Marketers crank out lots of content, but is it working?

September 16, 2010

Marketers are flooding the zone with stories, blogs, white papers, tweets, videos … you name it. Producing all this content has turned marketing shops, retailers, manufacturers and lots of other businesses into media companies.

But how much of their stuff gets the job done?

A new report prepared by Junta42 and MarketingProfs tackles the question, at least in the world of business-to-business marketing. A survey of more than 1,100 B2B marketers found the vast majority of them are practicing “content marketing,” whether they use that phrase or not.

Nine out of 10 respondents said they are using social media, blogs, newsletters and other publishing tools to get their messages out this year. B2B marketers are devoting a quarter of their marketing budgets to various forms of content, the survey found.

That’s a lot of content and a lot of cash. But many marketers are unsure whether the investment is paying off. The report details a “confidence gap” with many of the new digital publishing tools. That is, marketers are doing the whole Facebook and Twitter thing, but not everyone is sure it’s working.

B2B Content Marketing confidence gap

From B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends

So are the doubts justified? That’s the big question, one this survey didn’t try to answer. The authors state:

We cannot be sure whether this lack of confidence is due to true ineffectiveness of any given strategy or simply the inability to measure effectiveness. What is clear, however, is that content marketers likely need substantially more education about best practices, as well as access to robust benchmarking data to guide their decision-making.

My view is that there a good reason for the “confidence gap.” Here it is: much of the content being pumped out doesn’t work. Countless entities are tweeting, blogging, posting to Facebook and creating YouTube videos without engaging the audiences they want to reach. They’re playing the game, but they’re flailing away without a content playbook.

Content marketing must come with a sound strategy, one that fits in with an overall marketing campaign. To cut through the clutter, publishers need to produce good content in the right context. I’m talking about content that is relevant, differentiated and truly compelling.

There’s plenty of good fodder in the B2B Content Marketing report about who’s doing what kind of content and how much time and effort they’re devoting to non-traditional marketing strategies. The report is a free download via PDF.

The notion that many businesses and marketers are rushing into social media just because everyone’s doing it reminds me of this brilliant Dilbert strip: