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'Less than 10% of marketing decision makers are certain how to implement content marketing', reveal Zazzle results for 2017

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Less than 10% of marketing decision makers are certain how to implement content marketing

So, it’s official – content-led marketing initiatives are claiming more of the overall marketing budget than ever before.

That should be great news for someone who has spent his entire career preaching the value of the medium as a central cog in the marketing machine, but I’m afraid – afraid that this surge in investment could soon disappear into a fireball of disappointing delivery and results. Those concerns are not entirely misplaced either.

The following infographic highlights many of these key findings:

The overall message from it is clear; there is a widening discrepancy between the amount of money being spent in the space and the level of knowledge and skilled resource required to maximize return on investment.

It’s a dichotomy, the likes of which only end one way – with a retraction of the strategy back to tried and tested (and easily measurable) tactics such as paid search. And that would be a shame given how close we are to cementing content at the heart of all marketing activity.

In that study only 6% of marketers could lay claim to having a crystal-clear view on what it took to make their content marketing strategy work. The biggest threat to content performance? The ability to consistently create quality content. Ouch.

So, what’s the answer? In my experience, most of the challenges are not actually about resource at all. Bigger budgets solve that but what they can’t fix is the knowledge gap that still exists in digital.

While there are rafts of fantastic specialists across social, search and now even influencer channels, very few are able to bring lots of experience with them into content strategy. The result is holes the size of solar systems in plans. Holes that make it almost impossible to create long term value, as there just isn’t enough variation, thought and consistency going into the output.

For many, content strategy = content marketing, and content marketing is about producing a series of shouty ‘big bang' campaigns that are designed to create awareness and engagement. To others it means filling social with ‘viral content’ and making sure the blog is full of useful list features. Both miss the point.

The key is variation – a content calendar full-to-bursting with audience-focused ideas that play out to entertain, inform and generally make your (prospective) customer a smarter consumer. Of course, the process of pulling this together is a difficult one, and it requires a focus on audience understanding and a knowledge of content strategy planning. Although, these areas seem to be covered well online.

If I have one hope for 2017, it’s that some of that extra budget is spent on research and training to ensure that those in charge of strategies really are well equipped to maximize ROI. Concepts such as building Content Flow into every plan, ensuring content is ‘always on’ and how to tie that plan back to the centre of all marketing activity are critical if we are to succeed.

Simon Pension is founder of content-led digital marketing agency Zazzle Media.

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