New research reveals enterprise content marketing trends in 2016

Joe Pulizzi has released the CMI’s latest research into enterprise content marketing, and it’s well worth sharing, so I thought I’d discuss a few of the highlights (or lowlights, in some cases). 

The study reveals that the vast majority of marketers have a long way to go before they become truly effective, with less than one in 20 reaching a level of maturity that pretty much guarantees success.

If you’re in need of some facts and figures to support a business case for content marketing, or are simply curious to discover what your B2B peers are up to, then pull up a cushion and take some notes.

Effectiveness

Just 22% of enterprise content marketers felt that they were doing the business, with the field still trying to achieve a level of effectiveness.

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There is much work to be done. One of the biggest issues is how success is – or is not – being measured.

Clarity

Accurate measurement is the holy grail of marketing, but achieving data nirvana is a big problem for content teams.

Just 29% of marketers said they had clarity about what success looked like. The other 71% are presumably struggling with strategy, or have a lack of visibility over how they are performing.

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Measurement remains a huge issue for many content marketing teams. It can be complicated, but it’s absolutely essential that the right steps are taken to figure things out.

A lot of enterprise marketers support sales teams who seal the deal offline, and they are reliant on sales to properly document their wins, in order to attribute success and discover what works best. The trouble is that sales folk naturally want to sell, rather than doing anything perceived as ‘admin’. Mindsets need to change.

Joining up the data is another major problem for many teams. Pulling together all of the data in one place is essential if you’re going to make sense of overall business performance. Platform integration is something that just needs to be done, if you really want to see what’s going on.

Strategy

Incredibly, given the amount of investment in this area, more than a third of marketers said that they had a documented content marketing strategy. The rest either didn’t have a strategy, or didn’t have one that was written down, which tends to be akin to having no strategy at all.

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Further analysis showed that 75% of the most effective teams have a documented strategy, which proves the value in creating one that can be referenced and shared by those working at the sharp end.

One of the more surprising things I spotted was that only 30% of marketers have an editorial mission statement. I find this baffling, given the amount of freelancers and external agencies used by content marketing teams. There should be a clear framework, along with a house style guide, brand parameters, and so on. Otherwise you run the risk of screwing up.

Moreover, strategy – as well as goals, objectives and tasks – should not live in the ether. They need to be written down, in order to be managed, and measured. Content is not a fluffy game: it should serve a clear purpose, and has to be aligned with broader business goals. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If you haven’t yet figured this out then take a look at my content strategy canvas, which you can use as a template to help get your house in order.

It’s also worth saying that you should review your strategy on a regular basis. Schedule a recurring (perhaps monthly) timeslot to devote some brainpower to this. Monitor your progress, performance, and think about whether you need to adjust your course.

Collaboration

More than a third of marketers met at least once a week to discuss their work and formulate plans. That may sound like overkill, in an age of too many meetings, but more than 90% said that these meetings were “valuable”.

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Budgets

The research found that budgets are slowly increasing, at least on a proportionate basis, with around 25% of total marketing budget being allocated to content (vs 23% last year). Almost half of enterprise marketers expect budgets to grow in the next 12 months…

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An average of 36% of total marketing budget was spent on content marketing by the most effective teams, whereas the least effective only set aside 15%.

Maturity

Just 4% of marketers said they had reached a level of sophistication with content marketing. The rest of the pack continue to face the usual challenges and headaches: integration, budget, buy-in, measurement, and so on.

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Of those that describe themselves as ‘sophisticated’ or ‘mature’, 82% said they were “effective”. Not a bad statistic for your business case, if you’re looking to scale up the team and measure success properly.

The future

Output is expected to increase in 2016, according to around three quarters of those who took the survey.

What’s hot? Events, videos and content made for social media platforms. Events were said to be the most effective tactic, though it’s definitely one of the most expensive and is difficult to scale.

By contrast, games, print newsletter and podcasts are used by less than a third of content marketers.

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Goals

Engagement was said to be a primary goal by 82% of enterprise marketers, with sales and lead generation not far behind.

The metrics used to track success are largely skewed towards new business. The most important metric was said to be sales lead quality.

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The full report contains a lot more data and is chock full of insight. You can download it for free here (registration required).

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