Content marketing offers great brand and business-building opportunities, which is why the most successful marketers are now spending over 40% of their budgets on content strategy.
Unfortunately, many companies waste time and money because they don’t know how to create content that engages with and influences their target audiences. This points to the fundamental issue that some brands struggle to overcome a number of key content marketing challenges.
Based on research and our own experience, these are the 10 biggest content marketing challenges marketers face today:
- Producing high-quality content
- Generating content consistently
- Prioritising content expertise
- Understanding different buyer personas
- Producing content in suitable formats
- Measuring content ROI
- Creating buy-in among stakeholders
- Aligning content with the buyer journey
- Activating content effectively
- Choosing the right channels
1. Producing high-quality content
Content is one of the most effective ways to promote a brand or business but it must be of the quality that B2B buyers want and expect to see.
This means avoiding the creation of more of the same content others are already producing and giving readers something different that’s of real value.
Researching your top competitors’ content and seeing how it performs in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) will give you a good indication of the standard your content must at least match and ideally exceed. Google uses a number of metrics to measure engagement on content hosted on these pages, such as bounce rate, time on page, and depth scrolled.
If you are in a competitive market where it’s a struggle to rank highly for relevant searches then focus on maximising these metrics is not enough. Your content must be bold and original as without a strong opinion or point of difference it is unlikely that you will interest your target audience.
It isn’t enough to create generic ‘one-size-fits-all’ content. To ensure you develop high-achieving content for your audience, find a unique angle and then develop it fully — going both deep and wide on topics that answer the questions of your audience. Aim to create content that is ten times better than anything currently in the SERPs.
2. Generating content consistently
If your brand is to be taken seriously as a thought leader you must produce content consistently. Unfortunately, for 60% of marketers, doing so is the biggest content marketing challenge that they face.
One of the main reasons content is produced erratically is that the majority of businesses don’t have any documented content strategy in place.
Having a clear content strategy will help to ensure that your content will be prioritised and its importance communicated to your stakeholders (both internal and external), not all of whom may understand its value or relevance in today’s marketing mix.
As part of your strategic planning, develop a content calendar for at least the next six months and begin monitoring your competitors’ output. This will give you a benchmark of how much content you will need to create to make an impact in your marketplace.
3. Prioritising content expertise
Creating quality content requires journalistic, design, creative and technical skills. If you are going to produce content in-house you will need to establish a team either by reallocating staff who have the skills or recruiting new talent.
Alternatively, if you lack the internal resources to create enough content to make an impact, then you could appoint an external agency to run the whole process, as increasing numbers of companies are doing.
Not only are they likely to do the job better, but you will also benefit from their expertise and up-to-date understanding of what’s most effective in content marketing.
4. Understanding different buyer personas as part of your strategy
Your buyers are not a homogenous group but a complex ecosystem of individuals who prefer to consume their content in different ways. However, you can only fully appreciate their disparate preferences when you have taken the time to go deeper than just establishing their gender, age or interests. To truly connect with individual buyer types, think about building not just one but multiple buyer personas and then creating different content types to reflect this diversity.
One of the best ways to understand your customers’ needs is simply to ask them – something that 58% of B2B marketers never do. For example, your audience may be made up of ‘skimmers’, ‘waders’ and ‘deep divers’ of content, some of whom will prefer video to a podcast, short articles to long ones, or reading at their desks rather than to listening during their morning commute. Be sure to service them all and give them every opportunity to engage.
5. Producing content in suitable formats
To accommodate a varied landscape when it comes to B2B buyers, it’s important to provide a variety of formats to reflect this diversity.
Particularly when you’ve invested time and money in creating a flagship piece of content, make sure that you use it to its fullest. Be sure that it is repurposed across multiple formats, such as infographics, blogs, and podcasts, to maximise exposure across a wide variety of channels.
Whatever the format, if you want to engage with your target audience then the emphasis must be on delivering value-added content that’s packed with insights and solutions.
