
  • allocate budget to all the main areas of content marketing;
  • have a dedicated content marketing team;
  • involve employees across the business in their content marketing activities, and have an employee advocacy programme in place; and
  • use technology effectively to support their content marketing activities.

However, the research also discovered that content marketing leaders don’t all behave alike. Company size and business area – particularly whether their company is in B2B or B2C – have a significant impact on content marketers’ decisions.

For example, the choice of which channels to use is much more driven by business area than by content marketing maturity. Company blogs, case studies, webinars and white papers are more commonly used in B2B content marketing than in B2C.

Similarly, content for internal communications, posting via employees’ personal profiles, and use of buyer personas are very much the realm of B2B content marketers. User-generated content, social customer care, community management and influencer marketing are more popular in B2C marketing.

Different Sizes, Different Challenges

The effect of a company’s size is more apparent in the challenges it faces around content marketing. Lack of resources is the biggest problem for all sizes of organisation, but the smaller the company, the more likely it is to have problems with creating engaging content and with strategic planning.

Meanwhile, bigger organisations are likely to struggle with measurement and attribution, too much emphasis on quantity of content, and lack of understanding of customer/stakeholder requirements than smaller companies do. So, while enterprises are more likely to be content marketing leaders, it also appears SMEs have advantages of their own.

Straight from the Top

Meaningful management support has another benefit beyond proper resourcing. Particularly in B2B companies, or those that market complex products, the content team will require expert help in creating high-quality content.

Several interviewees for this research described their difficulty getting this sort of help when it takes experts away from their day jobs, and doesn’t help them meet their own targets. It’s much easier to establish a culture of collective responsibility for content generation – and create better targeted, better performing content as a result – when the impetus comes from the top.

Download the London Research/ContentCal Content Marketing Maturity Report 2022 to learn more.

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