How Efficient is Your Content Marketing?

August 4, 2015

Study finds waste and redundancy cost B-to-B companies big bucks

By Sharon Goldman

Content marketing has been embraced by the vast majority of B-to-B marketers in recent years. Eighty-six percent, in fact, now use content marketing as a tactic and create a variety of content types as part of their overall marketing strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

But a recent study by Gleanster, a Pleasanton, Calif.–based research firm, found that inefficiencies in companies' content marketing efforts are costing U.S. B-to-B companies big bucks — to the tune of nearly $1 billion annually. Nine out of 10 marketers said the most inefficient areas of their content marketing efforts are meeting task deadlines and redundant content creation. A majority of marketers also blamed coordination issues — related to everything from people and channels to versions and schedule — for content inefficiencies. What's more, most respondents said they use various and disparate technologies to support their content marketing creation and distribution efforts, such as email marketing platforms, spreadsheets, project management tools, and content management systems.

"It makes sense that these inefficiencies exist, with such a myriad of solutions and perspectives on how to get content marketing done," admits Lee Odden, chief executive officer at TopRank Online Marketing, a Minneapolis, Minn.–based digital marketing agency. "Companies have so many different approaches and resources allocated that fragmented efforts result, creating duplicity and inefficiencies."

A Lack of Structure

Robert Rose, chief strategy officer at the Content Marketing Institute, points out that in most businesses, the content created by marketing is typically a byproduct of what sales or other parts of the organization need at the moment, diminishing its impact. "Unfortunately, most marketing organizations have become nothing other than on-demand content vending machines for other parts of the business," he explains. "This argues for a stronger and more structured content marketing function to exist, in order to create more efficient and effective results."

Getting serious about content as a strategic asset and a corporate priority is of paramount importance. The problem, Odden says, is the lack of confidence from marketing leadership that investments in content will deliver on the business objective. "There is often a gap in the time frame that it takes to implement programs and see revenue growth," he says. That time frame can differ markedly between companies: A well-known brand with a strong customer base, for example, will likely enjoy a shorter path to revenue than a startup.

Large businesses that want to get off the hamster wheel of content production must not only reduce the amount of content they create, but optimize their technology stack, Rose says. In other words, while technology can help B-to-B marketers streamline their efforts, jumping on every tech fad can be detrimental to a business.

"Marketing has gone on a shopping spree of technology without utilizing it to great effect," Rose says. "It's shocking to me to understand that the amount of penetration of marketing automation systems is still in the single digits."

Whether companies choose a centralized marketing automation system or separate technologies (e.g., editorial calendar, tools for collaboration or social curation) to power their content marketing programs, they must keep efficiency top of mind, Rose says. "It's not about fashion, it's about creating higher impact content marketing," he adds.

Becoming More Strategic

The good news, Odden says, is that B-to-B companies are becoming more strategic and sophisticated about how they use content to support the marketing function and the overall business strategy. They're also adding increasingly sophisticated technologies to the mix, such as predictive analytics.

Perhaps most importantly, Rose adds, companies clearly recognize the need to become more efficient — even if the majority is still struggling to make that happen. "If two years ago 80 or 90 percent of companies advertising were trying to build a business case for content to exist, that has flipped," he says. "Eighty percent now recognize that content is important, but they don't know how to scale it."

Ultimately, Rose says, the issue is one about people: "It's a question of who should own content as a function, who is the right keeper of that function."

The answer to that question? "Making a decision — and not avoiding doing so — is the right answer," Rose says.

Source

"How Efficient is Your Content Marketing?" Sharon Goldman. BMA Buzz. 8/4/15.