Colleen Jones, author of “Clout” and CEO of Content Science, has defined the difference between content marketing and content strategy like this:

Content strategy is essential for a wide range of purposes—media products, technical support, customer service, sales, and marketing, to name a few. Content marketing focuses on strategy and implementation for—you guessed it—marketing. — Has Content Marketing Hijacked Content Strategy?

Content marketing forms one part of an overall content strategy where an organization actively uses content to provide information of value to an audience on a continuous basis. And content marketing’s goal? To influence people to take action—without sounding salesy—in order to drive specific, desired kinds of customer behavior.

Content marketing is any marketing technique whereby media and published information (content) are used to influence buyer behavior and stimulate action leading to commercial relationships. Optimally executed content marketing delivers useful, relevant information assets that buyers consider a beneficial service rather than an interruption or a “pitch.”  IDC

That means content marketing differs from traditional marketing, public relations, and communications practices. Creating content marketing similar to sales presentations or traditional marketing collateral won’t work. Instead, think of content marketing more like publishing. The reality is, all brands are now publishers. And as more brands recognize the potential of content marketing, they are devoting more budget, time, and resources to this rapidly evolving area of marketing. As Harvard Business Review points out, “Marketers do need to think more like publishers, but they also need to act more like publishers if they are ever going to be able to hold an audience’s attention. If you can’t create a compelling experience, it doesn’t really matter what your content strategy is: it will fail.”

89% of B2B marketers are using content marketing.  Note: Of the 11% nonusers, 52% say they plan to launch a content marketing effort within 12 months; 43% had no immediate plans to begin using content marketing; and 5% had used content marketing in the past but stopped. — Content Marketing Institute

When budgets increase rapidly in a particular area across organizations and industries, it often means your competition is finding value there. As an alternative to the hard-to-measure merit of traditional advertising and one-way communications, content marketing works much better. It creates more relevant content and better two-way customer relationships all throughout the customer lifecycle in a non-threatening, non-salesy way. As a result, higher percentages of marketing budgets will continue to be allocated for content marketing—especially considering that Contently and other industry experts predict content marketing will generate $300 billion by 2019.

75% of companies are increasing content marketing investment, with 43% increasing staff levels. — Curata

Breaking content marketing down between B2B and B2C, Content Marketing Institute states that B2B content marketers allocate 29% of their marketing budget, on average, to content marketing—up slightly from last year. The most effective allocate 42%, and the most sophisticated/mature allocate 46%,” reveals B2B Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America. As for B2C, a MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute study reports that 26% is the average proportion of total marketing budget that is spent on content marketing, while 42% of marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next 12 months, and 39% plan to keep their content marketing spending around the same level over the next 12 months.

Those same studies also show that 2% of B2B marketers in North America say their organization’s overall approach to content marketing has been much more or somewhat more successful than a year ago. While 24% of B2C marketers report their content marketing strategy is much more effective compared to one year ago. Forty-six percent say it’s somewhat more effective, and 19% say it’s about the same.

There lies the conundrum—and the opportunity. More money devoted to content marketing doesn’t necessarily mean organizations fully understand or successfully implement content marketing initiatives. They know they need it, they throw money at it, but they often don’t fundamentally grasp the strategy, talent, resources, and tactics it takes to execute it.

87% of B2B marketers say they struggle to develop compelling content. — Forrester

This is actually good news for your organization and should ring loud and clear as an opportunity. If you take the time to articulate your content marketing business goals and strategy, study successful content marketing execution, and understand how to evaluate your success, you will become part of the fruitful minority of organizations that execute properly.

