Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Dramatic Growth of Global Content Marketing

Numerous research studies have documented the growing use and popularity of content marketing. For example, we know from the latest survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs that an overwhelming majority of both B2B and B2C companies are now using content marketing in some form, and that about 70% of the companies that practice content marketing are creating more content today than they were a year ago.

Last month, PQ Media provided important insights on the economic impact of content marketing when the firm published its Global Content Marketing Forecast 2015-19. PQ Media estimates that global content marketing revenues - revenues generated by firms that provide content marketing services - increased by 14.4% during the first half of 2015, after growing by 13.3% during 2014. The firm projects that content marketing revenues will more than double over the next five years.

When internal spending is included, PQ Media estimates that total spending on content marketing in 2014 was about $145 billion and is expected to reach $313 billion by the end of 2019.

For its report, PQ Media identified eleven content marketing channels:

  • Branded digital and DVD videos
  • Branded games and content tools
  • Branded guest postings, articles, and case studies
  • Branded mobile content and apps
  • Branded print and digital magazines
  • Branded print and e-mail newsletters
  • Branded printed books and e-books
  • Branded research reports, white papers, and public documents
  • Branded social media sites and visual content
  • Branded webinars and online presentations
  • Sponsored events and event publications
By revenue, the largest content marketing channel is print and digital magazines, although its market share is falling. PQ Media says that print and digital magazines represent about 33% of the market today, down from about 50% in 2007. The firm estimates that in five years, print and digital magazines will constitute only about 15% of the market, but it will still be the largest single content marketing channel.

According to PQ Media, the fastest growing channel in 2014 by revenue was branded mobile content and apps, which increased by 61.5% during the year.

As you might expect, the United States is by far the world's largest market for content marketing, and PQ Media estimates that during the 2015-19 period, the US market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of almost 14%. The fasting growing market from 2013 to 2014 was South Korea, while the US ranked 11th (of the 15 countries studied).

Analysts at PQ Media call content marketing "the world's hottest marketing platform" and argue that it "shows no signs for cooling down anytime soon." It's hard to argue with that conclusion.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Importance and Challenges of Integrated Digital Communications

In an earlier post, I observed that most B2B marketers now recognize that providing outstanding customer experiences has become an essential requirement for competitive success. It's also now clear that digital communications play a vital role in customer experience delivery and that today's customers expect compelling and consistent experiences via whatever interaction channel they choose to use. Therefore, it's more important than ever for B2B companies to have an integrated approach to customer/prospect communications, particularly digital communications.

Recent research by Omobono (a digital marketing agency with offices in the UK and the US) found that an overwhelming majority of marketers recognize the importance of integrated digital communications. In the 2015 What Works Where:  The Recipe for Digital Success in B2B study, 94% of surveyed marketers said that an integrated approach to digital communications is important, and 56% rated integrated digital communications as crucial.

Omobono also found that marketers understand the benefits of integrated digital communications. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said that an integrated approach to digital communications produces better customer experiences, 61% said that it results in more effective communications, and 56% said that it produces more consistent messaging.

The Omobono survey also revealed, however, that most B2B companies do not have an effective strategy for integrating their digital communications. Only 28% of respondents said they have a formal digital communications strategy. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they have an informal strategy, and more than a third (34%) said they have no strategy for delivering integrated digital communications.

Having a formal strategy is critical for producing effective digital marketing communications. In the Omobono study, 35% of the respondents with a formal strategy believe their digital communications are very effective, while only 11% with no strategy rated their communications as very effective. Having an informal strategy is only marginally beneficial. Only 17% of the respondents with an informal strategy said their digital communications are very effective.

These results bear a striking resemblance to some of the findings in the latest content marketing survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. In the 2015 survey, 60% of B2B marketers with a documented (written) content marketing strategy said their organization is effective at content marketing, while only 7% with no strategy and 32% with a verbal strategy rate their content marketing efforts as effective. B2C marketers have a similar perspective. Sixty-five percent of B2C marketers with a documented content marketing strategy said they're effective at content marketing, while only 11% with no strategy and 28% with a verbal strategy believe they're effective.

