Monday, October 26, 2015

More Evidence on the Need to Improve Content Marketing Efficiency

Earlier this fall, I published a post that focused on the need to make content marketing more efficient. The impetus for that post was a recent research study by Gleanster and Kapost that demonstrated the economic importance of improving the efficiency of content marketing activities and processes. Here are three of the major findings of the Gleanster/Kapost research:

  • Large and mid-size B2B firms in the US collectively spend over $5.2 billion annually on content creation efforts.
  • Poorly managed and/or cumbersome content management processes lead to an estimated $958 million each year in excessive spending on content marketing by large and mid-size B2B companies.
  • $0.25 of every $1.00 spent on content marketing in an average large/mid-size B2B company is wasted on inefficient content marketing operations.
This month, I attended a webinar sponsored by SAVO that provided more confirmation of the importance of content marketing efficiency. The webinar included a presentation by Erin Provey, Service Director of the Strategic Communications Management practice at SiriusDecisions. Ms. Provey's presentation was based on data from the SiriusDecisions 2015 Cost of Content Survey and the SiriusDecisions Cost of Content Benchmark Model.

The SiriusDecisions research and analysis focused on how much B2B companies are spending on content development and on how much of that content is "productive." For this analysis, SiriusDecisions divided B2B companies into three size cohorts. Small companies were defined as those having less than $100 million in annual revenues. Medium-size companies have between $100 million and $1 billion in revenues, and large companies have more than $1 billion in revenues.

SiriusDecisions estimates that small companies invest about $900,000 per year in content development, medium-size companies spend about $10.8 million, and large B2B enterprises spend about $17.5 million. These spending amounts are averages, and they include both external and internal costs.

SiriusDecisions defined productive content as content that is "activated" by internal audiences and consumed by external audiences. Unproductive content is content that isn't used because it cannot be activated "as is" or because it can't be located. Across B2B companies of all sizes, SiriusDecisions estimates that 65% of all the content "owned" by companies goes unused. More specifically, SiriusDecisions says that 28% of content isn't used because it is "unfindable," and 37% is unusable due to low quality or lack of relevance.

Because of unproductive content, SiriusDecisions estimates that between 11% and 19% of the annual investment in content is wasted. In small B2B companies, this annual wasted spending amounts to about $100,000. Medium-size companies waste about $2 million, and large B2B enterprises waste about $2.3 million. As with the total cost figures, these waste amounts are averages.

The SiriusDecisions research provides a sobering dose of reality and more compelling evidence that virtually all B2B companies can realize significant financial benefits by improving the efficiency of their content marketing efforts.

Image courtesy of Carolyn Coles via Flickr CC.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What are the Core Disciplines of Modern Marketing?

It's no secret that the marketing landscape is more complex today than ever before. Heightened buyer expectations for greater relevancy, the proliferation of customer touch points, interaction channels, and marketing technologies, and the growing role of data and data analytics have all added complexity to the marketing function.

To succeed, in today's dynamic and complex marketing environment, companies must assemble teams of marketers who have the right skills and competencies. But, what specific competencies will a high-performing, modern marketing organization possess?

Tomasz Tunguz, a partner at the venture capital firm Redpoint, addressed this issue in a recent blog post titled The 9 Marketing Disciplines of Great SaaS Companies. Mr. Tunguz' post was based on a presentation made at a venture capital conference by Bill Macaitis, the former CMO of Zendesk. Although Mr. Tunguz' post and Mr. Macaitis' presentation dealt specifically with marketing at SaaS companies, most of the disciplines are equally important for other types of B2B companies.

Here are the nine marketing disciplines that Tunguz/Macaitis identified, along with my interpretation of each discipline's primary role(s).

Operations and Analysis - The team that is responsible for performing data analytics and for leveraging analytics to optimize marketing performance. Tunguz/Macaitis say this is the first team a company should build and that it is likely to become the largest team in the marketing organization.

Customer Evangelism - This team is primarily responsible for identifying and building relationships with potential customer evangelists and for leveraging customer endorsements.

Content - This team develops the company's content marketing strategy and plan, and creates and/or curates needed marketing content.

Paid Media - This team manages the activities that involve the use of paid media channels, such as TV/radio/print ads, display ads, and SEM.

Website Conversion - Tunguz/Macaitis say this team is a group of front-end and back-end engineers who are responsible for optimizing the company's website.

Product Marketing - This is the team that is focused on understanding specific customer needs (product-related), on segmenting the market, and on developing appropriate pricing structures.

Lifecycle Nurturing - This team is primarily responsible for strengthening relationships with existing customers.

Communications - Tunguz/Macaitis say this is basically the public relations team.

International - This is the team that manages the company's marketing efforts in areas outside the "home" country.

