Content is king: How CMOs can harness the power of content marketing
As consumers seek access to more kinds of information more swiftly than ever before, brand marketers can no longer rely on mass media advertising campaigns to deliver both brand awareness and product and service utility. To better understand the current state of content marketing, Deloitte Digital performed quantitative and qualitative analysis and identified four key processes that are guiding CMOs and marketing leaders as they define, design, and execute successful content marketing programs.
As consumers seek access to more kinds of information more swiftly than ever before, brand marketers can no longer rely on mass media advertising campaigns to deliver both brand awareness and product and service utility. The days of marketers relying on push marketing campaigns and price incentives to maintain share of voice and wallet have long since come and gone in favor of the premise that if consumers are always on, brands also must be always on, and engaged at all stages of the purchase funnel. Add to that today’s crowded media clutter, and marketers face the task of how to differentiate themselves above the noise.
Increasingly, marketers are recognizing that they must first establish their brands as credible providers of consumer lifestyle or business information to earn the trust of both existing and prospective customers. This trust also serves as the foundation to build brand awareness and drive purchase decisions.
For many marketers, this dynamic has led to the evolution of their messaging from campaign-driven toward an evergreen, customer-centric approach commonly described as “content marketing.” By delivering a steady stream of interesting and relevant content to engage their customers, marketers are able to establish the credibility and trust to build stronger, lasting relationships that drive lifetime value.
Developing and deploying a content marketing strategy is a process that involves looking horizontally across all content created, curated, and distributed by brands or business units, with two primary goals in mind: cohesive messaging, and content efficiency.
When executed appropriately, marketers are able to plan, create, curate, and syndicate their content in a more cohesive way across products and services without redundancies, producing a calendar of messaging that resonates across the customer’s journey.
Measuring success: Creating the structure to determine impact and success
To better understand the current state of content marketing, Deloitte Digital performed analysis on a year’s worth of content marketing-related social media content, evaluating 3,658,248 pieces of social media content mentioning “content marketing,” pulled from Twitter, blogs, forums, YouTube, and news sites. Analysts used qualitative and quantitative methods to determine how marketers are discussing the topic. Through this analysis, Deloitte Digital identified four key processes that are guiding CMOs and marketing leaders as they define, design, and execute successful content marketing programs:
- Defining content marketing: It is key to level set the definition and importance of content marketing at the outset. The evolution from campaign marketer to “brand as publisher” begins with marketing leadership providing a clear definition of what content marketing is, and explaining its value by sharing what it can do for their company.
- Evolving the marketing organization: Producing enough compelling content for the always-on consumer requires different disciplines, collaborations, and activities to drive efficient and cohesive content marketing programs. Marketing organizations that integrate marketing communications and content creators from inside and outside the marketing organization are often more agile and better positioned to generate content at the speed of conversation and community.
- Establishing governance: There are various governance models and approaches for how content can be planned, calendared, created, curated, and syndicated in alignment across brands and business units. To inform the development of the governance model that will work best for their organizations, marketers are recommending testing a pilot program with a smaller content marketing program and leveraging their findings to inform and define the objectives, strategy, structure, roles, responsibilities, processes, and measures for the enterprise. Establishing governance not only helps drive content supply chain efficiency, but also helps surface more cohesive brand messaging across brands, products, and business units.
- Measuring success: The larger business goals and effects of content marketing require that marketers measure return on investment by tracking a broader portfolio of metrics across a blended scorecard. CMOs can guide the development of meaningful metrics that incorporate the brand, engagement, advocacy, and sales and e-commerce KPIs used by participating functions into one combined scorecard for the C-suite.
Defining content marketing: Building executive support through a clear purpose and strategy
While many marketers are talking about content marketing, there are differing definitions on what it actually is or what is required to do it well. Within a given company, content marketing can mean different things to different groups: recruiting content for human resources, lead generation content for sales, brand amplification and storytelling for marketing and public relations, etc.
