Tech Marketers Show Commitment to Content Marketing; Now Comes the Hard Part

By: Rob O'Regan
05/03/2017
Executive Voices

Technology marketers are making steady progress with content marketing. As their “brand as publisher” strategies take root, the next step for many will center on more precise measurement and an evolving strategy defined by a more diverse content mix.

The Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) recently released Technology Content Marketing 2017 report paints a positive picture of tech marketers’ commitment and approach to content marketing. The report (which IDG/IDG Enterprise sponsored) is a derivative of CMI’s broader annual study on content marketing strategies and tactics.

Some key stats underscore tech marketers’ progress:

  • 95% are using some form of content marketing.
  • 69% are extremely or very committed to content marketing.
  • 73% say their strategy includes a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process, not simply a campaign.
  • 74% say they prioritize content quality over quantity. Nevertheless, 70% expect to produce more content this year than last.
  • 76% claim to be measuring content marketing ROI.
  • 64% said their organizations are more successful with content marketing than they were a year ago.
  • 92% of those reporting increased success attributed that success to higher-quality, more efficient content creation.

Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) say their approach to content marketing is at least moderately successful, but just 5% consider themselves sophisticated – which CMI defines as providing accurate measurement to the business and scaling across the organization. Another 26% say they’ve reached a mature phase in which they’re finding success but are still challenged to integrate their efforts across the organization.

Growing Pains

Some growing pains persist as tech marketers reach for the next level of maturity, particularly in the area of measurement.

For example, the percentage of marketers who are clear on what a successful content marketing program looks like dropped to 41% in 2017 from 45% a year ago. The remaining 59% say they don’t know what a successful content marketing program looks like or are unsure how to define success. Given that 76% say they’re measuring content marketing ROI, it seems that many are measuring something – they’re just not sure what the end result is.

This confusion may be affecting budgets. Fewer than half of tech marketers (43%) plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next 12 months – down from 51% in 2016 and 56% in 2015. The glass-half-empty take is that a lack of tangible ROI makes it difficult to justify increased budget.

Increasing Efficiency

The glass-half-full take is that marketers are becoming more efficient with their content marketing spending. Among respondents who say their organizations’ content marketing is more successful than a year ago, the top three contributing factors were:

  • Higher quality/more efficient content creation: 92%
  • Strategy development or adjustment: 74%
  • Better content distribution (e.g., targeting): 55%

These factors underscore what tech marketers see as the core components of a content marketing strategy:

Content Marketing Strategy

Evolving Tactics

Tech marketers use an average of 10 content types, down from 14 in 2016. This indicates that marketers are consolidating around core tactics such as blogs and social media content. It’s notable that traditional content types such as white papers, email newsletters, and webcasts remain strong, while the number of marketers using videos, interactive tools, and podcasts dropped year to year.

When asked which tactics will be most critical to success in 2017, blogs were ranked #1 (57%), followed by ebooks/white papers and webinars/webcasts (49% each). The latter two tactics make it clear that tech marketers still rely heavily on lead generation as a metric of success. Indeed, 88% say lead generation is a goal of their content marketing efforts for the year ahead.

Tech marketers need to be wary of this trap. The ongoing need to measure content marketing ROI via lower-funnel metrics such as lead quality and conversion is critical, but it should not inhibit experimentation with upper- and mid-funnel tactics that drive awareness and engagement. Case in point: IDG Enterprise’s Customer Engagement research found that 95% of tech decision-makers watch technology-related videos. We’re also seeing heightened interest in podcasts, which offer tech brands an opportunity to connect with technology decision-makers in a convenient, easy-to-consume, cost-effective format.

Don’t ignore these opportunities simply because they don’t fit easily into your measurement mandate. Continually evolving your content marketing mix, while refining your strategy and processes, will help you attract and maintain a more engaged audience. That’s a critical factor in any good ROI story.

Where are you making progress with content marketing? Share at @roboregan.

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