What do you think? Does this list identify all of the core disciplines that a high-performing, modern marketing organization requires? What would you add or change?

Image courtesy of arisexpress via Flickr CC.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

HubSpot Research Offers Insights on Blog Performance

In an earlier post, I discussed some of the major findings of research by TrackMaven regarding the effectiveness of blog posts. The TrackMaven research contained data regarding the best day of the week for publishing blog posts, the best time of day to publish, and the optimal length of blog post titles.

While the TrackMaven study included some data regarding posting frequency, it didn't attempt to identify what posting frequency is best, nor did TrackMaven attempt to determine what blog post length is most effective.

After my earlier post was published, I discovered a blog post by HubSpot that provides several insights on these perennially important issues. This post describes a test that HubSpot ran on its own Marketing Blog to determine what its optimal editorial strategy should be. More specifically, the managers of the blog wanted to determine whether they should be publishing longer, more in-depth posts on a less frequent basis, or shorter posts on a more frequent basis.

To answer these questions, HubSpot conducted an experiment to determine how changes in blog posting frequency and content mix affected three key performance metrics - views, net new leads, and subscribers. To get the full flavor of what HubSpot discovered from its experiment, you need to read the HubSpot post. In this post, I'll focus on the findings that relate to posting frequency.

The experiment was conducted over a period of six weeks. During the first two weeks, HubSpot tracked the results produced by its existing editorial practices (the Benchmark strategy). In the second two weeks of the test, HubSpot reduced the number of posts published by about 50% and increased the percentage of longer, more in-depth posts. HubSpot called this the Low Volume, High Comprehensiveness (LVHC) strategy. In the final two weeks, HubSpot increased the number of posts published by about 50% (over the Benchmark number) and increased the percentage of shorter, less in-depth posts. HubSpot named this the High Volume, Low Comprehensiveness (HVLC) strategy.

Here's what HubSpot found:

  • The Benchmark and HVLC strategies produced almost the same amount of blog traffic, but the LVHC strategy resulted in about 32% less traffic.
  • During the LVHC phase of the experiment, the blog produced about 4% fewer leads than it did when the Benchmark strategy was used. During the HVLC phase, the blog produced almost twice as many leads, compared to the Benchmark strategy.
So, what can we learn from the results of the HubSpot experiment? Most of us would like to believe that content quality will trump content quantity. The HubSpot results suggest that, for blogs anyway, content quantity (posting frequency) has a significant impact on blog performance.

Note:  As part of its experiment, HubSpot categorized its blog posts based on the type of content they contained and then measured the performance of each type of post. I found these results to be particularly interesting, and once again, I recommend that you take the time to read the HubSpot post. For me, the most important takeaway was that no single type of blog content excelled at both traffic generation and lead generation. So you need to publish several types of posts to maximize the overall performance of your blog.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why the Quality of Your Content Marketing Strategy Matters

For the past two years, the annual content marketing surveys by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs have pointed to the importance of having and following a documented content marketing strategy. In both the 2014 and 2015 editions of the survey, a majority of B2B respondents whose company had a documented content strategy rated their content marketing efforts as highly effective (a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5), while only a small minority of respondents with a documented strategy rated their efforts as ineffective (a 1 or 2 on the five point scale).

A recent study by the CMO Council, in partnership with NetLine Corporation, contains some findings that seem to contradict the results in the CMI/MarketingProfs surveys. Lead Flow That Helps You Grow was based on a survey of 213 senior marketing leaders primarily located in North America.

In the CMO Council study, only 10% of respondents said they have no content marketing strategy. At the same time, however, only 12% of respondents described their content marketing program as a "high performance engine." More importantly, most of the respondents were not particularly happy with their ability to leverage content to generate high-quality sales leads. Only 15% of the respondents described their demand generation strategies as very or highly effective. Twenty-nine percent of the respondents rated their demand generation strategies as moderately effective, and 32% said they were somewhere in the middle.

The CMO Council also asked survey participants what was causing their content marketing programs to under-perform, and the following table shows the top factors identified by survey respondents.

These factors indicate that many of the respondents to the CMO Council survey do not, in reality, have a well-conceived and complete content marketing strategy. If you have a sound content strategy, it's not likely that you will be developing content that isn't tailored for specific audiences, or that your content isn't relevant for your target audience, or that you aren't leveraging effective distribution channels.

In an earlier post, I discussed seven high-level questions that your content marketing strategy must address. If your strategy includes thorough answers to those seven questions, most of the problems shown in the above table won't exist.

Today's business buyers are awash in content, and it takes high-quality content to be successful when content is so abundant and easily accessible. But to consistently create and deploy content that will enable you to achieve your marketing objectives, you need an effective content marketing strategy. So in essence, the quality of your strategy is just as important as the quality of your content.