Do content marketing agencies follow their own advice when promoting their own companies? Author Nicholas Nassim Taleb says that you should never give advice. Instead, you should tell other people what you would do if you were in their situation. Ideally, you would tell them something you have done yourself.
That’s why we were excited when we saw a report that came out last month from Content Marketing Institute. Their Agency Content Marketing 2019 report surveyed 320 agency marketers that use content marketing to promote their agencies. This is the first report they’ve done on how content marketing agencies are using content marketing to promote themselves. After all, if you’re going to give advice shouldn’t you be following it yourself?
The ability to prove that you do the same thing you advise your clients to do and can prove that it’s working for you is a huge selling point. So let’s dive into this piece of research and see what agencies are doing right and where they might be able to improve with the new technologies that are coming out.
Issues in the Industry
What are content marketers worried about? 71% are worried about changes to search algorithms and 62% are worried about changes to social media algorithms. These were the top two issues, and this makes sense. The success of content marketing hinges on the audience’s ability to find content. When algorithms change it throws metrics off and raises uncertainty about how effective your strategy is.
These feed into the third highest issue, whether or not content marketing is acting as a revenue center. Again, this is another reason why it is so important to figure out how you want to measure and track ROI as part of your content strategy.
Measuring ROI in content marketing has traditionally been a hard problem, but the report suggests it’s getting solved, if a bit slowly. 54% of marketers said that they do measure content marketing ROI. 12% were unsure and 34% said they didn’t.
Those companies that aren’t measuring content marketing ROI will have to step up and create some metrics for doing that if they want to remain competitive and retain their budget. If you need help with that, you may want to read our previous pieces on measuring ROI.
While these issues are important, they are also out of control of content marketers. We are at the mercy of those algorithms for content discovery. Therefore, we believe that marketers should have plans built into their strategies on how to mark when an algorithm change happens, how they will adjust their metrics in response, and how they will explain to upper management how a change affected their KPIs and ROI.
Content marketing is a slow road to success, but a sure one. It does require a lot of commitment, and 74% of the marketers surveyed do say that their organizations are very or extremely committed to content marketing.
Despite this commitment, they haven’t gone as far in as they can. Only 18% of them say their content marketing maturity level is “sophisticated”, which means that they are scaling across their organizations and they’re providing accurate measurements about their performance to the rest of the business. We’ve written in the past about the difficulties of both of these topics. 60% of the surveyed marketers at least have a business case and some semblance of measurement and growth.
This means that content marketers still have some work to do to realize the full power of this marketing technique and get their organizations to go all-in on this form of marketing. Struggles with measurement and scaling still exist.
What successful results have marketers achieved with content marketing according to agencies? Three things stand out from the report:
- Building brand awareness
- Building credibility and trust
- Audience education
Over half of the respondents also successfully use content marketing to generate leads and build loyalty with existing customers. Much further down the list are things like supporting product launches and driving attendance to in-person events. However, it’s impossible to tell from the report if marketers are trying these things and failing to see success, or are letting other forms of marketing handle these particular tasks.
As we’ve talked about in the past, this is why having a content strategy is so important. You have to know what your goals are and how content marketing will contribute to those. It is not the be-all, end-all to marketing.
Reasons for a Documented Strategy
We’ve written several times about why having a documented content strategy is important. That message is getting out there. 42% of the surveyed marketers say they have a documented strategy. 40% more say they have a strategy, but it is undocumented.
Why is it important to have a documented strategy? The respondents said the benefits included:
- Greater team alignment around the mission
- Makes it easier to determine which types of content to develop
- Audience clarity
- Better resource allocation
- Easier metrics selection
There’s no doubt about it. If you’re struggling with any of these and you don’t have a documented strategy then that needs to be a focus in 2019.
The use of technology in content marketing continues to expand. Over 40% surveyed said they are finding success with technology and have begun or have finished integrating their toolchains across the organizations. Another 37% said they’re increasing their consistency in using technology, but haven’t started the process of integration. This makes it clear that companies who aren’t climbing the technology learning curve are going to get left behind fast.
What kinds of technology are used? The older technologies have much greater use. Analytics comes in high at over 80%, both for social media and web analytics. Content creation, management, and workflow systems are also quite popular. Yet the very latest in tech is still in early adoption, like what we have developed at Concured. Only 1% of the reported companies are using AI. 12% are using chatbots, and 15% use an integrated content marketing platform.
Those who have an AI advantage stand to make big gains in the near future, especially since the main reasons these tools are used are to understand content performance, audience behavior, and audience preference. We expected to see content marketing platforms like Concured to grow in popularity as features expand and enterprises come to value having all of their tools gathered under one platform.
Since this is the first report of its kind, it serves as a baseline for future measurements. We look forward to next year’s report so we can compare it and see how the issues, technology use, and uses of content marketing change over time. Take a look at the full report and let us know which parts strike you the most.