If you're investing in content marketing, there's roughly a 50% chance your efforts are a waste. And that's a good thing.
That number might seem extreme, but I'm going to back it up with 4 facts:
1. 59% of advertising & Fortune 500 leaders do not believe their digital talent has the skills necessary to be very successful in content marketing (source: OMI's State of Digital Talent study)
2. 42% of B2B marketers say their content marketing efforts are not effective. At least they admit it. We could probably bump up that number to around 50% for the people that won't. (source: the CMI/MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing study)
3. That same study on B2B content marketing also found the #1 challenge facing marketers is producing enough content. Yet, frequency is the one of the biggest factors for content marketing effectiveness.
4. Although the quantity of content produced continues to increase exponentially, most of it is, for a lack of a better word, crap. (Okay, I don't even have data to back that up—it's based purely on what I see, and I think most of us will agree.)
Now, there's a lot of talk about the impending "content collapse", or as I like it, "Content Apocalypse 2014", just to give it that classy, Weather.com doomsday-style spin.
To get you up-to-speed, Mark Schaffer wrote a smart and thought provoking post on "Content Shock", which lead to a lot more chatter—and content!—about the "Content Collapse!". To summarize, as the rate of online content creation increases exponentially, so does the noise, and it's going to become harder for content marketing efforts to bubble up and be seen.
But there's a bigger problem—and opportunity here.
Most content marketing today is garbage, and 42% of marketers ALREADY KNOW their content marketing efforts are not paying off, so I'd say Content Apocalypse 2014 is a good thing. It's simply a reminder that lame content marketing efforts are not sustainable. But no matter the medium, they never were.
So yes, we're going to have to produce BETTER content and a SMARTER content strategy if we want to compete. Perhaps even, I don't know…. train people or hire creatives, copywriters, and journalists!
The bigger story—and opportunity here—is that companies and individuals that invest in producing brilliant, effective content marketing will have a significant competitive advantage.
It's fun to talk about Content Apocalypse. We are hard wired to react to headlines that produce fear. (Who doesn't notice those terrible "10 Signs You'll Get Sick Tomorrow" articles promoted through OutBrain? They never rotate that creepy "You'll Get Cancer" one out, either...)
But it's even more fun to think about the opportunities we have to get really great at content marketing, what that looks like, and what it means for our companies and careers. (Hint: it's not a soulless "Top 3 Tips About Data Storage" list.)
All you have to do is become really awesome at content marketing—which you can!—and there's a significant chance you'll be better than your competition.
With that, here are 10 ideas for smoking those content marketing underachievers (the 50%+!)—and turning content marketing into your secret weapon for success in 2014. While they struggle to produce bi-weekly Top 10 lists of animated GIFS or links to other popular articles, you can focus on this...
For your career
Marketers with impressive content experience and skills are in high demand. They get more job offers, consulting opportunities, and command a higher salary. You can too.
1. If you're new to content marketing, find opportunities to get involved with content marketing & strategy at your company.
It can be as simple as offering to write a blog post your company blog, or contributing insights from analytics to improve current content marketing efforts, or writing an email campaign. However you do it—just start somewhere, and offer to help whenever you can.
2. Take a writing class and expand your skill set.
I can't stress this enough. As the "Content Apocalypse" continues to unfold, it's going to be harder for crappy content to get visiblity (thank goodness!). If you want to get better, you can, but it starts with educating yourself on content, including written content, video content, visual and more. And then a lot of practice, which is my next point...
3. Practice, practice, practice—starting now!
Do it while you can—and while everyone continues to underachieve. The bar for content is just going to get higher.
4. Create content, even outside of your main job.
Offer to develop content for another publication—free of charge—to try new ideas & showcase your capabilities. Years ago, while I was working in marketing at ion interactive, I produced content for the company blog, but then I started to write guest posts for Wordstream and Search Engine Journal etc… The content probably wasn't brilliant—and not that this is either!—but it ended up being great practice, and I was able to write about a broader range of topics and get my toes wet. Writing outside of your day job can also be great 3rd party validation for future career and consulting opportunities.
5. To get ahead, stay ahead.
Evolving technology and content consumption trends continue to present new challenges and opportunities, and the best content marketers stay on top of those changes. Whether it's learning about visual content, real-time strategy, analytics or integration, it's important to stay ahead.
For your company
Companies that focus on improving the effectiveness of their content marketing efforts generate more leads, win more business, and gain more market share.
6. Put distribution at the heart of your content.
Most content today just gets added to the noise—very little content rises above it. Distribution should be at the heart of your strategy, and you can use search data to inform your content marketing efforts.
7. Incorporate real-time content into your digital strategy.
It's becoming more and more important to deliver exactly the right piece of content at exactly the right time. This doesn't necessarily mean producing garbage that capitalizes on Justin Bieber's arrest—but content that's fresh and in line with the pain points and opportunities your customers are facing—right then and there. Carmen Hill explains how in Real-Time or Die: Feeding the Content Beast.
8. INVEST IN WRITERS, EDITORS, AND TRAINING!
I'm sure it can be a hard line item to swallow. But isn't wasting money on ineffective content marketing even worse?
9. Tie your content back to measurable conversion goals.
Prove the value of your efforts (unless you're part of that 50% ;))—and gain leverage for a raise, too. Make sure to integrate conversion points, such as opt-ins and phone calls, throughout your entire content marketing program. Here's how to measure your content marketing efforts.
10. Test, test, test.
You won't know what works until you test it. So get creative, try new things. Inject a culture of speed and testing into your company, if you can. It's okay if the content is less than stellar—it's the only way to get to the place where it's not.
Now I know this list isn't complete. If you have any thoughts on the opportunities in content marketing, please leave them below!