Content Fitness Report: A Year in Review

Mark Nardone

At the beginning of the year PAN conducted a study directed at CMOs to get a better sense of content creation, personalization and path to engagement with customers. After surveying 100 modern marketers about their content priorities we were able to analyze the results and draw some fascinating conclusions on what is driving content marketing in 2016.

Find the full report here: 2016 Content Fitness Report

Now that we are approaching the end of the year, we felt it might be a good time to revisit the results and take a look at the top 5 conclusions from the report. Also, as you prepare for building out your ‘connected’ content marketing program for 2017, hopefully you’ll find the data useful in your planning efforts.

Content_Fitness_Report.jpgSource: used under CC license.

1. In their shift towards personalizing content, modern marketers are realizing the value of customer advocacy on brand awareness and ROI.

As noted in the report, since there is a sense of trust that exists with referrals from customer advocates, the cost of acquisition is less and this year we saw a huge push towards harnessing and nurturing customer advocates.

Customer advocacy and the empowered customer was a big topic of interest for of today’s marketers this year. In a recent interview conducted with Social Marketing Strategist and influencer, Ted Rubin, he notes the following:

“When someone talks about a brand, it spreads. They talk somewhere else (i.e. offline) and that, to me, is the real opportunity that most brands are afraid of. There's a misconception: people think that the vast majority of brands are afraid because they're afraid of what might get said. They're really afraid because it's incredibly hard work and because they're just not ready to jump into it. That's the real fear.” – Ted Rubin

Listening, engaging and personalizing when it comes to customers is a huge part of the advocacy process. A brand’s competitive advantage comes from knowing who your buyer is, knowing when to communicate with them and becoming that informative, trusted source they are looking for. 

Trend – As marketers continue to struggle with insight and listening skills to engage, this will continue to be a hot trend in the coming year. Employees as advocates will also become a bigger point of emphasis on the marketer’s content agenda.

2. A strong focus on increasing content creation is causing marketers to lose confidence in personalizing their content to the needs of their customers.

When we first surveyed marketers back in 2014, 75.7% of marketers felt their content was tailored to the needs of their customers; in 2015 72.5% of marketers had a content plan built off buyer personas and in 2016, 63.9% of marketers thought that their content was tailored to their customers’ needs. After further investigation and research, our analysis pointed out that this decline in personalization was due to pace of content. While this still remains a struggle for many - modern marketers are beginning to take steps in the right direction by mapping out their buyer personas, as well as buying stages to be associated with dedicated content. Marketers see the extreme benefits that content marketing has and they are now investing even further with these efforts. It was reported this year that 63% of major organizations are extremely or very committed to content marketing and 37% now have a documented content marketing strategy. Marketers are no longer ignoring the benefits of personalized content and they are taking the steps to get there.

Trend – look for influencer marketing to play a critical role in helping marketers better engage and move the customer down the path to conversion.  As content continues to grow, account based marketing and tailored techniques will help marketers better target their content while focusing on their efforts.

Need help mapping out your Buyer Personas? Download this eBook to get started: How to Master Buyer Personas for Business

3. Measuring the effectiveness of content and aligning metrics to brand goals continues to be a struggle for modern marketers, despite further developments in the marketing stack.

As we dug deeper into the struggles that modern marketers have when measuring throughout their program, we realized that today’s marketer knows that he or she should be measuring at the beginning, middle and end of their content programs.  However, they still don’t know how to measure effectively, with 51% stating that they are not confident in how they are measuring the impact of their content strategy. Is this still the case? Unfortunately, yes.

A study from Content Marketing Institute stated that 28% of marketers still do not measure the ROI of their content marketing, which means that they have no idea which content pieces are top performers and therefore aren’t leveraging and maximizing their exposure. This is truly a critical stage, and as marketers end the year they should be looking back at their strategy and personas while using their metrics to help them navigate towards where they should be going in 2017. Jeff Bullas gives some thoughtful insight in his recent post 7 Key Signals You Can’t Ignore With Your Content Marketing Metrics which will be an excellent resource as marketers continue to breakthrough this barrier.

Trend – measurement will be moving to a more holistic view of the customer (and employee) as marketers look for cutting-edge ways to support their integrated marketing and content programs. This may be the year that quality of lead/engagement/connectivity finally trumps quantity.  Measurement platforms have the capability to deliver on this promise – but human analysis will remain just as critical in the ROI conversation.

4. While marketers are growing more confident that they can handle marketing in a digital world, keeping up with content and mobile trends are still points of concern.

Mobile marketing is no longer considered a trend for today’s marketers. It’s in fact a fundamental shift in how customers are interacting with the Internet and with brands. Internally at PAN this was a big initiative for us. We completely revamped our website in an effort to better our user experience for our mobile readers, clients and advocates. A 2016 Salesforce report noted that the mobile percentage of marketers who are realizing the return on their mobile investment jumped 147% from 2015 to 2016. Location-based marketing is clearly on the rise; we saw examples of that this year with the Pokemon GO app – a revolution in mobile location advertising.  Another brand that is partaking in this type of marketing and doing so effectively is Waze. The app now has specific calls to action where they encourage users to visit a specific store location while they’re in the area. Waze is certainly seeing the benefits and notes the importance of this information in this Huffington Post article saying,

“Local data can tell you what your audience likes to do in their spare time, when they’re most likely to visit your business, and what they tend to do before and after visiting your store, among other things. Then you can use that knowledge, plus your knowledge of their location, to create personalized ads delivered right to their mobile devices.”  - Jonathan Crowl, Waze

Trend - These examples will inevitably continue as we head into 2017 and as marketers become even more confident with their mobile marketing strategy. However, content should be created with a ‘mobile FIRST’ approach as long as the insight and behaviors from your analytics (and listening) align to that channel. Short form content will rule the content kingdom.

5. Marketers are interested in adopting more interactive approaches to targeting their audience, and we can expect to start to see new technology influencing marketing strategies.

Headlines hit hard this year with how VR, AR and mixed reality and brands are getting to the point where they are experimenting more comfortably with VR in an effort to have an immersed customer experience. During May 2016, RedBull unleashed this 360-degree video that invites you to go on an expedition to an active volcano while integrating brand elements throughout the VR experience. In February 2016, Oreo got into the action with a 360-degree video to further engage its audience and welcomes viewers into their “Oreo Wonder Vault.” Even TIME magazine jumped at the chance to capitalize on VR, and they now offer their readers a VR app that allows you to either experience a daring WWII rescue mission or to de-stress and relax with a meditative bioluminescent forest experience. Several others of this kind have immerged, and we will certainly see this trend continue to escalate into 2017. To find out more about the evolving VR and AR trends, check out the below blog posts:

Trend – experiential marketing will become a fixture in today’s marketing toolbox.  In an effort to stay leading edge and drive a better (or ultimate) user experience with the brand, marketers will continue to look for unique ways to differentiate their story through compelling content and a VR type engagement.

What content marketing trends have you discovered this year? Let us know and we will continue the conversation on Twitter:

2016 Content Fitness Report

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Topics: Thought Leadership

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