There are so many survey reports being published at this time on content and thought leadership marketing that I feel slightly less bad we haven't done one for a few months. Between them they show all kinds of insights and raise all kinds of questions.
Lisa Arthur in her blog on Forbes.com yesterday commented on an excellent report by Junta42 and others about B2B content marketing trends. The report shows what many others have, that content marketing is growing across a broad range of industries as marketers seek to satisfy customers’ demand for substantive and educational information, instead of the empty slogans they have been used to. Lisa points out that one of the biggest challenges for marketers going forward will be producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers. Then she declares that a commitment to analytics and integration will help solve the problem.
I doubt it. Useful as these things may be, they don’t get at the challenge of content creation which is the hardest part (of course) of effective content marketing.
The real answer is for marketers to get themselves up the learning curve about what engages business readers and causes them to take an interest in a firm. Content marketing has prevailed in professional services for decades now, and there are enough examples and studies that there’s no excuse for not knowing what is effective and what is not – save that the jury is still out on the newer social media tools.
But there are still many firms doing it badly, taking shortcuts on content generation, or using content to thinly disguise sales pitches, for instance. There is no end of reports (or readers) will tell you customers hate that, but people still do it.
In other words, marketers (as a whole) are apparently slow to learn the lessons and adopt best practices. Not least because the really important lessons – e.g. that content must derive from real expertise and experience, not be faked – are often the hardest to actually follow through on. So people cheat. And so long as their bosses are OK with hitting a target of x white papers a month, irrespective of whether it drives business, they will presumably continue to do so.
All to say, I think the adoption of effective content marketing across a broad range of businesses will be a slow process. This is a great opportunity though for firms that are inspired to do it properly. They have a chance to steal quite a lead.