Integrated communications and content marketing are now essential components of the marketing mix for B2B companies, and these survey results show that both require a formal, documented strategy to be effective.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Tatinauk

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Is Your Company Ready for "Micro-Moments" of Marketing?

Despite the increasingly important and ever-expanding role of technology in B2B marketing, astute marketers recognize that all truly effective marketing is grounded in a deep understanding of the needs, expectations, and behaviors of potential customers. This understanding is what enables us to develop marketing content and marketing programs that will create and sustain meaningful engagement with our potential buyers.

The customer intelligence we need to enable effective B2B marketing has several dimensions, but one essential component is an accurate picture of how our potential buyers access and consume business-related information.

We now know that most business buyers are leveraging the wealth of information that's available online to educate themselves about business issues and possible solutions. Easy access to information has already driven significant changes in B2B demand generation.

  • It's shifted control of the buying process from sellers to buyers.
  • It's elevated the importance of content-based communications and fueled the growing use of content marketing by B2B enterprises.
  • It's caused the typical B2B buying process to become less linear and "orderly" than it once was.
Recently, Google shared research which suggests that more changes are on the way for B2B marketing. The Google research revealed that mobile communications are enabling people to access and consume information differently than in the past, and Google says these new interaction patterns are game-changing for marketers.

Specifically, Google argues that the customer purchase journey is now fragmented and composed largely of many brief interactions that frequently involve a mobile communications device. People are increasingly using mobile devices in their spare moments of time to engage in brief, spur-of-the-moment interactions for specific purposes. Google refers to these brief, but highly-focused, interactions as micro-moments.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce describes micro-moments as follows:  "Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device - increasingly a smartphone - to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped." Therefore, Google says, companies must win these micro-moments in order to achieve marketing success.

Micro-moments impose new demands on marketers. The Google research found that when people interact via a micro-moment, they have high expectations for immediacy and relevance. So, marketers will need to develop and deploy content resources that will work effectively in micro-moments. At a minimum, this means that companies will need resources that can be easily and quickly consumed and resources that are accessible via all communication devices.

The Google research focused primarily on the behaviors of consumers, and it's likely that the behaviors of business buyers differ in some respects. However, as B2B buyers become more comfortable with, and dependent on, mobile devices, micro-moments will play an increasingly important role in the B2B buying process

Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Insights on Making Blog Posts More Effective

Blogs have been around since 1994, and over the past decade, they've become a core content marketing channel for many B2B companies. While there are plenty of newer channels through which B2B marketers can publish and share marketing content, a blog still provides several important benefits. For example:

  • It's an ideal vehicle for providing your potential buyers with bite-sized pieces of your marketing content.
  • It can be used to point prospects to your more "substantial" content resources (white papers, research reports, videos, etc.).
  • It's a good tool for improving your company's position in organic search.
When blogs began to become a popular marketing channel, several firms published research regarding the optimal length of blog posts, the most effective publishing frequency, the best day of the week to publish a post, and similar issues. Over the past couple of years, I've seen less of this type of research, but a few days ago, I discovered a research report by TrackMaven that provides some interesting statistics on these kinds of topics.

