What's going wrong with content marketing?

The USA Content Marketing Institute‘s annual report reveals an interesting pattern this year. They’ve homed in on the fact that very few B2B content marketers in North America bother to document their content plans.

What’s up with content marketers?

According to the latest CMI survey, while 83% of the content marketers quizzed say they have a ‘verbal’ content strategy in place only 35% say they’ve actually documented it. Let’s be honest… reading between the lines it looks as though only 35% of those questioned really do have a content marketing strategy, and the rest are talking out of their backsides.
If it isn’t written down, it might as well not exist. If you don’t document your plans, how can you check you’re on track? It’s bad. But it gets worse – there’s more.

Only 21% of US content marketers questioned measure ROI

The CMI report also highlights how only 21% of those questioned think they’re successful at measuring ROI. In the Institute’s words:

“This year we asked how successful they are at tracking ROI on their content marketing programs. Only 21 percent said they are successful; however, the number goes up to 35 percent for marketers who have a documented strategy.”

WTF? Aren’t content marketers comparing the cost of creating fabulous new content against the return on investment they’re attracting? If not, why not? The tools and stats are out there. All you have to do is get up off your intellectually lazy ass and find out how to use them.
Roll time back to my pre-internet direct marketing days. If I’d spent money without putting in place the mechanisms needed to track the return on investment, I would have been sacked… and quite right, too. There’s no excuse. We managed it offline for decades, and it’s so much easier to handle online.

A disturbing trend for businesses employing inexperienced marketers

Why are so few content marketers doing a proper job? Is it because they lack experience in the wider world of marketing? Are they so naive they don’t realise the importance of checking results against plans? Or are they too scared to check just in case their content isn’t having the impact they’d hoped for? Whatever the reasoning, it’s a disturbing trend.
On the other hand it’s only disturbing for inexperienced content marketers and the unfortunate businesses employing them! It’s actually great news for experienced content marketers. The current situation puts proper marketers and the businesses employing them at a real advantage.

Is your content marketer experienced enough?

There’s a pattern here. The marketers who bother writing down their content marketing strategy are also more likely to know how much ROI they’re generating. It looks like it really is an experience thing. Junior marketers (and people who are calling themselves content marketers when they actually know bugger all about marketing in a wider context) are much less likely to realise they need to track ROI.
Is taking on an inexperienced marketer more risky than ever? I think so. You need someone who knows how to create a solid content plan, document it professionally and track the return on investment like a grown up. Not a bullshit-fuelled beginner who knows so little they don’t understand the limits of their own knowledge… and can’t even be bothered to find out.

Is it because content marketing isn’t working?

Why do so many US content marketers avoid the biggest question of all: is my content marketing working?
In a way, it’s understandable. Great content alone won’t get you where you want to be, no matter what Google and co say. Backlinks still matter. And no matter how brilliant, relevant, timely, trendy or evergreen your content is, it’s still very difficult indeed to attract backlinks.
If you think there’s a nice, neat, reliable, logical progression where great content automatically attracts backlinks, social media shares, likes and so on every time, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. The content marketing world is tough, complex and challenging.

How do you tell whether a content marketer has what it takes?

Experience is the bunny. If nothing else, your candidate should be able to clearly demonstrate they know how to create and document content strategies and the tactics and plans that underpin them,  as well as track the money they generate. If they can’t explain how to do the absolute basics, find someone who can.
(Thanks to MaRabelo for the gorgeous free image) 

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