THE FUTURE OF CONTENT MARKETING: THE AGE OF CONTENT SCIENCE

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1 THE FUTURE OF CONTENT MARKETING: THE AGE OF CONTENT SCIENCE October, 2015 è Jessie Coan, Senior Director of Content, Marketing Effectiveness and Strategy Report Highlights p2 p4 p5 p8 The Best-in-Class are enjoying five times higher revenue contribution from content efforts than their peers. Nearly half of All Others report they approach content creation in an ad hoc fashion, while the Best-in-Class have mastered having a strategy for content creation. Best-in-Class marketers are being forced to get even better at their craft and this means having the right, relevant data to make informed decisions about their content strategy. The Best-in-Class are twice as likely to track what visitors are doing in real time. Aberdeen s Content Marketing survey revealed that while 95% of marketers are using or considering using a content marketing strategy, there are some distinct differences between those using content well and those just using content. The Best-in- Class are not only creating content at volume, they are taking a much more data-driven approach to their content marketing strategy and it s paying off.

2 2 95% of respondents report that they are using or considering using a content marketing strategy. Aberdeen's Maturity Class Framework Aberdeen's research defines Best-in- Class performance by benchmarking organizations against several key performance metrics. In this case, three metrics were used: Percentage of marketingqualified leads attributed to content marketing Percentage of revenue generated by content marketing efforts Year-over-year percentage change in marketing s contribution to revenue By looking at organizational performance, we then break them down into three maturity classes, as described below: Best-in-Class: top 20% of performers Industry Average: middle 50% of performers Laggard: bottom 30% of performers Sometimes, a fourth maturity class, All Others, is used to describe Industry Average & Laggard. Yes, you read the title of this report correctly. The future of content creative, witty, engaging, results-driven content is more about data than it is about art. While that may come as a surprise to some, it is the next logical step in the evolution of content marketing. Content Marketing Everyone s Doing It Content marketing is the act of using content blogs, white papers, webinars, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc. to attract and engage a particular target audience with the aim of achieving particular business goals. In April of 2015, the Aberdeen Group surveyed 277 businesses regarding the key trends and activities influencing their content marketing decisions and programs. The study found that a staggering 95% of respondents are using or are considering the use of a content marketing strategy. The Best-in-Class are enjoying five times higher revenue contribution from content efforts than their peers. While the results being obtained surely explain the popularity, there are additional insights from the survey. Content Creation Efficacy When reviewing the top pressures felt by survey respondents, the number one response is about the effectiveness of a company at content marketing and the creation of content. What s interesting is that the specific source of pain differed when we compared the Best-in-Class to All Others. The study suggests that the Best-in-Class understand that simply creating content isn t enough that success hinges on the quality of content and how well that content meets the needs of their audience. The evidence: while the majority of Best-in-Class marketers are worried about keeping up with their customers

3 3 expectations related to content (51%), nearly half of All Others (47%) are focused on the pressure of creating enough content. The Best-in-Class focus on the customer by implementing systems and processes that continuously inform and help them refine their efforts. In fact, they are three times more likely to be able to track a piece of content to revenue than All Others. This allows them to know exactly which content drives conversions. They prioritize building an environment where every piece of content can be evaluated not on the creative, but on its revenue contribution to the organization. The results? Time and money saved with an increased impact on the business, thanks to a more targeted, measured approach while All Others squander resources by creating content at volume with little to no visibility into the results. The Content Marketing Continuum The survey data showed that businesses are at different stages with the maturity of their content marketing capabilities. While a few are just starting out, others are working on more advanced data-driven approaches. These stages are depicted in the Content Marketing Continuum below, in Figure 1. Survey participants consisted of firms in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and mix-model (B2B and B2C as well as B2B2C) organizations. Marketing practitioners across different levels within the business participated in the study. 46% of these marketers represent senior management, while 54% represent marketing operations staff. This provides an even range of insights from decision makers, influencers and active practitioners. Content marketing is defined as a business process for creating and sharing content to attract a specific target audience, which will result in increased interaction with your brand, and result in a sale or desired profitable action benefiting the business. Figure 1: The Content Marketing Continuum The Content Marketing Continuum consists of five distinct stages ranging from Getting Started (Stage 1) to Building Community and Advocacy (Stage 5). Identifying and documenting these stages allows companies to familiarize themselves with the current stage of their marketing, and to make decisions that increase the benefits of their content marketing programs. Source: Aberdeen Group, October 2015 The Best-in-Class are enjoying nearly half of their revenue contribution from content efforts while All Others are only reaping 10% of their marketing contribution from content.

4 4 Figure 2: Current State on the Continuum Source: Aberdeen Group, October 2015 Survey results show that those who can t track content back to revenue currently, express the desire to do so in the future. When we evaluate where on the continuum survey respondents lie, we see a distinct difference between the Best-in-Class and All Others (Figure 2, above). All Others fall between Stage 2 and 3. Their focus is on volume, feeling the pressure to generate enough content (Stage 2) and beginning to optimize their content creation to across marketing channels (Stage 3.) They are stuck in a loop of creating and pushing out content. Best-in- Class have moved further up the continuum to Stage 4, where they recognize the need to meet the changing expectations of their buyers and are focused on collecting intelligence that allows them to do this. So what makes the Best-in-Class so successful today? There are four critical areas where the Best-in-Class demonstrate superiority over All Others as it relates to their content marketing approach and all four are found along the continuum. The first is mastering the creation process. While 47% of All Others report they approach content creation in an ad hoc fashion, only 7% of the Best-in-Class do. The Best-in-Class are clearly not creating content on a whim. They have a plan and are focused, demonstrating their proficiency over All Others with key elements of Stages 2 and 3. For example, Best-in-Class are 44% more likely that All Others to align their content to the buyers journey. The vast majority of them design content to meet the

5 5 needs of their target persona(s). In addition, the Best-in-Class are tackling Stage 4 with reckless abandon, with 60% of the Bestin-Class planning and managing outreach across channels using social scheduling tools, something only 35% of All Others do. Move From Stage 4 to Stage 5 How do the Best-in-Class plan to elevate their content marketing efforts to building a community that looks forward to their content and advocates for their brand? This Stage may be the hardest to achieve. It requires publishing effective content that is valued by readers, readers who are happy to be a part of the community and willing to advocate on behalf of the brand, particularly by sharing content. Overall, it boils down to becoming more scientific about the use of content. In a world where there is a lot of content noise (such as marketers just throwing a lot of stuff out there), Best-in-Class marketers are being forced to get even better at their craft and this means having the right data to make informed decisions about the content strategy, not just overall, but on a personal level for each buyer. The sidebar, at the right, outlines a number of techniques the Best-in-Class are employing to move forward along the continuum. While personalization of the buying experience is key in helping to engage successfully with buyers, ensuring that you are capturing relevant data and putting it to work in your future interactions with individuals is essential to building advocacy. The Best-in-Class know that buyers expectations are evolving and businesses need to be able to take action based upon the preferences of buyers to be successful. This is where they are focusing and building important capabilities. Moving from Stage 4 to Stage 5 Registration Forms: Three quarters of the Best-in-Class are currently using registration forms for content and the rest plan to do so in the next 12 months. Compare this to All Others, 50% are using registration forms, 30% plan to implement them in the next 12 months and 20% have no plans to implement them at all. Progressive Profiling: Defined as displaying new form fields to a prospect based on the information you have collected and would like to collect, progressive profiling is currently used by 41% of the Bestin-Class. This is compared to the 16% of All Others. One note here is that 54% of All Others are planning to implement it in the future, but 30% also indicated that it s not on their radar. Audience Advocacy: Enabling your content readers to easily share content they enjoy is a no-brainer for the Best-in-Class, 80% employ buttons to allow readers to share content from campaigns. This is compared to a mere 4% of All Others.

6 6 The Best-in-Class are three times more likely to currently have a behavior tracking system in place to track prospect behavior across their web properties, but making this data actionable on an ongoing basis can be a bigger challenge. Knowing what to collect, when to collect it, and how to apply the insights are the critical first steps. Aberdeen suggests the following model (Figure 3) for consideration as it relates to creating a continuous improvement cycle for content marketing programs. Figure 3: Continuous Improvement Cycle Source: Aberdeen Group, October 2015 Audience: Having definitive and clear data about your target audience allows for better targeting and segmentation, as well as fine tuning of your message. Aside from demographic and firmographic information, knowing as much you can about a prospect and their company can help you with messaging. For example, knowing about the technology environment at a company can help you adjust messaging based upon the

