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The struggles with managing content and data are notable for marketers. Forrester last year reported how badly B2B marketers struggle to produce marketing content that matters to buyers. And this is scary: the same research found that 60% of B2B buyers showed no interest interacting with a sales rep, and 62% said they can decide whether to buy from a brand based solely on digital content. And data? Marketers rank data as a top challenge, and not just analytics. Marketers are yearning to collect and manage ethical data.  “Everybody is trying to get a handle on the data conversation,” Matt Krebsbach, director of public relations and communications for Sitecore, told CMSWire in an interview. “But if you want to deliver a personalized experience, getting customer data isn't your problem any longer. Content is the bottleneck.”

Krebsbach naturally has an incentive for pushing content challenges: his company provides content management technologies. But his input raised an important question we later asked him and other interviewees: What’s more of a challenge: content or data? Surely, all those interviewed agreed each remain a problem for marketers. And most agreed one services the other. Bad data informs bad content, and vice versa, right?

Content or Data: No Need to Pick One

But what is top of mind in terms of challenges for some: content or data? One CMO is not picking one. It’s not an "either or question," according to Allison Munro, chief marketing officer at Piano. “You often create one to drive the other,” Munro said. “Diving into the challenge within content creation is scaling the production with the same quality and speed. Data is the same: quality and speed.”

Munro added marketers expect to have access to relevant data and accurate measurement to help drive the outcomes forward that content was created to support. As a practicing CMO, she’s focused on journey attribution and conversion benchmarking.

Related Article: A Look at Marketers' Biggest Customer Experience Challenges in 2019

Data Now, Content Tomorrow

Sunil Karkera, global head of TCS Interactive at Tata Consultancy Services, finds the unification of data for marketers a major problem today. Unifying first, second and third party data with ecosystem data is a major challenge. But brands will soon be struggling on a greater level with content because often marketers do not know how to apply technology for content. “They don't have a tool chain,” he said, “an integrated solution from ideation of the content to actually delivering the content and archiving the content.” 

Marketers need to ensure they have some type of content collaboration tool chain to help manage content between what can be multiple digital properties, brands, geographies and languages. 

Content Strategy A Must

Content will trump data as a challenge if there is no content strategy, Karkera said. What is the structure of your communication? What's the tone of voice of the content you write now? What if there is a merger and acquisition? A content strategy would help inform how to manage content between joint companies.

Related Article: The Challenges of Delivering Personalized Customer Experiences

Content Only As Good As Its Leadership, Archiving

Marketers need to make sure their brands have leadership at the content level, according to Karkera. Too often, brands enlist junior people in content with limited experience. But content can’t be something that’s regularly outsourced, he said. It needs to be part of the product creation, and there needs to be a fully-vetted archiving plan. “Content has a shelf life,” Karkera said. “If you search a brand, you'll find content from 2017 popping up now. Archival is very important — as much as creation is.” 

Content Value Loss Tied Directly to Data

Not all believe content is the greater problem. The market is telling him that data is a larger problem, said David Hegarty, vice president of business solutions for Zeta Global, which does offer data-driven marketing services. “Quite honestly,” Hegarty said, “they have too much of it. And it's not driving the content investment. So if I don't have a very strong content architecture, and I can't reach a social or an email channel for whatever reason, I've lost value in the content structure. That loss of value is directly tied to the data.”

Not that content is still isn’t a concern for marketers, Hegarty added. The big struggle, he said, is how we get the content outside the website. “If someone looks at an article on the website, how do I embed that article on the next email they see?” Hegarty asked. “Or how do I put that front and center on a social channel like LinkedIn?”