5 reasons to think about your 2016 content marketing strategy now

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 I'm kidding right? I mean, we've just consumed the last of the Halloween pumpkin (sorry Jack, but you were too yummy to waste), the stores are only now starting to tout their wares for the wonderful season that is Christmas, and I'm already talking about how to improve your content marketing strategy in 2016? Well yes, and I'll explain why.

 

1. We still underestimate the power of our content marketing strategy to deliver results

 87% of Australian marketers surveyed in the 2015 CMI Content Marketing Benchmarks and Trends survey have brand awareness and engagement as their top goals - but not leads or sales.

With lead generation not a key driver and the majority reliant on website traffic as the main metric to measure success, there is limited ability to measure content marketing contribution to sales, which explains why measuring ROI remains a concern.

We're also focusing on delivering the content that's easiest to produce (social media posts, newsletters and website articles), rather than that which is harder work but most effective (events, blogs, newsletters, blogs and white papers) - CMI, 2015.

No wonder only 5% of Australian marketers report their content marketing strategy as very effective.

 

2. We need to dive deeper into our customer personas.

67% of marketers are planning on developing a better understanding of their audience next year (CMI, 2015). This makes sense - we make so many assumptions when it comes to our personas, often forgetting the most important one; our customers aren't us. We can't always know how they think and feel.

This means we need to dive deeper than just the superficial assumptions we make about our customers and their lives, and start basing our content offering on real data and insights.

We're looking for more than just a stereotype or a brief profile here; we want to deeply understand their problems, the context in which they are trying to solve this, their motivations. This information needs to come from research; interview staff, conduct customer surveys, user testing, heat mapping, analyse customer service queries, complaints and responses to targeted offers.

They probably aren't a single person either. The average sales cycle has increased over the past 5 years due to additional decision makers being involved in the buying process, which means you may need to include additional personas in your content strategy.

 

3. Good content, in the volume you need, takes time and resource to produce.

One 600 word blog post a month is sadly no longer going to cut it; best-practice recommendations are now suggesting the need for up to three 1,200+ word articles a week, supporting 6 or more longer form content pieces a year. We've said it before, but content marketing is a hungry beast.

And here's a stat that surprised even me: 

The average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results for any keyword on Google has at least 2,000 words. The higher up you go on the search listings page, the more content each web page has.

Add to that the need to amplify that content across paid and earned media channels and you've got a lot to knit together to form a cohesive and compelling content strategy that works effectively. This isn't the sort of thing you can do in a weekly team meeting. 

No wonder internationally the use of marketing agency and freelance talent to help feed the beast is on the rise, up 25% since 2014.  With B2B marketers saying the greatest barriers to lead generation successare the lack of resources in staffing, budgeting, or time, using a marketing agency for content generation can be a great solution provided there is a clear content marketing strategy in place to ensure content continues to reflect your company’s voice and brand.

 

4. We focus on content that drives leads rather than the deeper content that nurtures and converts.

 Hubspot's State of Inbound Marketing 2015 report confirms increasing leads remains a top priority for businesses of all sizes and business types. Yet while converting those leads was of equal importance, only 37% of B2B marketers are using marketing automation to generate leads, and a massive 65% of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing.

Which means that for 2016 we need to be focusing not only on inbound marketing, but inbound sales. The hard cold truth is that a lead is of no use if it can't be closed. Invest in a marketing automation tool that combines email with a CRM (we're a Hubspot partner, but choose your own poison) and use it to track and score leads.  

Send emails triggered and informed by demographic and behavioral information to ensure you send regular and relevant content as your lead moves through their decision process. This serves both to improve ROI and ensures your sales team are only working with potential customers who are getting ready to buy.

 

5. Lead generation has a lag.

Think about your sales cycle, from first enquiry to the day you send your first invoice. Is it a week, a month, or more? However long it is,  your customer's buying journey is longer; estimates are that B2B buyers are more than two thirds of the way through their buying cycle from the time they contact you, which means it could be months if not years from the time they first become aware of a problem and start their search for a solution til they're ready to buy.

Developing and implementing a content marketing strategy is a long game, and while you can expect to generate a higher ROI than with traditional outbound campaigns it requires longer lead times, greater consistency and a little more patience.

But I take comfort in this Chinese proverb I came across about the power of perseverance and hard work:  “No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make their family rich.”

So if you want to see results in 2016, I guess I'll see you bright and early in the morning.