The key to successfully managing all of this content and keeping its purpose clear is to design a horizontal strategy that ensures that all messaging ladders up to an overall content strategy. The question marketing leaders struggle with is, how?
The absence of a clear definition and strategy makes it difficult for marketers to garner the support and buy-in required from executive leadership and the other business groups whose support and resources may be needed. It is essential to kick off content marketing initiatives by authoring a content strategy that is reflective of the company-specific subject matter pillars that drive both brand presence and customer needs.
The most successful content marketing strategies orient the focus on the customer, with a key goal of engaging with customers rather than as an afterthought. Marketers who use content to create customer experiences are able to differentiate their brand and entice the customer to move a step further toward conversion.
Once a clear definition and strategy is in place, content marketing is able to catalyze the evolution of a marketing organization–and more broadly the business at large. Defining the what, why, who, and how of content marketing is also critical for building interest and support across the organization and executive sponsorship from senior leaders. In 2015, 69 percent of marketing, sales, and business professionals across industries reported that they built successful business cases for video content marketing by demonstrating its effectiveness in building customer relationships and brand affinity.1 A documented strategy is also key to securing budget. 64 percent of companies with a documented content strategy have a dedicated budget, while only 14 percent of companies without a fully documented content strategy have a dedicated budget.2
Evolving the marketing organization: Meeting the demands for scale and speed
Increasing digital options and resources available to consumers has resulted in a nonlinear path to purchase. As a result, marketing now has the potential for more influence in the early stages of the customer journey. This means marketing teams must evolve to be ever ready to engage with consumers. In order for marketing professionals to evolve from campaign-centric to “always-on” content marketers, a content marketing strategy producing a continual stream of relevant, resonant content is essential. This approach demands significantly more content and a faster production schedule than campaign-specific marketing efforts where marketing is able to act independently in a controlled environment.
As companies transition toward continuous content production, marketing is evolving and bringing their content creation and sourcing in-house. Many marketers are turning away from agencies who struggle to create content cost effectively at the increased scale and speed that their clients require. Companies are setting up their own in-house editorial teams to achieve the scale and pace required while remaining within budget.3
Because the quantity of content needed exceeds their capabilities, marketers are looking to teams across the company for content creation support. Setting up cross-functional teams requires breaking down traditional silos and hierarchies. The creation of in-house content teams incorporates diverse skill sets and cross-functional collaboration with other departments, including sales, customer service, and IT.
When creating content, marketers are increasingly incorporating agile development processes in order to be responsive to a variety of factors, including shifting market conditions, customer situations, seasonality, and more. Agile development methods incorporate learning, adjusting, and optimizing, and are lauded for increasing the speed and flexibility of digital marketing efforts.4 Similar to agile software development, agile marketing focuses on testing, experimenting with data, and producing responsive, rapid iterations. Agile teams require multiple competencies, from content creation to analytics to digital marketing, which makes them able to pivot more quickly to optimize in real-time. Marketing teams who move in this direction are able to achieve cross-department collaboration, move marketing projects in-house, and manage ongoing content marketing projects across multiple teams.
To evolve marketing to meet the demands of a content marketing-driven company, CMOs should work with key leadership to secure cross-functional buy-in and garner support for the shift in resourcing and budget allocation.
Establishing governance: Defining the framework to support cross-functional collaboration
With marketing departments working cross-functionally across departments, governance frameworks that define rules, processes, and systems can guide how these teams work together and ensure alignment.
Although marketing executives know content marketing governance is important, it is not always implemented. While 65 percent of senior marketing and IT executives believe that visual content assets are key to communicating a brand’s story, only 27 percent have processes in place to aggregate, organize, and manage these assets across teams.5
Marketing executives feel there is no one-size-fits-all governance model, as each enterprise has to be nimble to its requirements and culture. Regardless of a specific model and approach, a governance model that clearly defines the content strategy and communicates the mission statement can serve as the reference point across business groups.