6. Measuring content ROI accurately
Increasing investment in data-driven marketing means there’s an ever-greater focus on measurement and analytics. Consequently, if you aren’t monitoring and analysing metrics (such as backlinks from posts, traffic flow to and from your content, your site’s domain authority, the volume of email enquiries or social media shares) you won’t know how hard your content is working.
Consider assigning a monetary value to each website visitor and measure the number of visits each piece of content achieves. Use lead magnets, such as white papers, and give a value to the number of leads that come from the downloads. Marketing automation platforms, such as Pardot, Hubspot and Marketo, will allow end-to-end tracking from the first visit through to purchase.
Measuring content ROI accurately requires having the right analytical tools in place and ensuring they are configured correctly. Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and dashboard visualisation software like Databox, are the most popular analytical technologies being used by B2B organisations currently.
7. Creating buy-in among stakeholders
While a timely, well-written and carefully researched piece of content can become an overnight success, it’s rare that this happens. Generally, you need to create a foundation of content before you get traction in the marketplace. That process isn’t instantaneous. So stakeholders’ expectations must be suitably managed so they understand the long-term benefits and opportunities content marketing presents.
In the first instance, this might mean using online resources, statistics, and case studies to help stakeholders understand the potential benefits of content marketing.
We recommend setting an objective for each piece of content, such as increasing organic traffic, generating leads or building trust, and then setting up your analytics to track these goals. With a clear view on the data, you will be able to generate reports that show the effectiveness of your content and help justify the investment and overall approach to your stakeholders, showing the rewards as your content marketing gains traction.
8. Aligning content with the buyer journey
The content you produce must serve the needs of your target customers at every stage of the buyer journey. Ensuring the right content is available to buyers when they need it is typically one of the biggest challenges marketers face.
With around a quarter of B2B buyers reading five or more pieces of content before even contacting a supplier, there is an obvious appetite for information along the length of the purchasing journey – not just at the top of the funnel, which in 2019 was where 50% of all content created by B2B marketers was focused.
But if you are to add value by creating compelling content for every stage of the buyers’ journey, then you must make sure it has the right narrative and is presented in a preferred format. For example, PR and articles are great for helping to raise awareness; videos and round-up pieces will support buyers during the consideration phase; and case studies and demonstrations – either live or on-demand – help when it is decision time.
But don’t neglect your existing customers in the process. Supporting their ongoing needs can increase retention and encourage them to become advocates for your brand.
9. Activating content effectively
Failure to activate content in a way that it connects and engages with its target audience means that much content goes unused and unseen. To be effective, content marketing needs to shift from a passive to a proactive process, where buyers are guided forward and encouraged to consume more related content as they go, rather than being left to their own devices.
This means building a strategy that ensures one piece of content leads directly to the next. It also relies on you removing obstacles and dead-ends – for example, broken links, unnecessary forms and so on – which audiences often face when attempting to access content. The goal is to make things as simple and smooth as possible so that audiences don’t experience any friction. This is crucial when two-thirds of B2B buyers say they want easier access to content.
10. Choosing the right channels
With a plethora of marketing channels and platforms available, focus on the ones that best connect you with your buyers.
It’s vital to take the time to identify the most appropriate channels to reach your target personas, otherwise, you could end up ‘fishing in the wrong pond’ and your target audiences will never get to enjoy your carefully crafted content.
While many B2B buyers still turn to Google for help during the awareness phase, there are limits to what can be achieved through organic reach alone. The smartest content marketers promote their content using paid digital advertising via social media, reputable industry publications and other online platforms to bolster their organic traffic. Traditional and digital PR, as well as developing partnerships with social media influencers, will also provide significant support to your content marketing efforts.
While it may not always be easy to overcome some of these content marketing challenges, with a quarter of executives saying they now regularly commit to consuming five hours of content each week, the effort is more than worth it for any brand or organisation wanting to position itself as a thought leader. Business leaders are in constant need of insight. Make sure that you are prepared, equipped and ready to get your content in front of them first.