Content marketing comes of age

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Content marketing is playing an increasingly central role in the channel mix as marketers seek to enhance prospect and customer engagement and trust, according to a new study from BtoB. The study, “Content Marketing: Ready for Prime Time,” found 34% of respondents are “very” or “fully” engaged with content marketing, compared with only 18% last year. For the future, companies' commitment to content marketing will increase rapidly: 66% say they will be “very” or “fully” engaged in content marketing by 2013. The study was based on an online survey of 440 b-to-b marketing professionals conducted in April and May. Content marketing's key strengths include its ability to improve engagement with important audiences (cited by 56% of survey respondents); enhance the “trust factor” for companies (47%); achieve faster, more relevant touch points in the market (33%); and improve search engine optimization (SEO) scores (23%). “Content is very important for us,” said Nick Panayi, director-global brand and digital marketing at multinational IT services company Computer Sciences Corp. CSC has gone all-in with content, even establishing an in-house department of former journalists to create material to feed its website and social marketing efforts. “There are two parts to the content story,” Panayi said, in explaining the hiring of professional writers. “One is the raw intelligence and information it provides that allow you to rise above the clutter. And then there is putting those insights into a package that is consumable and attractive.” CSC's content efforts include its “Ingenious Minds” initiative featuring company employees on their own minisites who have solved important IT problems. The company's “Success Story Briefing Center” feeds its social efforts with case studies, and “Infographic Central” features a burgeoning array of graphics-oriented research. Marketers view content marketing overall as having its most significant impact on lead generation, cited by 51% of respondents, followed by brand awareness (38%), thought leadership (34%) and sales (29%). Randall Rozin, Dow Corning's global director-brand management and marketing communications, agreed with the primacy of lead generation. “Each time we deploy a version of the content, the intent is to capture and qualify leads for the sales funnel, or precondition our audience for subsequent calls to action,” Rozin said. “It works well, but we have to remain disciplined to capture the maximum value for each piece of content produced.” Marketers are exploring all kinds of content to home in on the right combination that will help achieve their objectives. Social media is considered the most important type used to improve sales and marketing effectiveness, cited by 80% of respondents. Other popular types of content include online articles (74%), e-newsletters (65%), white papers (60%), blogs (59%), case studies (58%) and videos (57%). Marketers can derive multiple uses from a single piece of content, Rozin said. He noted that a video could exist as a call to action and also reside on the company's YouTube channel with links to many other social media outlets. Its transcript might be turned into a white paper or converted to a blog post, and the content ultimately used for an infographic. “As we produce various pieces of content, we think in a 360- degree format,” Rozin said. “We don't want to [simply] produce a standalone video featuring one of our product, technology or application experts. Rather, our content marketing strategy is to produce the video in the context of the larger outbound consumption streams and then merchandise the content to its fullest extent.” Among social channels used to distribute content, marketers most often avail themselves of the “big three”—Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in that order. These are followed by video site YouTube, the Google+ social site and presentation staging site SlideShare. Yet, when asked which channels they're most satisfied with, the order changed significantly. Tablet apps ranked highest (54%), followed by videos (53%), social (51%), games (47%) and live events (46%). Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Enterprise Services division this year rolled out its “Evolve, Compete, Succeed” campaign, targeting international companies that need to update their legacy applications. A major component of the campaign was a partnership with the Financial Times that included sponsorship of the publication's CIO Interviews video series and live FT events. White paper downloads are also part of the ongoing campaign. “Because of our objectives—both to create awareness and demand generation—we wanted to have all these touch points and elements in the campaign,” said Natasha Sandoval, marketing campaign manager at HP Enterprise Services for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Especially in the areas we're talking about, such as cloud and mobile, you lose credibility if you can't offer something beyond the slogans. It's important to get specific, to show customers not only that HP focuses on these areas but also what we have to offer.” Marketers' budgets for content marketing are increasing, according to BtoB's study: 51% of marketers this year are boosting their allocation for content marketing, and 48% are standing pat. Also, while 44% of marketers indicate that content marketing commands about one-sixth of their overall marketing budget, one-tenth pegged its share at more than 45%. When asked to rate their satisfaction with content marketing, 43% of respondents said they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” compared to just 11% who are less than satisfied. However, many marketers say their own companies' effectiveness regarding content marketing is falling below what it should be. This may have to do, in part, with the challenges marketers face that prevent them from deploying a more aggressive content marketing effort. Lack of resources, cited by 47% of respondents, leads the list of challenges, closely followed by issues unique to content marketing itself: a lack of ability to produce strongly engaging materials (46%), not being able to produce enough content to fill various pipelines (44%) and not having the metrics to gauge the efforts adequately (22%). Perennial marketing challenges also made the list, including unsympathetic management (18%) and poor sales-marketing alignment that sabotages the effort before it can begin (16%). For further information and to download the study, visit www.
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