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The Rise of Content Marketing

January 13, 2012

By Ken Beaulieu, senior director of marketing and communications, ANA

Marketing departments are morphing into publishing organizations right before our eyes. To help feed consumers' insatiable appetite for high-quality, emotionally compelling content across channels, some major brands are creating in-house editorial teams akin to media companies. This shrewd approach allows these brands to effectively tell their "story" in a more authentic, credible way - through white papers, article postings, podcasts, blogs, videos, and other tactics.

Indeed, at a time when two-way communication between brands and customers has replaced interruptive messaging, companies increasingly are shifting more dollars toward content marketing in an effort to educate customers about their products or services, generate leads, boost sales, increase customer retention, and build brand loyalty. Two recent surveys bear this out.

The first survey, a joint effort by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise, found that the top 100 corporate marketers spent nearly $2 million on branded content initiatives in 2011, the highest level ever. While about $450,000 was spent on electronic forms of branded content last year, publication budgets increased a whopping 68 percent. Thirty-percent of survey respondents felt their content marketing budgets would rise again this year.

A second survey, by the Content Marketing Institute (CCI) and MarketingProfs, found that nine out of 10 b-to-b marketers use content marketing to grow their business, and respondents dedicate, on average, about 26 percent of their total marketing budgets to content marketing initiatives. The most popular tactics include article posting, social media (excluding blogs), blogs, and e-newsletters, respectively.

Also interesting, 41 percent of b-to-b marketers say their greatest challenge is "producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers," followed by "producing enough content" (20 percent), and "budgeting to produce content" (18 percent). Web traffic is the most widely used success metric (58 percent), the survey found, with sales lead quality a close second.

There is a simple reason why, more than ever, content is king: consumers not only engage with content for hours on end, they share it, blog about it, link to it, Tweet about it. And if they're not getting useful information from their favorite brands on a consistent basis, they will simply tune them out. The most successful content marketing programs embrace customer input, meet the needs of the target audience, and foster sharability.

Of course, as the CCI/MarketingProfs study points out, the staggering array of media options today can make it difficult for brands to regularly feed the content beast across multiple platforms. That's why more marketing organizations are beefing up their staff with the appropriate personnel (or working with external agencies) to create and manage content marketing initiatives - a smart move in the age of engagement.

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