That finding is echoed by the latest Forrester Wave report, in which analysts note that marketers are demanding improved capabilities in content creation, management and especially delivery.
So why is it so hard for marketers to produce quality content and keep the machines humming?
I asked Peter Loibl, vice president and publisher of the Content Marketing Institute. He said, “I think many marketers struggle to produce engaging, steady content because such a large percentage simply don't have a documented content marketing strategy in place.”
Too many marketers are taking the scattershot approach. Loibl said that “less than half of B2B marketers have a documented strategy, which validates the fact that while the interest in content marketing has never been higher, B2B marketers who have a documented strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective.”
What's the first step to a cohesive, documented strategy then? “The thing I hear the most from colleagues … is that by assessing the content needs of the end user, a marketer can truly understand what their prospects are thirsting for much better, and even more relevantly, understand their pain points,” Loibl said.
“Once a marketer has a focused, documented content marketing strategy in place, a great way to shape and improve upon this direction is to make sure the focus is on the audience's needs -- and not yours -- while arming oneself with clear goals and finite measurement processes,” Loibl said.
He advocates enjoying the process too. “Most importantly, have some fun with it. Try new tactics, be different, and don't be afraid to fail. The human factor' of good, relatable content may pay significant dividends.”
Actual content creation that eases those pain points and delivers relevant solutions can be approached from various angles. “B2B marketers are producing content in a number ways: many have hired traditional journalists to leverage the talents of professionals battle-tested in producing consistent, quality content,” Loibl explained, while “others have leaned heavily on marketing departments and in-house staff.”
Loibl noted that publishers and media outfits are major sources for branded marketing as well. “Many media companies have leveraged their expertise in their individual vertical segments and have served as a content arm for their customers, essentially creating in-house agencies within the walls of their more traditional publishing operations.”
He added that “several content creation and workflow companies have emerged to soften the bandwidth burdens that marketers face, while agencies -- both traditional and content-specific -- continue to play a big role."
A couple of points here. Let's please stop calling this tactic "content marketing". The strategy is "special interest publishing". If marketers are serious about leveraging the power of building greater engagement with their users, they need to work with editorial and publishing teams that understand how to leverage audience profile and interest data to build engaging content.
Legacy ad agencies have never been publishers and/or editorial professionals. This is mixing apples and oranges. Without a primary focus on creating a content intersection with readers that is highly relevant to their needs...there is no way that the "marketing" component of special interest publishing will be effective. There is no need to "experiment" or "have fun" with it. Work with a team that has the content and digital chops to get this right.
Another problem is that though "content is king" and "quality content is what will distinguish you," brands and other publishers don't want to pay for it. Freelance writing rates, after adjusting for inflation, have dropped more than 95% since the mid-1990s. The content buyers for the most part are now paying what would have only gotten you an offshore ESL writer two decades ago. Short term, content buyers are benefiting from a glut of writers created by the implosion of the print media. But it's not a sustainable model. Ultimately, you get what you pay for.