Content Budgets Rise as Measurement Advances

Nearly Half of Marketers Are Spending 20% More on the Discipline

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Lenovo's 'Pit Stop Challenge' has received more than 252,000 views on YouTube.
Lenovo's 'Pit Stop Challenge' has received more than 252,000 views on YouTube.

Not only are marketers continuing to boost budgets for content marketing, three-quarters of them can now measure the bottom-line impact of those efforts, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

Forrester's report found that one-quarter of marketers hiked their content marketing budgets by 30% or more this year over last, and 47% of marketers boosted their content marketing budgets by 20% or more. The report was based on an online survey of 86 senior marketers at business-to-consumer and business-to-business companies.

"Increasingly, we are seeing some pretty sizable increases in budgets," said Ryan Skinner, senior analyst at Forrester and author of the report. He said this is being driven by several factors, including the shift from traditional media to online, particularly among millennials; customers' self-directed research during the purchasing journey; and ad blocking, which makes the need for valuable, relevant content even more important to marketers.

As marketers boost their budgets for content marketing, "measurement is a top challenge -- there is a lot of focus on measuring the value of content marketing," Mr. Skinner said.

According to the Forrester study, 75% of marketers surveyed said they saw positive bottom-line outcomes from their content marketing efforts, such as increased loyalty and reduced marketing and media expenses; 57% said they saw positive top-line business outcomes in the form of increased revenue and sales.

One b-to-b marketer that has significantly evolved its content marketing strategy over the last several years is database-software company SAP, which started out with blogs, articles and online communities more than five years ago, and is now integrating tailored content into every stage of the buyer's journey, from online videos to research papers to an online magazine for C-level executives.

"More and more, what we see is that buyers respond to unique points of view that tell them about what's valuable in terms of moving their business forward," said Vivek Bapat, senior VP-global head of marketing strategy at SAP. "One of the lessons we've learned is that more content isn't necessarily a good thing -- it's making sure we are delivering the right types of content to the right audiences at the right time."

For example, to reach a target audience of senior business leaders who were interested in talent and hiring issues, SAP partnered with Oxford Economics to conduct a research study called Workforce 2020 that examined the state of the workforce now, how it will change in the next five years and how companies must adapt.

In another thought-leadership content effort, SAP partnered with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to develop a series of white papers on how business leaders can simplify their businesses, which tied into SAP's messaging "Run Simple."

"These were both very successful programs for us and resonated with a wide variety of business leaders," said Jeff Woods, VP-corporate and portfolio marketing at SAP.

He said SAP measures the results of its content marketing efforts based on overall impressions and views, but it also does deep analysis on how effective the content is in moving buyers to the next stage of the buyer's journey -- and ultimately the number of leads generated and sales opportunity in the pipeline. He declined to give results for those particular content programs.

Mr. Bapat said having a content architecture in place is critical for large corporations. "In a big company like SAP, you have to have an architecture identified early from a strategic perspective, and work closely with the corporate strategy and sales strategy teams to have a consistent content architecture," he said.

Mr. Woods said, "Another thing that works for us is experimentation. We are always innovating while trying new things. What is popular on the internet today is different than what was popular six months ago."

Other marketers are seeing results from tailoring content to the customer journey. PC maker Lenovo worked with Traction, San Francisco, to create a series of humorous videos called "Users Happen," designed to reach technology buyers at different stages of the buying process.

For buyers who were already familiar with Lenovo and beginning to do product research, Lenovo created a video called "Pit Stop Challenge" featuring a side-by-side comparison of a Nascar pit crew changing a tire vs. an IT guy installing Lenovo's ThinkCentre Tiny-in-One product in fewer than 15 seconds. The video has received more than 252,000 views on YouTube.

Lenovo uses metrics such as time spent engaging with the content, as well as leads and sales generated, to measure its content marketing efforts. Videos are now Lenovo's No. 2 lead generator, right after e-books, said Michael Ballard, senior manager-digital marketing at Lenovo.