13 Biggest Content Marketing Challenges in 2021

Brands face multiple obstacles when organizing the content function. They must grapple with content proliferation; inconsistent and uncoordinated content creation; the lack of strategic direction in the content insights process; and the difficulty for consumers, customers and prospects to find content that is relevant and timely.

Content marketing is a journey, and it’s not easy. In fact, it’s freaking hard. Too many of the marketing professionals we know are miserable. They try to fight every day to do work they can be proud of. Marketing that works!

So we asked our clients to tell us what are the biggest content marketing challenges we help them overcome. And how we help them solve for those challenges.

The insights below represent what we hear from our clients, the content marketing community, and our unique perspective. our goal is that you too can see a way past these challenges. Whether you work with us or not.

The major themes that emerge include tying content marketing efforts to business value, limited resources and internal tensions that hinder the content production process. Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest challenges that are keeping marketers up at night.

1. Determining Content Marketing ROI

Many marketers are struggling to show the ROI of their content marketing efforts. Marketers from the agency side, for example, shared that some of their clients are wanting to know how many conversions can be attributed to a specific piece of content or channel. Often times these are brands whose digital conversion paths cannot be tracked or analyzed.

To combat this, marketers use a purchase intent model that assigns different weights to customer interactions with a piece of content, but they admit that this model isn’t perfect.

For other marketers, their biggest challenge is tying content to conversions and defining relevant, appropriate metrics to measure and evaluate the impact their content marketing programs make on the business’ bottom line.

Content ROI is subjective and driven by the business mission or objectives of the content marketing program. An integrated approach to measurement yields a value story as opposed to simply tracking activity metrics

Defining your value story requires a methodical approach.

  1. Clearly identify KPIs aligned with business mission.
  2. Identify the metrics that will work as a unit to tell a value story.
  3. Identify the sources of those metrics and pull into a dashboard using connectors.
  4. Create an algorithm that weights each metric in relation to their importance to the “story.”
  5. Analyze performing and non-performing metrics for each KPI on a periodic basis and use to calibrate approach.

Check out this video from a recent marketing keynote speech where I explain this dilemma:

2. Video Content Marketing Virality

As my friend Todd Wheatland once said, the only answer to the question on how to make a viral video is STFU! He’s Australian so please forgive his potty mouth. But you gotta admit it’s somewhat true. You can’t just “create” a viral video. But anyone can create quality videos that reach, engage and convert.

But how do we guarantee that these great videos are seen by our target audience? How do we guarantee that the message of the video was viewed? The cost of guaranteeing that messages are seen is becoming increasingly more expensive, and the industry needs to be prepared for the increased cost.

Other marketers are facing time and resource constraints to produce quality videos. Some marketers also struggle with building out a sustainable video content strategy that can product videos which can live and scale across multiple markets.

3. Figuring Out How to Feed the Content Beast

Many brands spend too much of their time worried about creating the perfect piece of content. Or they worry about creating only the kind of content their boss or sales, or product people want (see point #1). The real goal is to create content consistently mapped to the buyer journey.

Buyers are searching online every day. And their search patterns reflect the need for basic education. Exactly the kind of content you are too afraid of publishing because you think your target audience already knows the basics. Or because you don’t realize how many people your target audience has to convince to buy your stuff.

Your content needs to be published frequently, based on your buyer’s journey, and mapped to keywords that relate to your business. That’s why our clients outsource content creation to us: because we provide foundational content that meets buyer needs, and delivers business results.

There are always obstacles to consistent publishing in content marketing. This can be due to a lack of resources, ideas, organization, and more.

The number one goal of content marketing for organizations is to generate more quality leads. They also said this was their biggest challenge.

It’s easy to create a lot of content. It’s very hard to do this at scale and to maintain high quality. Even if you have a good number of resources, keep in mind that without high throughput, you’re always lagging.

Research on blog frequency tells us 11 per month is the “magic” number—can you produce that amount of content on your own? That’s not the only content you’ll be creating—video, social posts, infographics, eBooks, etc. Do you have a “machine” to accomplish this? And how confident are you in its quality?

These are two big questions that content leaders need to ponder. Even the biggest organizations would have trouble with consistency and frequency. But we have a framework that allows us to deliver.

When you engage with us, we’ve already done the topic and keyword research. The content strategy informs voice and tone and considers audience profiles. Then we execute on it by using our own subject matter expert (SME) writers, SEO optimization best practices, and buyer’s journey funnel goals.

Sure, you could go on platforms and hire a freelancer here or there, but fair warning, you’ll likely be disappointed. In most scenarios, the quality won’t be up to your standards, nor will it be relatable to your audience.