TrackMaven is a provider of content analytics software. For this report, TrackMaven analyzed 1.2 million posts published at 4,618 blogs and captured the number of social shares for each blog post, which amounted to a total of almost 2 billion social shares for the data set. I encourage you to read the full research report, but here are a few of the major findings:
  • 87% of the blog posts in the study were published during the workweek, with Tuesday and Wednesday being the most popular days. However, blog posts published on the weekend did better in terms of social shares. For example, only 6.3% of the posts in the study were published on Saturday, but those posts received 18% of the total social shares.
  • Most of the blog posts in the study were published during normal working hours, which TrackMaven defined as roughly 9 am to 6 pm EST. However, blog posts published between 9 pm and midnight had the most social shares.
  • Most of the blog posts analyzed had titles containing about 40 characters, but posts with longer titles (up to about 60 characters) received the most social shares.
My major concern with the TrackMaven study is that it essentially equates the effectiveness of blog posts with the number of social shares they generate. In many B2B companies, the  target audience for a blog is relatively senior executives and managers, and many of those individuals are not particularly likely to engage in social sharing. Therefore, social shares don't necessarily provide an accurate measure of the reach and impact of blog posts. Nevertheless, the TrackMaven report is a worthwhile read.

Note:  Earlier this year, TrackMaven published the results of a broader study that included social media content as well as blog posts. I discussed that study in an earlier post and made a similar point about its methodology.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Will We Soon Have a Magic "Marketing Answer Machine?"

Last week, Mark Schaefer published a blog post with the provocative title, "Why Big Data will go away soon." In this post, Mark argued that, for the next five years or so, the ability to analyze and extract insights from big data will be a critical skill for marketers. But then, Mark says, technology will make it so easy to use data in marketing that the complex aspects of data analytics will become invisible to most of us.

Here's now Mark described the not-too-distant future:

"In the foreseeable future, I can definitely see a time when we won't have to worry about specifying the correct statistical test or making sure your data is 'cleaned up.' You'll simply ask your device a question about your customers or competitors and it will know what data to pull, what analysis to run, and how to interpret the results.
. . .
In this new environment, we won't think about the Big Data that is fueling those answers just like we don't think about the sophisticated electronics at work when we are flying to a business meeting or responding to an email. It's just there. It just works. We don't know how, we don't care how. We don't give it a name. The Marketing Answer Machine will be our best friend."

Mark's view of the future is probably accurate in many ways. I think it's very likely that data analytics software will become easier and easier to use and that the complex, "heavy lifting" stuff will increasingly occur in the background, most likely overseen by a small group of "data scientists."

But, will the "Marketing Answer Machine" really provide all of the customer insights we need to optimize our marketing activities and produce successful marketing programs? I'm not so sure.

In a recent blog post for the Harvard Business Review, Charles Handy eloquently explained why we should view the "infosphere" - the combination of the Internet and computer technology - as a mixed blessing. Charles Handy is one of the most influential management thinkers of the past thirty-plus years and the author of more than a dozen books, including The Age of Unreason and The Age of Paradox.

While Mr. Handy's post deals primarily with the potential negative impacts of data and technology on individuals, organizations, and society in general, he has a message about the limitations of data that marketers need to remember. He wrote:

"Today's technologies would like to reclassify us bundles of data - be they words, numbers, or images - that the infosphere can process more easily. . . This kind of algorithmic society, with its programmes [sic] and routines, will take the stress out of life - but also much of its meaning if we let it.

This meaning is rooted in our consciousness, which cannot be coded or made into data. Nor can the virtues of beauty, truth, or goodness, which you recognize when you see them but cannot adequately measure or define. Love, trust, loyalty, and judgement [sic] - the essentials of our human relationships - are also immune to sensible quantification. Trying to codify them is pointless."

It would be unreasonable to suggest that having and using relevant and accurate data about current and potential customers won't help marketers make better decisions and create more effective marketing programs. But it's equally unreasonable to believe that data and data analytics are all that's necessary for successful marketing.

Virtually all of the data about customers and prospects that we track and use is behavioral data. Behavioral data can tell us what a potential buyer has done (and often when and where an action was taken), but behavioral data doesn't reveal the psychological and/or emotional factors that motivated the behavior, and it doesn't tell us much about the context in which a behavior occurs.

Big data is seductive because it appears to give us a highly detailed picture of our potential customers, but despite the detail, big data provides only part of the "customer intelligence" we need for effective marketing. It's like having a high-resolution version of half of the Mona Lisa.