Content marketing needs to pass the ‘relative test’

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Content marketing should be easier to explain; easy enough for family members to understand says Zazzle Media.

Anyone who works in content marketing will have experienced the same thing. You’re at a family event such as a party, Christmas meal or wedding and a relative sidles up to you and asks the question you’re dreading: “So what is it you actually do at work?”

How do you answer that? ‘Writing stuff for websites’? ‘Something to do with Google’? ‘Oh, you wouldn’t understand?’ The last one sounds too big headed and a bit frosty but needs must sometimes, right?

Yet while extricating yourself from a mildly awkward social situation might be one by-product of moving into this industry, it is actually indicative of a wider challenge that we need to overcome.

What we too often forget is that businesses – and even some people within the field of marketing – are almost as in the dark about the way in which content marketing works as your post-Sherry Christmas Day uncle.

The point is that complacency is dangerous and content marketing is still a relatively young industry. We have to get better at defining what we do, conveying this explanation and demonstrating the benefits of this. Assuming that this is all known is not enough.

There are some positive signs in our State of Content Marketing Survey with this regard – but this is a case that isn’t yet won.

Three years ago when we ran this survey, only 6% of marketers were clear about what a successful content marketing campaign looked like. Now, five times the amount of people say this.

That’s rightly cause for optimism, but it leaves a stark fact – two thirds of people are definitely not clear on what success looks like. Similarly, while only 2.7% of people feel content marketing is ‘not so effective’, just 18.92% feel it is extremely effective. Mark that clearly in the ‘room for improvement’ box.

There’s another telling question in this regard. We asked: “Would you say your wider teams are ‘bought in’ to the idea of content marketing?” In response, 50.77% said ‘yes, they are on board and understand the value’ and 43.08% said ‘yes, but they don’t fully understand the value’. Only 6.15% said ‘no, they don’t understand the process or see the value’.

Again, there’s good news here. A very small amount of people don’t understand or see the value in content marketing and more than half of people feel the wider business fully buys into the idea of content marketing. Yet, there’s also a challenge to overcome too – with a big chunk of people appreciating the value of content marketing without fully understanding it. If we’re not careful, this could get in the way of getting the time, money and resources needed to go even further.

Content marketing is definitely growing up. Two years ago, three in five people said they didn’t have enough staff to deliver content marketing campaigns. That is now down to 37.5%, showing that businesses are increasingly investing in the manpower needed to deliver quality campaigns.

The battle isn’t over though. We have to continue to extoll the virtues of the work we do and prove the real value to be had in using content to build brand authority, awareness and commercial success. It’s also something that we shouldn’t be afraid of doing – if we’re confident in the work we do – and our survey shows we should be - why wouldn’t we be all too happy to explain ourselves?

One day, we’ll even pass the ‘relative test’, and they’ll know exactly what we mean when we say ‘content marketing’. That would be nice wouldn’t it?

Andrew Brookes, content manager at Zazzle Media.

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