Among marketers several approaches to designing governance models are cited most often, including:
- A centralized in-house editorial team, internal agency, or hybrid of both
- The appointment of a chief content officer who oversees the process across teams
- The creation of a center of excellence to set standards
Having a centralized hub is also helpful as content production at large enterprises is often facilitated by a mix of an in-house content team combined with agency support, freelance writers, and content licensing partners outside of the organization, all of whom need to coordinate together to create successful, engaging, on-point content.
Another common governance element discussed is organizing teams by process (strategy, creative, analytics) rather than by channel or tactic (SEO, social, etc.). This approach can reduce fragmented messaging that can result when multiple sources produce content in silo.
Defined roles and responsibilities also help guide how marketing can work with the sales and IT departments to select and integrate technologies across business units. For example, when stakeholders from multiple business units are involved, it can be easier to integrate your content management system (CMS) with your customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation tools. This in turn makes it easier to share data across the enterprise and get everyone on the same page. This can also promote shared visibility, access, and collaboration between teams as companies build out cross-functional business models.6
Marketing leaders discuss that small pilot programs can be a crucial first step to determining what governance approaches will work well for their organization. Many recommend that testing a smaller program allows them to see what works well for their organization and then leverage their findings to inform the development of an enterprise governance. These pilot programs often also become part of a CMO’s business case to obtain executive leadership buy-in to develop and build an enterprise-wide governance model.
Based on their high-level view of how marketing needs to work with other business groups, CMOs must create a clear governance model defining the content marketing objectives and strategies, and providing the structure for roles, responsibilities, and standards to support the success of content marketing efforts.
Measuring success: Determining the metrics that matter to evaluate impact and success
The ability to measure the success of content marketing efforts is a key component for obtaining executive buy-in, but represents a major challenge for content marketers as there is no clear consensus about which metrics to track and how to define success. In fact, only 21 percent of B2B content marketers and 23 percent of B2C content marketers believe they are successful at tracking ROI.7
Marketers are in agreement that there is no “gold standard” or “single metric” that companies prioritize over others. KPIs vary depending on an individual brand’s goals and even vary across departments within a single organization. Instead, marketers discussed looking at performance across the portfolio rather than specific pieces of content.
C-suite executives who have defined unifying metrics applicable across their organizations have found these metrics to be crucial for multiple departments and teams to align to a shared vision. Within this approach, many marketers are discussing measuring success against strategic goals such as building long-term customer relationships and improving the customer experience. These marketers are also looking at a broader set of metrics that incorporate both traditional quantitative metrics and qualitative metrics to define success.
The traditional web metrics marketers see as markers of success include site visits, downloads, subscribes and unsubscribes, click-throughs, and time on site. LinkedIn8 notes that the top five content marketing metrics marketers are using include:
- Web traffic/visits
- Lead quantity
- Lead quality
- Social media shares
With the most common content marketing goals including lead generation, increased brand awareness, customer retention, customer acquisition, and cost reduction (versus making immediate sales), many marketers recommend including qualitative measures of success such as perception change, interaction quality, or content quality.9
When looking to measure the impact of content marketing programs, the CMO must take a leadership role in defining and creating the measurement framework that incorporates assessment of marketing’s impact both on the long term customer-centric goals of their programs and the short-term KPIs that are indicators of increased engagement.
Takeaway: The CMO as ambassador, visionary, and leader
Content marketing presents an opportunity for companies to build relationships with customers and develop customer experiences in a new way. The CMO must be a leader and ambassador in defining and championing a content marketing strategy, evolving marketing and their company overall to meet the demands of their customers.
To employ content marketing successfully, the CMO should provide direction and leadership in four key areas:
Defining content marketing to build executive support through a clear purpose and strategy: Securing leadership support for the transformation and investment required to develop and execute a content marketing strategy means that the CMO’s first focus is on communicating what content marketing means for their company and how it benefits the larger organization.