…120 years later, The Furrow is still going strong. It is the largest circulated farming magazine in the world, delivered monthly to over 1.5 million farmers, in 12 languages to 40 different countries. John Deere is often given credit for being the first to leverage content marketing as part of a long-term business process.  Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

While you might hear a lot of hype about content marketing, always remember it is a timeless principle. It existed in the 1800s, the 1900s, and now the 2000s. John Deere did something brilliant yet simple in 1895—they informed and educated farmers in a compelling way with useful, relevant content. And that content helped John Deere become a credible, trusted, and reliable brand. Too often, content marketing fails because organizations like to talk about themselves and their products. Or, organizations focus on new technologies, tools, platforms, and channels like shiny toys. Instead, if you understand the timeless principles of content marketing, you will thrive no matter what technology, tools, and trends crash around you like rapids in a river. Today, The Furrow reaches 1.5 million readers in 40 countries, published in 12 languages shares TrackMaven.

These findings have led to the popular notion that more choice is better, that the human ability to desire and manage choice is unlimited. Findings from three studies starkly challenge the implicit assumption that having more choice is necessarily more intrinsically motivating than having fewer options.  Columbia Business School

When some organizations become enthusiastic about content marketing, they believe it means upping the amount of content creation and blasting it everywhere. Marketing agencies and SEO teams often encourage this attitude, but more content does not equal better content marketing. Paradoxically, it’s actually easier to give people too much content—but that content volume backfires when your audiences ignore it. That’s because people respond better to more focused and targeted content.

Brands spend 25%-43% of their marketing budget on content, yet only 23% of CMOs feel they are producing the right information for the right audience, and delivering it at the right time and correct format. — Business2Community

But that focus is difficult—and why it’s often skipped. You have to understand your audience thoroughly and know exactly what they want. With an understanding of the psychology of choice, you limit what content your audience sees so that they feel more at ease and comfortable engaging with your organization. In fact, VP of Marketing for Everything Technology reveals, “The top three things that make content effective are: Audience Relevance (58%); Engaging and Compelling Storytelling (57%); Triggers a Response/Action (54%).”

Gartner predicts that content creation will re-balance with more focus on mid- and late-funnel. So they advise to “keep on creating the eBooks and videos, but make sure to leave some capacity for case studies, white papers, implementation and how-to guides that will influence shortlist and selection and offer a more meaningful asset for sharing.”

The importance of optimizing your customer experience and user journeys cannot be overstated. As Kapost states, “89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago.” Unfortunately, many companies are behind the curve when it comes to delivering optimal user experiences, since “only 23% of B2B marketers claim to have a customer-centric—versus a channel- or product-centric—organizational structure.” This goes hand-in-hand with providing excellent internal marketing, showcased by the fact that 31% of all high-growth firms now have a formal employee advocacy program in place according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer.

The top 6 content marketing challenges: 1. Limited budget (including staff). 2. Creating enough content on a regular basis. 3. Finding the best sources to create amazing content. 4. Measuring the impact of content. 5. Organizational culture. 6. Promoting content.  Curata

Research and statistics about content marketing talent tend to surprise people. After all, conventional wisdom states that traditional marketers, public relations specialists, and communications specialists should become natural content marketers. But content marketing skill sets often more closely match those of traditional publishing more than traditional marketers. People with experience working for newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and other media companies have worked as content marketers for many years without necessarily using that term. In building your content teams, consider journalists, editors, publishers, and other people with media-related experience who are ready made with many of the skill sets you need.

87% of survey respondents rated the factor “a team leader who provides vision, direction, and inspiration” as very important or critical to team success.  Content Science, What Makes Content Teams Thrive?

In addition to finding trained content marketing professionals, it takes sound leadership for content marketing teams to thrive. The top five capabilities needed in content leaders are: vision, collaborate with others, synthesize information, motivate team, and cross-functional expertise. With strong leadership in place, your content marketing team is one step closer to building long-term success. Strong leadership will continue to be a key factor according to Curata. Of the companies they surveyed in a recent study, 53% of the content marketing leaders have an executive in charge of content marketing today.

As these facts show, with the right leadership, goals, foundation, best practices, talent, and evaluation process, content marketing can become a critical weapon in your organization’s arsenal. The good news? There is still time to leap ahead of your competition while they flail at execution.

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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