While all this data suggests that content marketing — articles, blogs, infographics, email newsletters, and social networks — works, it's not working for most. Only one-third of these marketers believes their content marketing is effective. So why invest more?
B2B doubles down on quantity, not quality.
With the majority of B2B marketers developing large in-house teams to manage all their content marketing efforts, many think that their greatest challenge will be producing enough content. That means more posts, more email, more social network updates, and more [fill in the blank] will be the new measure of success.
What many don't realize, however, is that they are contributing to the largest marketing arms race in history. It's the outcome of a strategy, if we can call it a strategy, that suggests whoever produces more content wins. Yes. Over saturation alone, literally drowning the audience in communication, will somehow lead to greater market share.
When some marketers ask why they don't believe their content marketing is effective, few think it is quality, purpose, or value of the content. Most seem to think they either need more content or bigger advertising budgets for their tactical campaigns. (Tactical is an important word here, given that the majority of companies employ 18 content tactics on average.)
It makes sense that they think this way. Seventy-nine percent consider brand awareness the number one priority for their content marketing efforts. Almost half believe that sharing content is an important measurement. More than half believe that website traffic is a leading measurement criteria for success.
It's also unfortunate that they are mostly wrong. Sound strategies that produce tangible outcomes produce success. The rest of it is magic, with maybe a little smoke and mirrors.
On any given day, I can increase my site traffic by several thousand percent. It doesn't take much effort. A few ad buys here and there can make the least valuable content ever published look popular. The real question is whether or not the content is effective, which is directly dependent on strategic goals and not shares or likes or the usual measures.
Setting goals to sales isn't a suitable measure either. All marketing efforts directly or indirectly support sales. If they didn't, why would a company chose to do them? It doesn't really make sense.
Setting the right objective is a simple concept that eludes many marketers.
There are dozens of ways to slice strategic communication, but let's start with one — the most obvious. Marketers ought to be less concerned with brand awareness and more concerned with brand integrity.
Brand integrity means that not only do people know who you are, but also what you do and, ideally, that you do it well. Awareness alone is futile. Ergo, Gen. Pertraeus has more brand awareness now than at any time in his career. The scandal ought to be a footnote in his career and not the other way around. It might have been a footnote too, but awareness has eclipsed any previous integrity that reached a smaller audience.
The point is what we communicate is ten times as important as how much we communicate. And what we communicate ought to be based solely on the objectives of the company.
Sure, there are a few baselines that ought to be considered minimums for certain media (e.g., writing a blog post once a month is not necessarily better than none), but marketers might start thinking smarter than simply trying to outproduce and outspend their competitors. If you don't think your content marketing is effective, it probably isn't. And if it isn't, it ought to be fixed before you toss in more dollars.