Content planning in 2016 – what were the most disappointing stats?

by Stratton Craig

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Content is the driving force behind many business marketing strategies. Regardless of its form, content is now utilised to promote, educate and generate new business. The opportunities to reach new audiences through effective content are growing; people are finding it easier to share online and content is recognised as the key to building brand voice. Despite these factors, content planning is still very much neglected across the sectors, with some businesses making little or no room for it in budgets.
Where businesses have invested in content marketing strategies, some struggle to create content that is valuable, and others are obstructed by how to measure its success. Clearly there are teething problems for businesses developing content. Research has shown some contradictions amongst those struggling – 88% consider content marketing as an important component within the marketing programme, yet many do not necessarily implement a strategy or show dedication to producing quality, efficient content.
Where did it all go wrong?
For UK marketers, only 40% had a documented content marketing strategy. This could be one of the first hurdles to overcome. Secondly, of the overall marketing budget for companies, only 36% was allocated for content marketing. For those businesses with an allocated budget, 41% will not be increasing it. If the reason for failed content is lack of planning and a lack of budget, then so far the solution seems pretty obvious.
Almost half of UK marketers find challenges in developing cohesion between effective content and its measurement. 15% within that group have not yet made content marketing a process. Other disappointing statistics lie within the company’s structure – only 12% of organisations have a centralised content marketing group that works across the organisation dealing with multiple strands or departments within. This is a very low percentage, yet perhaps explains why many companies are struggling with content marketing strategies. As a result, there could be a multitude of problems within the organisation: lack of consistency; miscommunication; confused brand identity; lack of inclusivity; and limited ideas.
Learning and developing
38% of UK marketers have no clarity on what successful content marketing looks like, and a further 16% are unsure. Simultaneously, only 49% include a measurement plan to provide insight and progress towards business goals. Perhaps as a solution to this lack of clarity, businesses need to invest more time into research and training. When asked if they had sufficient time allocated to produce content marketing results, 46% disagreed or were unsure, again highlighting that the problems are internal.
The majority of businesses measure content through techniques such as keyword research and social listening, but the techniques that (arguably) offer more specific data in their results are not as frequently used. Only 32% of marketers use quantitative primary research, 28% use A/B testing and database analysis, and only 14% carry out usability testing. Whilst these are relative to context, there could still be a lot of missed opportunities for the high percentage of businesses who don’t use them.
On the surface, there are many promising statistics; many businesses have plans, recognise the need for understanding audience purposes, deliver quality not quantity etc. However, only 55% deliver content consistently. Is effective content planning like a new year’s resolution that can’t be sustained? A business could start the year driven and motivated with the best intentions, but if content isn’t consistent, then how can it be effective?
40% of marketers ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ differentiate their content from their competitors…seems a shockingly high amount when being original is regarded so highly.
On average, marketers use around three paid methods for distributing with social promotion being the most popular. Other methods include search engine marketing and online banner ads. Interestingly, despite overall drops in print sales, 50% of marketers still spend money on print or other offline promotion. Does this reveal more evidence that many of us are still very traditional and stuck between something tangible and something abstract? Will the survival of print or other offline promotion cause problems for the online world? It is likely to be an ongoing debate, particularly when 21% do not use paid methods of distribution at all.
While 36% of marketers do not measure content marketing ROI, around 60% of organisations agree that content marketing has increased the number of leads and audience engagement with their business. 54% have gained increased sales and 31% agreed that their costs for customer acquisition had decreased. As our content skills develop and businesses (hopefully) make more plans and increase budgets, content marketing strategies should grow in status, and become a clear measurement of a company’s success.
It’s really not all doom and gloom – it is worth noting that a large percentage of UK marketers – 72% – agree that creativity and craft in content creation and production is valued. Most promising, is that 79% said they expect their organisation to produce more original content in 2017. Let’s hope that’s the case.

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