For example, we write for a lot of software as a service (SaaS) companies. To write about SaaS subjects requires experience in the industry, a healthy technical aptitude, and the ability to understand how and why customers use the platform. Sorry, you’re not going to find this for $10/hour.

Here’s an approach for making your content resonate deeply at the point of discovery:

  1. Start with an insights process that provides deep understanding, fresh perspective and a honed vision of what will resonate and fulfill a specific need. In our experience, there is no dearth of available background information to inform story ideation and road map development, but typically information is scattered throughout the organization with no systematic way to capture, analyze and apply it
  2. Model the insights process for a specific need and use the results to create a COE methodology for content insights. This involves overlaying inputs from multiple points such as SEO reports, listening scans, CMS & CRM data, conference reports, sales insights, customer insights and research reports, etc. Overlay inputs and create a topic “Venn diagram” to determine topics best suited for brand differentiation and marketplace resonance.
  3. Use results to create a content roadmap. Audit existing content to identify holes and get new content needs into the content production cycle.

4. Proving Credibility And Authority

For many marketers, they struggle with finding and establishing a credible and authoritative voice for their brands, and cutting through the noise to capture their target audience’s attention. The financial space, for example, is filled with “experts” offering advice and insights to consumers, which makes it extremely difficult for brands to stand out with their content.

Marketers are thus looking to develop an effective content strategy that will allow them to maintain the brand’s identity and boost marketing ROI, while improving their brand’s authority and thought leadership in the space.

This is where effective thought leadership comes in. You use your people and their passions and expertise to share what they know with your target audience. The result? Credibility and trust.

5. Budgeting

Budget remains one of the top challenges marketers face when it comes to justifying the cost and investment in their content marketing programs.

Many senior leaders want immediate results. Content marketing takes time to show ROI. Finding the budget for content marketing doesn’t need to be as challenging as it sounds: look at the ROI of your marketing campaigns. Chances are most of them don’t have any.

What are you spending on paid search because you don’t rank organically? Shift that budget in to content marketing.

Yes, investment in content is rising with more organizations realizing the value of it. According to HubSpot, 70 percent of marketers are doing so.

While they understand the importance of content marketing and want to invest, companies often face challenges here. They may have budget limitations that prohibit them from adding to their team.

These limitations may have become more of an issue during the pandemic. Or, they may have the majority of the budget allocated to paid channels to boost content but not focused on actually producing it.

Even when faced with COVID-19, B2B organizations still shifted dollars to content marketing from their advertising spend.

Looking ahead, companies said they would invest the most in content creation. Figuring out how to allocate this well isn’t an easy endeavor, especially if you’re trying to put resources into lots of buckets—writers, SEO strategists, etc.

The Solution: Spend Less, Get More

We’ve got it down to a number: $8,000 a month is all the budget you need to achieve your content marketing objectives. What do you get for that amount of money? A lot, including:

  • Content marketing strategy
  • One year of content ideas
  • SEO: An audit, keyword strategy, and external link building
  • Conversion funnel development
  • Paid promotion

For that investment, we see a 7x return for every dollar spent, which equates to $56K in revenue each month. These results won’t occur overnight or even after 30 or 60 days. Content marketing is a long game, and you must keep doing it.

Brands that invest in us to guide their content marketing will see returns. The returns are tangible metrics such as increased traffic, conversions, and revenue. Content becomes an important tool to attract, engage, nurture, and retain customers. Its value far exceeds filtering these dollars to paid ads only. Those ads only return when they are running. Content returns for as long as it’s live.

6. Approval Processes

Marketers on the agency side shared the same sentiment when it comes to their client approval process being too long. Some stakeholders are wanting to provide input at every step of the content creation process, which creates bottlenecks and delays in production timeline.

At the same time, different teams and organizations within a company all produce content to support various programs and channels they own, and this creates content quality and consistency issues. Marketers are looking to manage and govern their content creation process more efficiently to ensure all content produced is compelling, consistent and effective for their target audience.

For both agency and non-agency marketers, staying timely and relevant with the long, clunky approval processes they need to go through with content creation is one of the biggest challenges that’s keeping them up at night.

7. Branding

Marketers face various branding challenges when it comes to content marketing. Some struggle with maintaining their brand voice as brands expand their in-house teams and outsource content creation to external agencies and partners. Others struggle with maintaining their individual brand identities while working under a bigger umbrella brand.

The real goal with content marketing and branding is to think of content marketing as the platform to tell your brand story.

8. Maintaining Volume, Quality, Speed

One of the biggest challenges many marketers share is figuring out how to deliver engaging, compelling content with speed, without compromising on quality and volume. Trying to stay nimble and agile within a large corporate structure also proves to be a big pain point for many marketers.

