PR Insider: More Fans Than Plans

Content marketing gets a lot of love but is light on strategy.

These days, you’ll find stories about content marketing everywhere you look. We at Capstrat were curious: Does the practice of content marketing match its popularity in the press? How – and why – are marketers using it? Can we at least agree on a definition? To help get to the bottom of this, we asked 246 marketing professionals to tell us what they think about content marketing. The group represented a cross-section of C-Suite, vice presidents, managers and directors.

As expected, a whopping 87% of professionals believe content marketing is the new way to reach customers. Nearly half (43%) are counting on content to break through the clutter in the way traditional advertising once did. Others see it as “an old way to get customer attention that is new again” (25%) and “a method to keep customers coming back” (26%).

Mindy Lance
Mindy Lance

So, content marketing has many fans – yet 34% of marketers polled confess they don’t have a plan for implementation. The Content Marketing Institute finds the lack of a plan to be even more prevalent, at 55%.

The bottom line? While content marketing has plenty of admirers, the absence of a plan to measure success will prevent marketers from getting the most from this MVP. Notably, only 13% of survey respondents identify “strategy” as the most important element in a content marketing campaign.

What would it take to push strategy to the top?

A solid understanding of the concept is a good place to start. Although some confusion about content marketing’s definition remains, 94% of our respondents agree it’s about engaging customers. While materials such as brochures and sales sheets are certainly content, they traditionally push a one-way, all-about-me-me-me approach. Content must be valuable. In our hyper-connected world, we can easily skip it.

Social media expert Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, encourages marketers to “be the show, not the commercial.” And content can take many forms: a video, a blog post, a tweet, an event, a webinar. Heck, even this article is content marketing. But decisions on channels and style are just guesswork without a strategic foundation.

Ready to get in the game?

Here are four tips to help you kick off a successful content marketing campaign:

1. Understand that strategy is critical. The time and effort you put into a content marketing plan can pay huge dividends in the form of customer awareness and sales growth. Plus, by putting strategy first, you’ll have an edge over the 87% who don’t name it as the most important element.    

2. Determine your goals – why you want to engage in content marketing in the first place. In our survey, respondents say their goals are “to build awareness” (28%), “to drive sales” (22%) and “to differentiate ourselves” (17%). Having clear goals in mind can help you define your audience and create content that will resonate with them.

3. Align your goals with your challenges. Where can your campaign have the biggest impact? The majority say their customers get stuck at either awareness (35%) or decision (28%). Those communication roadblocks are pretty common across all businesses – but a strategic, steady flow of content marketing can give you more chances to reach your targeted audience.

4. Think through how you will deliver your messages. Which format does your audience prefer? Are they heavy social media users? Or are they drawn to events or webinars? Most of our respondents say social media is their favorite vehicle, followed by digital media and event marketing. But beware the pitfall of choosing a medium based solely on cost. Doing some research into your customers’ preferred channels – and then tailoring your campaign to those platforms – could be well worth the investment.

Gear up with a solid plan, and you can be confident your content marketing will score real business results. And, speaking of results, don’t forget to set up a way to measure them. That way, you can adjust strategy along the way and ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your content marketing buck.

Mindy Lance is Vice President, Group Content Director at Capstrat. She has more than 25 years' experience in brand and positioning, communications strategy and content development. Follow Mindy: @capstrat.