The Fix Is In For Content Marketing

Posted by on December 5, 2016

We’re going about content marketing all wrong, and it’s time to start thinking differently.

Content marketing is broken, and fixing it will require a whole new way of looking at the content world. That was the picture painted by Robert Rose, the Content Marketing Institute’s chief strategy advisor, speaking at Content Marketing World earlier this fall in Cleveland.

In fact, content marketing isn’t about content at all, Rose said, but rather it’s about the audience. “Building the audience is the value. The content is purely a bridge to get to that asset, which is an owned-media audience,” he said. “That’s where the value is. … a subscribed, engaged, addressable audience.”

To build this audience, we must think of all our content as owned media, Rose said. “It should actually attract people and make them want to subscribe to whatever we create – that’s an active, owned experience.”.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The signs are all there that content marketing is broken, Rose said. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s latest research, 57% of content marketers are still trying to figure out what content marketing success looks like. A full 71% of those surveyed are just now taking their first content marketing steps. And only 20% said they’re committed to content marketing.

Nevertheless, 95% of those surveyed said they’re going to create more content or the same amount of content this year as last. “We’re an on-demand-content vending machine,” Rose noted. “We create pdfs like nobody’s business.” Even so, only 36% of respondents said they feel like they’re efforts are effective.

In addition to the disheartening numbers, there are lots of complaints about content marketing, Rose noted. Among them:

  • There’s too much content
  • Creating content costs more than ads
  • Content marketing takes too long to pay for itself.
  • In many industries, it feels impossible to differentiate a product from its competitors
  • Content marketing can’t be tied to revenue

But none of those issues are actually the problem, Rose said. Part of the real problem, is that we measure and reward content marketers based on how many pieces of content they produce, with little focus on what happens to that content and what impact it has, he said.

Rose suggested approaching content marketing differently: as a strategic media creation experience and not as an alternative form of advertising or fuel for direct marketing. “What if content marketing not only provided value to campaign-based marketing but also created an investment in customer experiences that increases in value over time,” he said.

Start with the End in Mind

The best way to make the transition from content generation to building an engaged, addressable audience is to change what we’re doing, change the way we operate, and most importantly, start with the end in mind, Rose said.

“We start with the end of building an experience,” he said, “something that will resonate, differentiate, and create something worth subscribing to for our consumers.” Focus on creating thought-leadership that differentiates and creates trust. The result will be “utility content,” Rose said, “content so great that it differentiates our approach to educating people, creating the customers of the future.”

A big issue for many companies is the logistics of getting all the content created that needs to be created and still having time to do the strategic analysis and planning. “You have no time to be strategic,” Rose said.

He cited an example of a company where content marketers spend 30% of their time fulfilling ad-hoc requests for content; 60% of their time is spent on campaign assets; and that leaves 10% to spend thinking about something strategic. “What we need to do is flip that,” Rose said. “Flip this so 60% is of time is spent on strategic approach.”

Find the Value

The next step is to identify the value coming out of all the content marketing work being done. Rose cited the case of a software company that created an academy-based educational website that produced value in four areas: Subscribers went through the pipeline faster, ad buys were more effective, and the average sales price increased, as did attendance at events.

These advantages or “superpowers,” as Rose calls them, increased over time. “This didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It took time, but it was measurable. It was plottable. It was a business product created to generate value called content.”

There is no dashboard or spreadsheet that’s going to identify all that value, Rose noted. You must find it yourself – dig it out of your organization by designing your measurement to fit your strategy, he said.

This is where things change, Rose said. We reboot our content marketing approach to not be about collateral assets but to be about an owned-media experience that people want to subscribe to so we can build an audience.

We must stop doing failed things just because they have momentum, Rose said, and instead start doing the cool, innovative things. Culture change is the biggest challenge to content marketing becoming a superhero in the business. And that, Rose said, is our next adventure.