Recent years have spotlighted the growth of content strategy as a marketing and transformation lever–defining the role for content in the enterprise and building plans that are audience-driven, based on their needs and preferences to match your business goals and objectives.
The next wave is building agile content systems—being able to produce a large volume of content fairly quickly and deploying the right type of content at the right time to the right person.
In Altimeter’s recent 2021 State of Digital Content report, a study of 375 enterprise marketers globally, the research reveals a few key findings:
- Brand awareness and thought leadership are the top content goals
- Producing content based on customer data is the top challenge for companies, followed by aligning teams on a strategy and hiring the right skills
- A central content team is the most common production model, but increasingly companies are shifting to a more hybrid decentralized model to keep up with demand
- Despite technology advances, most companies still deploy inefficient processes for content review and approval
- Businesses are increasingly using A.I. to help create audience segments, generate content variations and power testing processes
Content marketing has a role in nearly every industry and a distinct one in different marketing use cases. What’s needed for building awareness, shifting perception can be quite different for nurturing prospects, converting leads, and serving customers.
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Digging into the data, thought leadership for example was found to be a priority for content particularly for companies in healthcare, manufacturing and professional services.
Amy Scissons, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Russell Reynolds Associates, read the report and highlighted a few of the global executive advisory firm’s new priorities. “Cracking the code on digital content is no longer only about audience and message, it’s about agility and relevance,” said Scissons. “Marketers are faced with addressing how to insert their firm’s point of view in the existing conversation that helps their clients and prospects meet their day-to-day challenges.”
“We are at the early stage in our digital content journey,” she continued. “We are thinking big and looking at how we quickly build the [digital asset management] to enable agile content development and delivery across our ecosystem. It will get really interesting when we see how effectively we are able to engage our audiences and grow brand influence – then use those insights to build better content.”
Ricky Busby, director of eCom and website content strategy at Georgia Pacific, also interviewed earlier this year, related to the findings on scaled deployment for more personalized content. “Success requires aligning people, process, and technology,” says Busby. For instance, a company may need new technology to execute, which in turn may require new internal processes or resources. In addition, producing the increased number of creative assets for personalized content has its own inputs and work streams. “It seems straightforward, but it’s actually quite complex.”
Retail marketing executive Matthew O’Connell zoomed in on the content supply chain. “A historical impediment in retail for smart content development has been lack of clarity on what the pre-production and asset development requirements would be to meet the A.I. deployment needs,” says O’Connell. “With limited production resources, how much is too little?”
Product detail images, features, benefits, and user-generated content, he explained, can be repurposed to feed automated development of personalized assets to drive sales. Branding on the other hand, needs more thoughtful and involved content creation.”
What gets blurry, especially in retail at companies like Macy’s, O’Connell notes, is the difference between content and advertising. This has implications on the budget conversation, and he advises marketers to take a full-funnel view and investment in content solutions.
Four shifts that content marketers might make:
- Update your content governance: Design a system that can accommodate a hybrid model for excellence and speed. Centralized marketing or brand strategy could provide the framework, including a unifying vision, audience-driven approaches, standardization of processes, measurement and shared tech. Multiple content centers can have a degree of autonomy for resources, approvals, budget, and the end product.
- Evolve thought leadership’s role and experience: As this content type continues to have muscle, flex it into new interactive formats and let it stretch further down the funnel to not just build authority but persuade, convert and service customers.
- Adopt new inputs to increase relevance: Tap new behavioral data sources in social and search as well as influencers for decision-making and test emerging tools powered by artificial intelligence for efficiency at scale.
- Explore new ways to scale: Beyond hiring additional employees (which you may need), also consider automation platforms and technologies, outsourcing partnerships, and even user-generated content.
Content marketing continues to fuel marketing transformation, and continues to evolve even within its own formula and forms.