What’s Getting In The Way of More Effective Content Marketing?

As the amount of content marketing continues to rise, a new survey of B2B and B2C marketers looks into some of the factors that may be cutting into the effectiveness of this type of marketing.

Is your content marketing effective?

That’s a question a recently published survey of B2B and B2C marketers from Contently tried to glean. Less than half of respondents reported that their content was effective, which is significant given that the survey also found that 73 percent created more content in 2015 than in the year before.

To better understand what goes into successful content marketing, Contently took a look at some of the variables that may be hindering its effectiveness for some marketers. Money came out on top.

“A healthy investment in content gives marketers the freedom to take creative risks and invest in more expensive mediums like infographics and video,” the study noted. Yet, 67 percent of survey respondents spent less than a quarter of their marketing budgets on content.

One area where marketers can afford to grow, according to Contently, is in the amount spent on content marketing technology—which can feature services such as email automation, analytics platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) integrations, and can cut the cost of content marketing by as much as 65 percent.

Beyond technology, allocating the right mix of staff to content marketing efforts was also found to be influential. Almost three quarters of respondents reported that they have zero to two employees dedicated solely to content marketing, and 64 percent reported that freelancers create less than a tenth of their content.

Hiring outside contributors could be a cost-effective way to increase productivity, according to Contently, which—important to note—maintains a large network of freelancers for hire.

Despite that fact, more contributors, whether freelance or on staff, could equate to an increase in time, which is becoming a growing strain for many marketers. In fact, 37 percent, up from 11 percent last year, reported time was their biggest challenge when it comes to creating content.

Limited time and resources is nothing new to associations, many of which are still unsure as to what exactly content marketing is about, Beth Bush, chief membership officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told Associations Now late last year.

“Part of where I think [misconceptions arise] is that people assume that if we tell members we have content, that’s content marketing,” Bush said. “We need to give them content as evidence. The other issue is, once you get people to engage with the content, how do you do the next step? We often let it drop. We hold a webinar. Lots of people come—great! And that’s it.”

And if there’s uncertainty around what content marketing is, there’s surely ambiguity around what makes this type of marketing effective.

According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, it should always be attached to a business objective, such as driving more sales or creating more loyal customers. And one way to measure that is to look at the differences in behavior among content subscribers and nonsubscribers: “Do they buy more? Close faster? Stay longer as customers?” he told Associations Now. “The building of a loyal audience that knows, likes, and trusts us generally leads to positive business outcomes.”

Most respondents of the Contenly survey seem to be taking this approach. Lead conversions and sales were the most important metrics used to measure content success among most of the respondents. Social media and page views were second and third.

Another tip for creating effective content: Quality really matters. During the opening general session at ASAE’s 2015 Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference last year, content marketing pro and chief content officer at MarketingProfs, Ann Handley, made the argument that there’s no shortage of content out there, but we need better content.


While there’s no single path to more effective content marketing, Handley did recommend sticking to a few guidelines:

  • Sharing empathy and experiences.
  • Telling relevant and inspiring stories.
  • Being “ridiculously useful.”

Do you have any tips for producing effective content marketing? Please share in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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