Evolving the marketing department to meet the demands of speed and scale of content creation in an always-on world: Moving from a traditional campaign-driven strategy to an ongoing content marketing strategy necessitates the CMO drive the development of new content production models. This often means bringing more work in-house and creating cross-functional content generation teams.
Establishing governance to support cross-functional collaboration: With their visibility across the company and their leadership of marketing, the CMO should take the helm on defining the guidelines, structures, processes, and mission statements for their company’s content marketing initiatives, and what role each team in the organization plays within that initiative. The governance framework needs to encompass all content-producing parts of the organization, including those that fall outside of marketing, in order to get buy-in and cooperation across teams.
Measuring success by determining the key metrics that matter when evaluating the impact of content marketing efforts: Because content marketing strategies are designed to support long-term efforts such as customer relationship and brand building, the CMO must lead the development of both quantitative and qualitative content marketing metrics. This process must include consideration of current KPIs used by not only marketing, but other functions within the company, and determine content marketing KPIs that represent a holistic view of customers’ experiences.
Executing a content marketing strategy and creating an engaging, always-on digital presence requires a transformation of the way marketing does business. As companies seek to differentiate themselves, the underlying goal of all of these four key areas is developing relationships with their customers through a customer-centric content marketing strategy that can build connections and drive long-term results. The CMO must lead this evolution as well as serve as ambassador within the larger organization. They must define what content marketing will mean for their company and advocate for the benefits it offers, driving the process and organizational changes required for successful implementation.
Deloitte Digital analysts executed a qualitative and quantitative approach to uncovering insights for this report. Research analysts developed Boolean queries that captured content around “content marketing” and entered them into social listening tools to collect the full relevant online conversation.
The online query of content marketing posts collected 3,658,248 pieces of social media content mentioning “content marketing.” The data set consisted of a full year of data, Dec. 1, 2014-Nov. 30, 2015, including English-language content from Twitter, blogs, forums, news websites, and YouTube. Analysts data mined these posts to identify and quantify themes and trends related to content marketing.
Analysts identified that 74 percent of the social content about content marketing focused on the executional aspects, which are of less interest to CMOs operating at a strategic level. Marketing managers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs conducting content marketing on a day-to-day basis used social media to share tactics, tips, and best practices.
The remaining 14 percent of content about content marketing focused on higher-level strategic content relevant to executives, such as management and operations, broader enterprise strategy, and the evolving content marketing environment. Within this strategic data, analysts manually coded the four key conversation trends to determine volume and qualitatively analyzed the posts to understand the drivers behind each of those topics.
1 https://highq.com/2015-year-of-video-marketing/ HighQ, 2015. “2015: The year of video marketing.”
2 CMO Council, 2015. “From creativity to content: the role of visual media in impactful brand storytelling.”
3 Jason Daigler, Technology overview for customer journey analytics, May 4, 2015, http://www.gartner.com/document/ 3043517/meter/charge/, accessed September 21, 2015.
4 Sheryl Pattek with Moira Dorsey, David M. Cooperstein, Lori Wizdo, Alexandra Hayes, Elizabeth Perez, 2014. “Reboot your organization for modern marketing: use a marketing operating system approach to reconstruct your marketing organization,” Forrester.
5 CMO Council, 2015. “From creativity to content: the role of visual media in impactful brand storytelling.”
6 Percolate, 2015. “Creating Innovative Marketing Systems.” https://percolate.com/clients/ge
7 Content Marketing Institute, 2016. “B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America.”
8 LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, 2014. “B2B Content Marketing Spotlight Report.” http://www.slideshare.net/hschulze/b2b-content-marketing-report-40688285
9 Dave Hanley, “Social ROI: The Need For Measuring Long-Term Investment,” AdExchanger, January 22, 2016 http://adexchanger.com/data-driven-thinking/social-roi-the-need-for-measuring-long-term-investment/, accessed February 3, 2016