The ground has shifted to such an extent that we’re now eating from tectonic plates. We said at the beginning of this year that the content marketing landscape would change dramatically, and 2014 represents a seismic shift in attitudes towards the practice.
So what has caused the earth to move? Corporate marketing managers, who were reluctant to shift away from more familiar or traditional marketing tactics, have conceded to increase their content marketing spend considerably. And as we go into August the general zeitgeist with regards to content marketing is now very much “rock on”.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with these geology references anymore. But through nothing other than stubborn resolve I offer some recent statistics that reveal just how much continental drift the content marketing world has undergone so far this year.
1 Content marketing is ubiquitously important
No longer just an add-on to your marketing budget, content marketing is at the forefront of the corporate mind. A 2014 survey of 500 Chief Marketing Officers by Mass Relevance revealed that a whopping 95% of those asked firmly believed that content marketing was important to their business.
2 We believe in ROI
The same survey revealed that 66% of CMOs believed they can yield a positive ROI from content marketing. And it’s true – content marketing is one of the most trackable forms of marketing.
For a snapshot into just how serious this level of investment now is, just look at the prevalence of paid content amplification approaches like Outbrain, which since its foundation in 2006 now claims to reach around 86% of online users in the US, and whose recommendations are said to generate 10 billion page views per month.
3 Big spenders and the power of social
A recent survey by Gigaom Research showed companies that typically spend over $1m annually on digital advertising prioritise their spending on social media marketing, while paid search and display advertising rank fairly low on the priority list. So, even with budget for paid alternatives, big corporates have grown very wise to the power of social media and feel little need to spend big to gain and retain new customers. This, in turn, means they’ve probably got a pretty savvy content team, a new content manager or a super-hot content marketing agency. Or all of the above.
4 Smaller spenders look to email
We look back fondly at a time when email was the next big thing. But it’s disingenuous to look at email marketing as antiquated. In fact, email is still your best friend. The same research from Gigaom reveals that companies with lower digital marketing budgets prefer to use email marketing to generate leads and maintain traffic. Interestingly, just over half of those surveyed said that email marketing was effective at retaining customers, as smaller firms focus more of their spend on nurturing their clients.
5 Get new leads through the door
Research by MarketingProfs reveals that lead generation is the most costly and challenging prospect for 78% of marketers in 2014. Compare that with a recent survey of B2B marketers by Starfleet Media, which reveals that 91% use content marketing to generate new leads (36% instead use content marketing to retain customers). The most popular types of content employed to entice fresh customers are client case studies, followed by company-branded videos, ebooks and infographics.
6 Everybody outsource
Despite the fact that many large companies will this year employ a content manager and content team in-house, Starfleet reports that businesses of all sizes are all more or less equally as likely (63% of larger companies versus 69% of the smaller firms) to outsource content development (such as creative writing) and design to a creative agency or external developer.
7 Trust in customised content
The latest edition of Chief Content Officer magazine reports findings from McMurray TMG that demonstrate a startling level of trust in editorial content online. Indeed, 58% of online consumers say they trust editorial content. McMurray TMG also finds that 78% of consumers believe a company that takes the time to create custom content is genuinely interested in building a relationship with them.
Basically consumers can spot branded content a mile off – it’s no secret. Consumers are very savvy in the digital world to subtle, surreptitious push advertising that shows little regard to the experience they receive. Equally, they appreciate when a company has clearly thought about its content and can present them with something of genuine value. Branding is irrelevant – customers just want to know that they are at the forefront of a brand’s mind.
This content marketing seismic shift to which I refer is just that – a complete change in the marketing landscape and, moreover, the corporate and public attitudes towards it. Traditional marketing techniques and content marketing strategy were cut from the same bedrock, but the way in which companies and customers approach content marketing right now suggest they’re world’s apart.