Content marketing for business has been around a while now, so there’s a whole heap of data and outcomes that we can reference to evaluate its effectiveness. In fact, Mark Schaefer, a globally-recognised podcaster and business consultant did just that at the end of last year. In his post, he discussed whether or not content marketing was actually a sustainable approach. He analysed a whole two years worth of data to make his assessment.
What he found is interesting, but not at all surprising to us. Because the barrier to content creation is so low, there’s been an exponential rise in content production which makes it harder and harder to stand out. Hence, in the battle for click-throughs, content marketing may not be something you can solely rely on.
We’re in this business of content marketing, among other forms (brand development and activation, digital marketing, account-based marketing, direct marketing and sales enablement), so we just couldn’t help but weigh in. In an effort to stay on-point and not begin a long and unwieldy rant, we’ve commented on Schaefer’s key points one-by-one. Here’s what we really think of the longevity and value of content marketing.
Point 1. The internet is saturated with content, so content is diluted
In his post, Schaefer uses the topic of ‘content marketing’ as an example, saying that over 1,000 articles on the subject are being published every week (so this article will most likely get lost in the noise).
What we think: Yes, the internet is saturated with content - but that doesn’t change the fact that people have problems which they research about online. As long as prospects continue to turn to search engines and social media to educate themselves on their problems and all potential solutions to those problems, content marketing will be a thing.
And the good news is, they are. In fact, Hubspot reports that:
- 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search.
- 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.
People have come to rely on search engines to answer all of life’s questions. So you need to keep helping them find the answers. (Want to really freak yourself out? Open this page to see the number of searches being made in real-time.)
Point 2. As more people post content about trending topics, social shares decline
Data shows us that as the volume of content published increases, there is a fall in average engagement in terms of social sharing. For example, the topic of ‘influencer marketing’ has seen significant growth in terms of the number of articles being produced about it - however, this has correlated with falling average shares of these articles on Twitter.
What we think: So what if social shares are declining? It just means that we can’t rely on people to share our content anymore - we need to promote it via paid and unpaid methods to make sure it gets in front of the right people.
In any case, shares, used on their own as a reporting metric, are a vanity metric. Yes, it is important to track social engagement to assess whether the people you speak to actually care about what you’re putting out there. But at the end of the day, what matters most to your business, and to the C-Suite, is whether your content drives people to your website and converts them into leads and ultimately, into customers.
Point 3. Marketers need to find niche markets for content marketing to work
Schaefer makes the point that content marketing works very well for niche markets, because there hasn’t been a lot written about those topics yet.
What we think: This is true - and for b2b marketers in complex industries (e.g. automation, business intelligence, new software categories), this is a significant advantage, because you can be the first in and get a leg up on your competitors.
For industries like ours (where anyone and everyone is producing content about the same topic), content marketing is more something we do to showcase our expertise, and must be coupled with other forms of marketing such as ABM. However, content marketing is still an essential component, and works hard to nurture those who are already in our database (rather than being the principle lever for lead generation).
Having said that, the saturation of content forces us to work harder at making our content unique, readable, substantial and enjoyable. The lesson? Don’t produce content for content’s sake - think about what content you enjoy consuming and make sure your content stacks up before you put it out there.
So, is content marketing sustainable?
We don’t think that content marketing is going anywhere. Why? Because content marketing - at its core - is creating information that people are looking for, when they need it.
We definitely don’t think it should be the ONLY form of marketing you do. Depending on your industry and offering, content marketing can see fantastic results when supplemented with ABM, direct, social and digital advertising, remarketing, events and PR.
In other words, content marketing is here to stay, but isn't the be-all and end-all of marketing, and we see best results when we combine it with other forms.
Whatever your mix, the Bc team agrees that the most essential element is getting the strategy right. Figuring out what information your prospects want at each stage in their buying journey and delivering to them time and time again.
Something we also agree on? This will change over time - so strategic content marketing includes monitoring, letting the data feed the strategy and continually tweaking over time. How well you adapt to changing market needs is key to your long-term success in the content game. The good news is that we now have all the data we need to make those game-changing decisions in real time.
What will you do next?
If you’ve been doing content marketing for a while and you’re lacking inspiration, think about how you can make your content stand out from the crowd. Why not share industry news and talk about what it means for your prospects, or experiment with more interactive content formats?
Think about alternative distribution methods, including syndicated content, social media advertising, industry publications or PR. Consider making your content more niche - and segmenting your database a little further. It is all about working smarter - not harder!
Brand chemistry is a strategic inbound marketing agency that goes the extra mile to deliver results for our b2b clients. Our inbound marketing specialists are HubSpot certified and use the latest techniques to provide our clients with a steady stream of relevant new leads.