What are your biggest opportunities & challenges in content marketing for next 1-2 years?
The biggest opportunity over the next one to two years will come from reinventing the game and being original. Right now, everyone is just an also-ran in the content competition. No one has quite cracked content marketing 2.0, but it’s just around the bend. The trend is going to show a big pivot towards quality and away from content for the sake of content. People are just starting to think of engagement as the key success metric rather than page views and visitors.
The biggest challenge will be figuring out how to do that. Marketing organizations have spent a lot of time and money hiring analytical and technical people to measure and scale their marketing programs. Creativity is seriously under-resourced (and undervalued) in a lot of marketing departments. No one is going to take the world by storm with engaging content without an investment in creativity. Most companies haven’t realized that yet.
What keeps your clients up at night?
A lot of clients struggle to make the argument for why better content means better business results. Companies want ways to measure their marketing departments, and those measurements tend to be tied to short term sales goals. That’s great for sales and marketing alignment, but it challenges the long-term payoffs of content marketing, which comes six to 12 months after you start creating great content, and building the right audience and brand awareness.
This creates a bit of an innovation dilemma. If I spend my money on the scalable long-term solution, I lose my job. If I deliver on this quarter’s goals, I can’t deliver twice the growth in three quarters without spending twice the dollars. Luckily, most of our clients have gotten over this hump and received the buy-in to build a real content program. But a lot of our prospects are wrestling with this. When we don’t win a prospect over, it’s usually because they’re having trouble seeing past next month’s targets and doing more of what they’re already doing to get there.
What’s the hardest thing to educate clients about?
This is a bit tactical, but by far the biggest learning curve is teaching clients how to create interactive content. When you’re making static content, it’s a very linear approach—a content person writes some stuff, puts it in a webpage or PDF, throws in an image or two, and it’s done. We work with our clients to transition into a more iterative and collaborative content creation approach that involves both marketing and design. It starts with the story and why you’re telling it, then moves into a storyboarding and concept collaboration phase. Once you determine which parts of the story can be told visually or interactively, you can then flesh out the copy to work within the framework you’ve already developed. It can be hard to get clients to change their process, but once they do, they love the end result, which is a much more integrated approach to storytelling that engages the audience in new ways.
What are some unmet needs in the content landscape?
Not to make this a Ceros pitch, but generally speaking, there aren’t enough tools that help marketers make interesting content in a scalable way. The content types that everyone’s audience wants—interactive experiences, graphics, videos, games, VR—are the hardest to create and scale. That’s probably the biggest challenge for people moving away from high volume, static content creation: it requires a lot more work. There’s a bunch of tech floating around that’s helping people do some things more easily, but it still feels like an unmet need because most players in this space are smaller startups. Marketers in general aren’t aware of most of the cool technology floating around out there.
What technology or social network do you anticipate accelerating growth in the content marketing industry next year?
VR and AR technology has the power to completely transform the way content marketers connect with their audiences. As the tech required to produce VR and AR content becomes more tested and affordable, I think we’ll start to see lots of marketers playing around with content in this space. This puts even more urgency on the problem of investing in creativity, because the people best equipped to create content for this brave new world are filmmakers, video game creators, video journalists, and other people outside the traditional marketing landscape.
– Matthew Wellchlager, VP of Marketing,