Content marketing is so perplexing to today's marketers that we've published 140 stories on the subject in the last year and a half. Yet a lot of marketers seem frustrated by lackluster results.
A new study (registration required) by the 614 Group and OneSpot may help explain why content often misses the target. Marketers aren't aiming for the target, or at least not very well.
Overall, 54 percent expressed dismay with their content marketing efforts. About two in three respondents said their content marketing efforts aren't driving business as well expected, and 56 percent were unhappy with the way results were measured.
Action vs. Intent
Sure, both survey sponsors have a vested interest here. Austin, Texas-based OneSpot provides a content marketing platform for programmatic placement of content marketing, essentially turning the content into online advertising. The 614 Group is a digital management consultancy.
Still, the data, based on a May-June survey of 487 US-based marketers, reflects some significant contradictions between what marketers want to do and what they actually do with their content.
For example, 65 percent of the respondents said targeting precision was the most important attribute in their campaigns, but 87 percent said their top method of distributing their content is through the company's website. That's roughly the marketing equivalent of preaching to the choir.
Similarly, 69 percent said they feel native advertising is interesting and valuable, but just 24 percent use behavioural targeting and only 22 percent use third-party data to help target their content, the survey found.
Content creation and distribution represent the top two spending categories -- 37 percent and 30 percent, respectively -- but it looks like change is in the wind. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they plan to increase spending on distribution and promotion during the coming year.
The second area primed for growth is measurement and optimization where 52 percent said they would spend more. Currently, that category accounts for 15 percent of the content marketing budget.
"Clearly, there is a strong opportunity for brands to take better advantage of the benefits that come with creating, distributing and optimizing content," said OneSpot CEO Steve Sachs in a statement that accompanied the survey results.
Of the respondents, 24 percent were in B2B marketing, 30 percent in B2C, 25 percent in agencies and 21 percent "other." And, as might be expected, there were some significant differences among them.
B2B vs. B2C
Thirty-eight percent of B2B marketers said lead generation was their top objective, with thought leadership in second place at 27 percent. Those were the lowest priorities for B2C marketers, with brand engagement at the top of their list (28 percent).
Targeting is important, but many feel content quality is the most important factor. Among them is Forrester Research Principal Analyst Laura Ramos, who advises CMOs on such matters.
Turning the Target
"Instead, B2B marketers need to invest in knowing their customers better and using tools like buyer personas to help them develop content that puts the buyer in the bull's eye of the target, not the products and services the firm may offer," she said.
"They also need to make content production a part of everyone's job in marketing, as well as partnering with subject matter experts inside and outside the firm, to help generate ideas and content that catch buyers' interest," Ramos added.
It may sound like a chicken and egg question, but in this case the egg is first. As Ramos suggested, the buyer must be targeted in the content before the content can be targeted at the buyer.