Here's a scenario: It's lunchtime. Today it's your job to make lunch for the family. You decide to make sandwiches. In the kitchen, rummaging through cabinets, you realize you're fresh out of bread, so you make a run to the store.
Once there, what do you buy? Bread? Or bananas?
If you responded "bananas," you may well be a content marketer.
Recently I have been busily crunching data for a new research report on the content marketing software landscape (the full report will be available in late April/early May from Altimeter Group at no cost). We're sifting through piles of survey data about marketers' content marketing pain points, their budgets, how they make buying decisions, and how these wants and needs correspond to the existing offerings from a highly varied, complex, and rapidly changing vendor landscape.
Surveys often reveal surprises, and this time is no exception. We broke content marketing solutions into a total of nine categories and asked content marketers two key questions:
- What types of content marketing software solutions do you most urgently need?
- What software solutions do you plan to invest in over the next 12 months?
Overwhelmingly, their answers fall into the realm of complete disconnect (i.e., buying bananas when you know you need bread).
I'm not going to give away all our research findings (besides, we're still working on the report), but when the data started coming back, we learned that overwhelmingly, content marketers intend to spend money this year on tools that help them to create more content. "Feeding the beast" is no longer a term reserved for journalists and newsrooms; it's a very real problem facing organizations that are working hard to create content for a proliferating number of channels, primarily in owned and earned (social media) channels.
But ask these same marketers what they actually need in terms of content marketing software solutions, and you'll get a very different answer. They are saying that they need tools to help them find and target the right audience for all the content they're so frantically trying to create.
There are clearly many reasons for this disconnect, but the most glaringly obvious one is a focus on tactics over strategy (i.e., on cart-before-the-horse content marketing coming before content strategy). The overwhelming majority of the content marketers we surveyed say their organization lacks a formal, documented content strategy -- a statistic borne out by similar studies. For example, according to the Content Marketing Institute half of B2B marketers don't have a formal strategy).
If there's a clarion call for a documented content strategy, it's spending money on bananas when what you really need is bread (or, in this case, content creation instead of finding the appropriate audience for what's created).
It's hard to think of a more apt metaphor for why organizations require content strategy than this disconnect between need and pain on the one hand, and budget allocation on the other.
Bear in mind it's not an either/or proposition. Strategy is also planning against goals and determining what tools and workflows are required for an efficient and effective content marketing program. I'm by no means debunking the need for creation tools. Anyone creating content for digital channels needs them.
But they also require distribution, targeting, optimization, metrics, and mechanisms to ensure legal and compliance guidelines are honored. These various categories of content software have barely been taken into account, much less assessed and budgeted for, by organizations that have nevertheless plunged wholeheartedly into creation tactics.
Our forthcoming research will, hopefully, help marketers to recognize these problems and make more rational, informed decisions based on real needs and pain points. I'm looking forward to sharing it soon.