JC Lupis | Marketing Charts | Wed, 02 Nov 2016 13:30:09 +0000

Content marketing is set to be more of a cross-departmental effort, according to a new study [download page] by Altimeter, a Prophet Company. Based on a survey of more than 500 content strategists in North America and Europe, the report looks at the level of investment in future activities such as technology investment and paid content promotion.altimeter-content-strategists-future-investments-nov2016

In this article, we’ll highlight five of the top initiatives and tie them back to other survey results presented in the report.

Unified, Central Strategies

The activity that content strategists are most committed to in the year ahead is involving more departments in setting a unified, central content strategy. Indeed, 7 in 10 respondents indicated that they’ll increase the amount of time and resources they dedicate to this initiative in 2017.

That’s interesting given that there’s already some maturity in cross-departmental strategy: 41% agreed that their company has a unified content strategy that applies to the entire organization, and another 47% somewhat agreed that this is the case.

Moreover, when respondents were asked how their company is organized for producing branded content, a leading 47% share said they are centralized (a dedicated content team manages all content production for several functions), besting the 32% who are decentralized, without a single department to manage and coordinate the content strategy.

The analysts note that content has moved beyond purely being used for marketing purposes, and is now also a catalyst in other areas such as sales and service. This is reflected in the number of different departments involved in creating content strategy. For example, upwards of 4 in 10 respondents said that departments ranging from data/analytics (51%) to customer support (48%), marketing (44%), sales (43%) and corporate communications/PR (42%) are involved in leading content strategy. Participation is similarly spread across functions, with 42% saying product development/R&D participated in content strategy and 47% saying the same about market research.

Even so, cross-departmental involvement can prove to be a challenge: 55% noted that aligning multiple teams around a unified strategy is a top-3 challenge in creating and implementing a strategy. This edged difficulties in accessing relevant customer data (54%) and difficulty in proving the business impact of content (53%) as the top strategic challenge for content-producing organizations.

Amplifying Branded Content by Using Ad Dollars

Content distribution is the next-biggest investment for content strategies, with 55% saying they’ll increase the amount of time and resources they’ll spend on paid promotion next year.

The report’s authors note that this is a wise initiative given the declining levels of organic reach on social networks. With Facebook emerging as the digital channel that content strategists feel gives them the most engagement for their content, it certainly seems as though hiking spend on paid content amplification on social platforms is a logical direction to take.

Also of note, separate survey results show that native advertising is considered one of the most effective content formats at engaging customers, outperforming a variety of other types including white papers and blog posts. The analysts note that “although a native ad could technically be in any format… this finding show just how important it is to support brand-produced content with ad dollars for promotion, underscoring the fact that paid reach is more effective than organic reach.”

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Creating More Video Content

Some 53% of content strategists surveyed plan to increase time and resources on video content next year, compared to 20% who will be decreasing their investments in video, per the report.

This is an intriguing result, as both long-form video (23%) and short-form video (18%) ranked at the bottom of the list of most engaging digital content formats. This was a somewhat surprising result given other research suggesting that video is an effective content type with a bigger role coming.

The report’s authors point out that video may have underperformed in its effectiveness rating as it’s quite expensive relative to other content types. In that sense, strategists may be planning to grow their investments in video simply as that’s demanded of them in order to participate in video content production.

It’s also worth noting that almost half of content strategists are looking to hire video production and editing talent next year, though the desirability of this skill falls behind others such as data analysis, content editing/writing and graphic design.

Integrating Software Systems to Share Customer Data

The use of data in content marketing is a theme that is touched upon throughout the report, with 99% of companies using at least some form of data to create relevant content. With that in mind, 53% of respondents will be increasing their investments in software integration with an eye to sharing customer data.

This seems especially important as the level of maturity here is not quite as high as in different aspects. Fewer than 4 in 10 respondents said their company creates relevant content based on customer data gathered from multiple departments and resources. And while 44% somewhat agree that this is the case, there does appear to be room for improvement in data sharing, particularly if strategies are going to be unified and cross-departmental in scope.

Accessing relevant customer data, as aforementioned, is also a key challenge for content-producing organizations, narrowly trailing only team alignment. As the analysts mention, one of the difficulties here is not only the cross-departmental cooperation necessary, but also the integration of different platforms, which has proven problematic at times. (It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that data analysis is the most popular skill for content strategists to hire for in 2017.)

In terms of the data sources currently used to create relevant content, social media metrics (65%) and website analytics (63%) are the most common, with CRM systems (43%) and third-party databases (27%) less broadly used.

Real-Time Delivery and Content Personalization

Finally, a majority of companies will increase their investments in technology that enables real-time delivery and personalization next year. This is the area in which strategists are currently the most immature, with only 35% agreeing that their company can deliver personalized content in real-time to customers based on the actions they take on their digital properties. (To be fair, another 48% somewhat agree that they can do this.)

Separately, these technologies are among the most popular set for spending increases next year. While content creation software will see the largest investment increases (69% upping their investments), content delivery software (53%) and real-time/personalization tools (51%) are next on the list of content technologies for which strategists will increase their investments next year.

The full report from Altimeter, a Prophet Company, can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The Altimeter report is based on a survey of 528 digital transformation leaders and strategists in North American and Europe across major industry verticals including IT, retail, manufacturing, finance and healthcare.