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Is Content King in Online Marketing?
Claire | September 17, 2012
An interesting little survey has emerged from the US this week which suggests that the marketing profession might finally being getting a handle on, not to mention applying some strategic thinking to, the best way to employ content in digital campaigns.
We all know the score. Display or pay-per-click advertising? Yes, we all know how that works, what it is for and how it can drive measurable results which demonstrate to clients/exec teams a positive ROI. E-mail marketing and social media? Well they’re just electronic forms of old-fashioned direct marketing and generating grassroots word-of-mouth awareness, we understand that and are comfortable having those in the tool bag.
But what about all of those blogs we write, those press releases we upload, those case studies we commission and feature and flag so prominently on our website homepages? What do they actually do, what are they for? Search Engine Optimization? Creating in-bound links?
Uh-uh, not according to the 2012 B2B Content Marketing Trends report commissioned by the US Content Marketing Institute (CMI). According to the digital marketing professionals surveyed through LinkedIn, content marketing, in B2B circles at least, is being used for very different – and all together more traditional – purposes.
In terms of the main goals of content marketing, an overwhelming majority – 68 per cent – of respondents said they used content marketing for lead generation purposes. Second on the list was market education and thought leadership, cited by 50 per cent, with brand awareness third with 39 per cent. SEO and in-bound links were bottom of the list, dispelling the myth that content is only a means to an end in driving positive search results.
This suggests an increasing level of sophistication in the use of content that deserves attention – generating leads means driving sales, meaning content is all of a sudden muscling in on territory traditionally dominated by advertising.
Writing in Forbes, Patrick Spenner of the Corporate Executive Board makes an interesting case as to why this might be so. According to his organization’s research, corporate clients are now typically already 60 per cent of the way down the decision-making process before they engage a supplier rep. Why? Because they can use the internet to do their own research, and are looking for strong, relevant content to attract their attention.
So, according to the CMI report, marketing budget spend on content is up 10 per cent, while 84 per cent of respondents said they were upping their content focus. But is content really a magic wand capable of solving the online marketing conundrum?
Results would be the key concern – are those leads being converted into sales effectively? Worryingly, only 26 per cent of respondents said they matched content and marketing automation in the same campaign, and 57 per cent said they didn’t use automation at all, begging the question of how follow-ups are being managed.
The other problem posed by content is the quality versus quantity debate. To keep content fresh, to ensure it is relevant to all customer bases and channels, to have the right personas is an incredibly labour-intensive exercise. Quality AND quantity are vital to achieving any of the top-three cited purposes, and whether many content campaigns achieve both is open to debate.
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Images from Free Digital Photo.net
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