Does Content Marketing Know Where It’s Going?

Everybody's doing it, but is this necessarily a good thing?


Where content was once little more than an exciting marketing buzzword, it’s grown into something almost every marketing department aspires to excel at. The sharp growth in the use of ad blockers has seen content marketing’s lead generation far outstrip that of paid advertising, and 88% of marketers in the B2B space are using it. It’s largely accepted to drive higher conversion rates, costs around 62% less than outbound marketing, and boasts higher engagement rates.

Content marketing’s ubiquity doesn’t, however, mean that many companies are getting it right, and some commentators are dismissive of its impact altogether. The ROI is difficult to quantify - meaning figures are often contested - and, though 66% of marketers last year expected their organisation’s content marketing budget to increase in the coming 12 months, in many cases it’s difficult to tell why. Content marketing is suffering from an issue familiar to marketing professionals: the field is well and truly saturated.

The amount of content marketing produced has tripled in the past year, but engagement hasn’t seen an uptick, according to a report from Beckon. The company also found that ‘5% of content pieces garner 90% of all content engagement.’ Both are worrying statistics, ones that demand content marketers take a step back and consider what their content is actually trying to achieve and what corporate narrative they’re trying to build. Why you’re putting out content is just as important as the content itself, and only once this is properly established can any sort of tangible return be calculated.

A Raconteur piece titled ‘Content marketing, now what?’ explores where content marketing goes from here, having already been adopted by almost everyone. Most brands are doing it, too much of the content is similar, and as we’ve already seen a tiny percentage of pieces make up the vast majority of engagement. Essentially, it’s all about ROI. Though more nebulous metrics like ‘trust’ can’t properly be quantified, website hits, clickthrough rates, conversions, and shares can. To improve these, marketers should identify their key strengths and repurpose them time and again for a good ROI.

Jason Miller, Global Content Marketing Leader at LinkedIn, explains that brands should identify their ‘rocks’, i.e. their key assets that can be broken down into what he calls ‘turkey slices,’ repacked, re-spun, and reissued as fresh content. Rather than creating endless, varied, one-off content, it can pay to revisit popular material and simply rework it. According to Raconteur, Jason ‘repurposed his content rock into enough turkey slices to achieve 18,000% ROI from just one asset.’ Rather than spreading your resources thin striving for completely novel content, find your rocks and exploit them.

Timing and topicality, too, are more important than many marketers think. The boom in content marketing has seen popular topics done to death by marketing teams simply looking to be part of the conversation, even when the conversation has largely moved on. Being part of the noise isn’t necessarily helpful, so keep up with trends, make your content topical and, if possible, lead the conversation rather than following it. Again, this comes down to specialising your content - a streaming service is well placed to lead conversation around online media but poorly placed to write about the ins and outs of FinTech. Cut through the noise by knowing your strengths and exploiting them - leave the pieces about the importance of social behind.

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