Many brands still fall into the trap of thinking they need to produce content because they have a publishing cycle that dictates “x” pieces of content per week or month. They use traditional time-stamped publishing models to schedule content. However, if the nature and quality of your content is optimized, you may be able to publish less frequently with better effect.

One of the key outcomes of the insights process is data that informs both content cadence and publication timing. It requires the brand to view the output from the insights process through a different lens.

  1. Start by looking at events that can impact the timing of content publication. Cyclical events, seasonal dynamics or conferences are good examples.
  2. Create a timeline that maps pertinent “timing” events. Include conference topics aligned with hot topics, upcoming publications of books or white papers, release of blockbuster entertainment events, issuance of government regulations or dates of special hearings, seasonal or cyclical events, marketing campaigns, etc
  3. Look for clusters of events around each hot topic to identify content sprints for each topic. Adjust the content road map to accommodate for these points of topic interest.

9. Content Management

An Accenture study of over 1,000 marketing executives from 17 countries and 14 industries found that 73% of respondents are spending more than $50 million on content every year.

While 100% of marketing leaders surveyed all agreed that content is vital to the success of their businesses, content overload has become a top challenge for many organizations.

  • 92% said the volume of the content their organizations are producing is higher than it was two years ago, and 83% expect the volume to continue to increase in the next two years.
  • 50% said they currently have more content than they can effectively manage. Individual teams often create messaging and coordinate distribution of content on their own, which leads to organizational silos and program inefficiencies internally.
  • Less than 50% respondents felt they are fully prepared to manage the content they have today. The top three reasons marketing leaders attribute to their unpreparedness are a lack of skilled talent, technologies and clarity in content management and production processes.

10. Strategic Alignment

For many brands, there is a lack of alignment in strategy and messaging across different platforms, which can hurt the customer experience and content marketing success. Cross-team collaboration becomes a big challenge for marketers when individuals and teams are working in silos and towards different visions and goals.

78% of leaders surveyed by Accenture felt they need better alignment between Marketing and IT teams to improve content marketing success. Marketing is more about digital now and requires technology more than ever before. New technologies are also available for marketers to experiment and innovate their practices in new ways. Another reason why marketers need better marketing and IT alignment is because technology today plays a central role in helping marketers deliver a seamless, compelling customer experience to reach, convert and retain customers.

Organizations create content in a dispersed structure, often resulting in multiple pieces of content being created by multiple areas of the company with little awareness that other content objects existed or were in production. In addition, often no master editorial calendar drives the content creation or amplification process. The lack of a chief content officer or well defined governance process results in no central authority to lead and direct the content creation process.

Only 19% of marketing leaders in the Accenture survey felt they have clear objectives established when creating new content assets. Nearly half of respondents say they do not feel their organizations have an effective content strategy that meets their current and future needs. 53% said they spend more time on the operational details of managing content than on strategically aligning their daily marketing efforts to a bigger picture. This goes to show that many brands have yet developed effective content marketing strategies or invested in the right resources to fully realize content marketing’s potential.

A Semrush study revealed that while 77 percent of organizations have a content strategy, only 9 percent say it’s excellent. The average rating in the survey was 3.5 out of 5. Just having a strategy isn’t good enough. You have to have an effective content marketing strategy. You must consistently execute on it and adjust it when necessary.

Why is that so hard? Many reasons come to mind—stakeholder interference (and not in a good way), there’s no time to be strategic because you’re always in the logistics, and you don’t have expertise in the area.

The data and the reality of what we see every day in the field are true. It comes down to budget, consistency/frequency, and strategy. We’ve developed a proven recipe that resolves these challenges for our clients.

That’s why the content marketing strategies that we create for clients are full of details. It’s not a document full of fluff; it’s one of action. It defines:

  • What content marketing means for your brand
  • The tactics you’ll employ to develop and promote content
  • Content production frequency and workflows
  • Your audience: demographics, motivations, challenges, objections, and more
  • Content clusters, which are the themes all the topics will roll up to
  • Distribution methods
  • What to measure and why

Without an actionable and well-defined strategy, you simply can’t achieve content marketing ROI. The strategy is the guiding light. Without one, you’re in the dark; with an ineffectual one, your light is very dim. The strategy tells you and delivers the path to success.

Further, here are five things that brands should do before beginning to create their content organization, in order to organize their content creation and distribution process:

  1. Map the current nodes of the content eco-system across the entire enterprise. This requires the authority to create a cross-functional view of how content gets produced.
  2. Analyze the map to determine if there is a logical flow and uncover interdependencies between groups that can impact efficiencies and approvals.
  3. Study the delta between current and future state and create a step strategy for breaking down siloes and working cross functionally.
  4. Create a content governance structure that aligns with future state.
  5. Adopt a center of Excellence approach that is both dynamic and inclusive.

