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It’s gone mainstream but how effective is content marketing?

October 11, 2019

The results from Hubspot’s third annual State of Content Marketing Survey reveal that half of marketing budgets are now spent on content. The overall message is that content marketing is now mainstream – but how effective is content marketing?

Let’s take a look at the findings garnered from thousands of marketing decision makers. Almost half of marketing budgets are now spent on content but results are not yet optimal.

In 2018 23% of budgets were allocated to content, in 2019 it’s 41%. Yet when asked “How effective has content marketing been for your brand?” 47% claimed “very effective” and 19% found it “extremely effective”.

More and more content, more and more competition?

Investing in content is a great idea. The challenge is that the more content is produced, the harder it is to reach your target prospects. It’s not impossible but does mean you have to really, really focused, and your content must be truly valuable, insightful and/or helpful.

Important questions to ask are: how well does the content meet your ideal customers’ needs? How clearly does the content communicate what it’s offering?

More marketers know “best practice” now

A third of marketers now claim to be clear on the ‘best way’ to run a content marketing campaign (up 10% year-on-year). However, let’s bear in mind that the usefulness of “best practice” as an idea is limited.

Understanding and adapting to the specifics of your situation is far more important that following rules. It’s crucial to be responsive rather than sticking to what might have worked before, possibly for somebody else.

Website traffic is seen as the main marker of success

Only 51% measured increased sales as a marker of success. Subscriber growth and improved SEO were 62% and 65% respectively, but the clear winner was website traffic at a whopping 89%. Perhaps this indicates that decision makers now recognise content marketing as a longer game, not a quick fix.

When people ask you ‘how effective is content marketing?’ you need to be able to point to some more fundamental metrics and business outcomes. For B2B companies, it really has to be about delivering pipeline, increasing revenue per customer and creating qualified leads.

Areas of focus: writing tops the bill

For 2019, written content leads by a fair margin at 77%, next in line is SEO at 45%, email marketing at 42% and video at 40%.

Despite the raft of video content online and the many voices suggesting “it’s the future”, written content still very much has its place. It remains of high value for a number of reasons:

  • it contributes most directly to SEO
  • it should be the starting point for bitesize video, audio, slideware etc
  • it can be the basis of PR/outreach activity
  • it’s more likely that your target will ‘cut and paste’ your work into theirs to help them develop their business case for using your products/services
  • it’s quicker and cheaper to deploy, and
  • it’s generally easier to access in a workplace (no video sounds disrupting others)

In my view, written content can also form the core asset from which video, audio, slide decks, blogs and email can be extracted.

It’s good to see that content is now widely accepted as a key form of marketing but it’s clearly not enough to churn it out without serious thought. What’s more, with so much content vying for attention, businesses need to ensure what they’re putting out into the world is valuable and well-targeted in order to stand out from the crowd.

The full report can be accessed via Hubspot.com. If you to start making content work for your business, let’s talk.