The Big Challenge for Content Marketing? Not Content or Marketing — Execution

content marketing toolsThis post first appeared on Marketo’s B2B Marketing blog — a must-read in this space. Thanks again to Marketo’s Jason Miller.

Most likely, you’ve scanned the same industry stats I have about content marketing – every new one more eye-opening than the last.   Here are just a few of the latest from the Content Marketing Institute:

  • 60% of B2B organizations are spending more this year on content initiatives – with almost no one (3%) planning on cutting back.
  • 26% of overall B2B marketing budgets are going to content.
  • 90% of B2B organizations are investing in some form of content marketing.

In one word: wow. Those are sea changes compared to what the status quo looked like just a few years ago.  At the same time, those collar-grabbing survey numbers raise a few nagging questions,  such as: Why do most company blogs – this one being a fabulous exception — still wither on the vine, despite fatter budgets and sold-out content marketing conferences overflowing with best-practice tips and advice? How do so many Web infographics for business audiences, despite their massive popularity, turn into incomprehensible, migraine-inducing user experiences? Why do many marketers still try to disguise promotional material as original content?

The Content Juggle

Here are a couple insights that I think explain the gap between the bullish new outlook on content marketing and the real bears in this nascent discipline – things like strategy, execution, and results.  For starters, good content deserves a good purpose, especially if the content isn’t cheap.  And yet, cobbling together a smart strategic plan to go along with those bigger content budgets can be a tall task for a lot of B2B marketing professionals. Many are running a tough juggling act, doling out time, money and energy to disjointed content efforts spread among various media — from online advertising, search engine marketing, and blogs, to social media and mobile marketing initiatives. What can get lost in the marketing juggle? Simple – creative and compelling original content that ties into the narrative of the company.  That can be an easy oversight for a lot of organizations, but one with increasingly high stakes: Imagine how quickly Groupon’s business might fade, for instance, if it lost sight of its value as a creative writing operation.  As the New York Times notes, the company actually “shuns being thought of as a marketer,” and yet with its 400-plus writers and editors, it has a an editorial staff “that is on the verge of eclipsing the big name across the Chicago River, The Chicago Tribune.”

Short-Range Planning

Second, many organizations often fail to recognize that successful content marketing programs – even the seemingly simple blog — are marathons, not sprints.  They’re long-term value propositions, not campaigns. Companies frequently kick off exciting new content sites, blogs, and other properties, but might not think much beyond the launch party about what it takes to achieve meaningful results. They all require constant care and feeding – a moving pipeline of great ideas, cost-efficient production, daily promotion and outreach, talented writers and artists.

That’s just for starters.  There are some other elements I think are key to a successful content marketing program, but the (super obvious) point is this: content marketing is hard work, just like any business initiative with bottom-line strategic objectives.  Aspiring brand publishers, take note. This content stuff was never easy for media and publishing companies back when they ruled the roost, and – despite all the great new tools and technology within reach of any company now, from WordPress to content curation platforms to low-cost, high-quality video –  it takes smart planning, creative talent, and most of all, a genuine passion for delighting the people you want to reach.

What are your biggest challenges in creating content for your B2B marketing strategy?

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