7 7 technology that's currently used. This is just a simple example of the type of information that can help you to message and segment better than your competition. Placement: This is about ensuring that your brand shows up everywhere the buyer goes for their information. This is particularly important at top of funnel, when a buyer may not come looking for you. They likely do not trust your content yet, or worse, aren t even familiar with your brand. This is why it s important to know where your buyer is as a consumer of content. Message: With all the work that's been done around audience and placement, messaging is the icing on the cake. When done properly, messaging is tuned to the preferences of the targeted persona and is refined with data gathered throughout your interaction with them. Timing: Understanding where a company and a buyer is in their buying cycle is critical, and behavioral information can help you identify buying signals. This is important knowledge to have in serving up the right information at the right time. For example, for a top of funnel interaction, you re not going to share a full ten page research report, you re more likely to share a infographic that captures their attention with a strong call to action. Widening the Gap In what follows, we outline some very specific ways that Best-in- Class marketers are broadening the gap with All Others as they move to Stage 5. Best-in Class marketers are building capabilities that allow them to adapt their message to have the biggest impact. Specifically, they are building capabilities around data regarding their audience, placement, and messaging: Best-in Class marketers are building capabilities around data that allow them to adapt their message to have the biggest impact.

8 8 è Targeting with Personalization: Defined as an individualized experience whereas the message a brand shows is specifically targeted to the audience or content recommendations are made based on past preference; 38% of Best-in-Class have currently implemented a linked personalization experience across channels compared to 6% of All Others. è Dynamically-Served Content Based on Behavior: While only a quarter of the Best-in-Class have the ability to dynamically serve up relevant content to repeat site visitors based on past behavior today, 67% plan to implement this in the next 12 months. While tracking visitor behavior should be a no-brainer for all marketers, the Best-in-Class know that capturing, storing and using the data will allow them to continuously improve the timing and effectiveness of well-messaged content. Specific capabilities they are building include: 73% of Best-in- Class are able to capture visitor data and store it for future analysis. è Capturing visitor behavior in real-time: 58% of the Best-in-Class currently have the ability NOW to track what visitors are doing in real time. Only 23% of All Others currently have this implemented. è Capturing visitor behavior and store it: 73% of Best-in- Class are able to capture visitor data and store it for future analysis. Only 39% of All Others are able to do this currently. While only a few examples, the above shows that Best-in-Class are already well ahead of All Others when it comes to putting the pieces in place to obtain the data they need to be strategic with their content marketing strategy.

9 9 Data, Personalization, and Analysis The gap between the Best-in-Class and All Others is widening, and widening fast. With the Best-in-Class focused on creating solid, individualized experiences for customers they will quickly leap ahead of their competition by building community and advocacy for their brands. To keep pace, others need to establish a strategy that leverages data to improve their content marketing efforts. The focus should be on building as much definitive information about customers as possible, leveraging this information to build the cohorts of prospects that can be addressed with a similar content strategy. For example, knowing a technology environment that exists at a certain company may allow you to target messaging to them. Further, augmenting this data with real-time interaction data will allow companies to adjust content timing and channel. And, by employing personalization and dynamic content serving capabilities, marketers can create highly personalized experiences. It is this information that puts the punctuation mark on the buyer personas that marketers are diligently creating today. To support this effort, the complexion of marketing teams, themselves, needs to change as well. These teams need to be comprised of talent with the creative capabilities to support content creation and the analytical skills to leverage data to build and refine data-driven content strategies. We are experiencing the rise of content science and the Best-in-Class have a pretty big head start. For more information on this or other research topics, please visit

10 10 Marketing & Sales Performance: The Roadmap to Revenue and Its Tollgates; April 2014 The CMO Dilemma: Bridging the Gap Between Love and Money; May 2015 Related Research How to Track Lead Sources to Content: A Necessary Challenge; August 2015 Tracking & Technology: Two Key to Best-in-Class Content Marketing; August 2015 Author: Jessie Coan, Senior Director of Content, Marketing Effectiveness and Strategy About Aberdeen Group Since 1988, Aberdeen Group has published research that helps businesses worldwide improve their performance. Our analysts derive fact-based, vendor-agnostic insights from a proprietary analytical framework, which identifies Best-in-Class organizations from primary research conducted with industry practitioners. The resulting research content is used by hundreds of thousands of business professionals to drive smarter decision-making and improve business strategy. Aberdeen Group is headquartered in Boston, MA. This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group and represents the best analysis available at the time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group and may not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen Group

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