11. Continuous Learning

The ever-changing marketing landscape means marketers need to dedicate themselves to lifelong learning and innovation to reinvent themselves, or risk extinction. Training their teams on the latest marketing practices is another top challenge for many marketers as they are also trying to navigate the learning curve themselves.

12. Influencer Marketing

Identifying influencers to help amplify content is another challenge many marketers face with their content marketing efforts. Creating great content is not enough anymore, you need an effective promotion strategy to help customers find and see your content.

13. The Biggest Challenge in Content Marketing: Developing a Customer-Centric Mindset

This may sound surprising to some, but convincing brands to put customers first is still a challenge many marketers face when creating content. They need to help brands change their mindset about the value of content and understand that content marketing isn’t the same as advertising. Content marketing is about being helpful and providing real value to customers, by giving them what they want and need at each stage of the customer journey.

If you go to most company websites or read their marketing content, you’ll notice that they do an excellent job of telling you all about the company and telling you all about their products. But they don’t answer the biggest questions their customers might have. In other words, they make the biggest marketing mistake and make it all about themselves and not about the customer.

Almost a decade ago, C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman) predicted that companies will become better at this when he begged to see “more brands interacting in real time with their customers.”

Barbra Gago (@BarbraGago) also suggests marketers stop trying to “re-invent the wheel with every piece of content” and should instead focus on helping prospective buyers find “the right information–the content that is going to help them move through their purchase process.”

In an article on CMI, Alison Bolen (@alisonbolen) explained that the greatest challenge in content marketing is “understanding your customers well enough to develop content that is useful and relevant for them.”

And Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion) gets to this same point when he asks content marketers to “write and communicate in a way that is completely and utterly on the level of their audience, not the level of the industry professional.”

So how do we help address this challenge?

Ardath Albee (@ardath421) suggests we need to “Take a Customer Field Trip” and try to look at our marketing and our content as a customer might see it.

I also answered one of the biggest marketing challenges for small businesses, How To Create Killer Content: Speak To A Customer where I tell very simply how you can use your customer stories to tell your story. But most importantly, to tell it using their words and by showing how you are solving real customer problems.

25 Signs Your Business Is Not Ready for Content Marketing

One question I get asked a lot is, “How is content marketing right for our business?” Well, the right question business owners should be asking is, “How do we know our business is ready for content marketing?”

I try to answer that question regularly on this blog. We talk about culture and brand publishing and I try to point to examples of great content whenever I can.

But sometimes, it’s better to define the signs that show you are not ready to change your direction.

And that’s what I’m doing here, with these 25 signs your business is not ready for content marketing. I’m sure there are plenty more. But these are the ones that just flew right off the top of my head.

  1. You don’t have a corporate blog.
  2. You have a corporate blog but only publish company news on it.
  3. Social listening and share of voice does not drive your marketing strategy.
  4. Your social channels are only used to promote and push your webinars, white papers and events.
  5. Your content talks more about your products.
  6. You ask “How can we create a viral video?”
  7. You haven’t mapped your existing or future content to buyer stages.
  8. You don’t have any early-stage or thought leadership content.
  9. You haven’t defined an appropriate next step or “call to action” for your content.
  10. You think content marketing is expensive.
  11. You think hiring a bunch of journalists can help you.
  12. You constantly try to re-create your own “Oreo Dunk in the dark” or “Ellen Oscar Selfie” moment.
  13. You don’t track how much of your content gets used and which does best.
  14. You don’t monitor the content your competitors are creating.
  15. You don’t know what keywords your customers are using.
  16. You think content marketing is a campaign.
  17. You don’t have resources to publish on a regular basis.
  18. You don’t have dedicated testing resources for your content development and landing pages.
  19. You haven’t defined any kind of editorial workflow.
  20. Your business doesn’t train your employees on effective storytelling.
  21. You’re resistant to “giving away” content for free (without registration).
  22. You don’t think about the”shareability” of your content. Your website gets less than 5% of traffic from social networks.
  23. You don’t create visual content (videos, slide decks, infographics).
  24. You create content without thinking about how to distribute and amplify it.
  25. You do content marketing for its ROI.

Over to You

Is your organization or agency currently facing any of these content marketing challenges? If so, how are you solving them? I’d love to hear your ideas, please share them below!

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers via content? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can help.

Check out the photo of the full challenge board below:

 

We’re content marketing challenge solvers. Let’s talk about how we can get you out of reactive mode and into a proactive approach to content. If you’re ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *