Committed to content marketing?

18th December 2016

Apparently not.

Apparently here in the UK we B2B marketers are not committed enough to our content marketing… and that’s why it’s failing us.

At least, that’s the conclusion of the CMI and its 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarking Report (UK) which was launched on 7 December. Like its North American counterpart, the verdict on the UK state of ‘content marketing’ is not that content marketing isn’t working, it’s that B2B marketers aren’t doing it right.

For North America, it’s a lack of strategy that’s inhibiting B2B content marketing success.

For the UK, it’s a lack of commitment.

I had a good laugh over that one.

And still, the CMI claims that content marketing is alive and well. And I find it astonishing that we are continuing to buy into this entire concept, which is distracting us from what we need to focus on in order to become better marketers.

There is no clear headline finding in the 2017 UK report; the closest I can come to one is that ‘committed content marketers are more successful’. Talk about a statement of the obvious for just about everything. So, I did with the UK findings what I did with the North America findings 2 weeks ago and compared the 2017 with the 2016 findings. It was again quite a challenge because – as with the North America survey – so many of the questions were different to the prior year. But, once I delved into the report, I did find core questions for comparison.

CMI UK Comparison chart(Click on thumbnail image to bring up the chart)

What is this chart telling us? Let’s look closely at the data:

  • Less than half our organisations have clarity on what effective or successful content marketing looks like – at 46% significantly less than a year ago.
  • Only 25% of us feel our content marketing efforts are successful – no change at all!
  • Less than a quarter of us feel our organisations’ are sophisticated or mature content marketers – a full 10% fewer than a year ago.
  • More of us have a documented content marketing strategy – up 3% year-on-year – yet delving further into the report, it’s very clear that this ‘strategy’ is actually a plan. The survey specifically asks about the elements of the strategy and every single one of those elements are elements of a plan, not a strategy.
  • Fewer of us will produce more content next year – but it’s still an astounding 79%.
  • Only 1% of us will produce less contentno change year-on-year .
  • We will spend less on content marketing this year; significantly fewer of us – 53% this year v 66% in the 2016 report – will spend more on content marketing next year, which is an interesting finding given we are overwhelming (79%) planning to produce more of it.
  • Email moves into the top distribution channel this year (88%); it wasn’t even on the radar last year.
  • And finally, website traffic remains the most used metric for content marketing success at 70%, yet fully half of respondents felt it did not provide ‘truly measurable results’.

And remember, last year’s report reflected a multi-year downward trend for every key category surveyed.

The CMI does find that ‘commitment’ to content marketing means better success, with a chart front and centre to prove it. And the survey found that 61% of respondents rate their organisations as extremely/very committed to content marketing. Yet this chart does not reflect any of the findings in the rest of the report. However, even giving them the benefit of the doubt, the results are not encouraging:

  • Less than 2/3 of these ‘committed’ organisations have clarity on what effective or successful content marketing looks (63%) – now this might appear to be a great finding, but if this is what ‘success’ looks like, I would expect clarity to be much higher.
  • 54% of ‘committed’ content marketers have a documented strategy – yet, as I’ve mentioned above, it’s pretty clear this strategy is actually a plan.
  • Finally, only half of these ‘committed’ marketers say their strategy (ie plan) is effective. So, half of what even the most committed marketers are doing is, what? A waste of time?

OK, so commitment drives better results. This is not rocket science. And yet, if commitment was the real issue, I would expect far better.

Enough already! The findings are very clear to me.

‘Content marketing’ continues to fail us and we are having even less success with it than we did a year ago.

So, why are we not rising up in our droves and admitting that this ‘content marketing’ approach is failing us? Why are we continuing to do the same thing over and over again – as if greater commitment were the answer? Isn’t it time we took a very hard look at where we are spending our time and budgets and made some real changes?

My position on this has been clear for many years; content marketing does all marketers a disservice and is damaging our profession. Between ‘content marketing’, ‘digital marketing’ and every other ‘[fill-on-the-blank] marketing’ we have lost our way. We have become a profession of project managers and tactical implementers. We start with what we do as marketers instead of first asking the important questions: What are we trying to achieve? Why does this matter? Who cares?

Please don’t get me wrong, content matters, it’s the air we breathe as marketers. But the content is not an end in itself, it’s not always even the beginning. It’s a critically important part of course, but content is just one part of the whole.

Because, ultimately, what good is even the best content if we don’t get it into the hands (and hearts and minds) of our customers?

We’re at the end of another year where many things have changed and many more have not. So, let’s all make some resolutions for 2017. Let’s come out of our tactical silos and resolve to focus on marketing as a whole instead of its isolated parts. Let’s let go of what’s not working for us, no matter what the so-called experts are telling us. But most of all, let’s get back to the marketing basics – customers, strategy and brand – and focus on where we need to go, instead of where we’ve already been.

Happy Holidays B2B marketers! See you in 2017!

Shine Bright


Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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