Any way you cut it, producing a steady stream of quality content is tough! As a publisher, creating articles and videos are key tools of the trade, and we are singularly focused. But it still takes excellent planning, strong resource management, and constant discipline to stay ahead of the curve.In our frequent conversations about content with marketing leaders and their team members - frustration seems to be the common thread. In our 2021 Marketing to Engineers Survey, content marketing ranked as the most effective activity (25%) and was also cited as the most significant marketing challenge by 44% of respondents.
The content challenge has been so pervasive for so long that we decided to create a series of articles about it. To begin with, we'll provide a summary of the five biggest obstacles that we hear about most frequently. We will then dig deeper into each problem and offer suggestions in upcoming posts.
What Is Content Marketing?
Almost nobody likes a hard sell! Over the years, the notion of "giving to get" has been a widely accepted marketing principle. Producing and sharing content to help engineers solve problems for their employers and grow in their careers positively impacts all involved.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines Content Marketing as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience - and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. First, you give value, and then you extract that value back over time.
How it Works and Why it Matters
With content marketing, the typical value exchange is when companies offer free resources, and recipients provide contact details and opt-in to further communications. A virtual relationship forms with the hope that when prospects are ready to buy, they will engage because they have a natural affinity with brands they know and trust.
In one of our older but still relevant articles, Mapping Your Content and Keywords to the Engineer's Buying Journey, we discussed the types of content best-suited for the major phases of the customer buying journey. This overlay explains what content people usually consume as they progress through the awareness, consideration, and decision stages of a typical sale.
The key benefits most often associated with content marketing are increased sales, more loyal customers, better ROI, and the opportunity for content as a profit center.
According to HubSpot's, The State of Media & Content Planning in 2022, 82% of marketers actively invest in content marketing, and 66% of marketers expect their 2022 content marketing budgets to increase from 2021. This story has been the same for many years - content marketing works! But always remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
The Word on "Our" Street
The challenges highlighted below are based largely on discussions with clients, partners, and peers. Although much of the information is anecdotal, we will include additional data and references where they apply.
#1 The Great Resignation
This first challenge has involved the entire global workforce over the past couple of years and has been coined “The Great Resignation.” A global study by PWC several months ago found that one in five workers plans to change jobs in 2022. The research was conducted with 52,000 workers in 44 countries, and 71% stated that the reason was making more money.
This widespread trend seems to be hitting technical product and service companies particularly hard. Increasingly, we hear about the strong movement of marketing talent between companies within their respective industries. Although money has always been a factor, perhaps other factors may include the impact of remote work on personal relationships and loyalty - or rebounding companies simply paying what it takes to attract top talent as they rebuild their marketing programs.
Whatever the cause, suddenly vacant roles are highly disruptive for content marketing programs. When someone leaves, the remaining team must pick up the slack, and when individuals with essential content skills walk out the door, the program tends to slow down or stall altogether.
#2 Limited Resources
Let's face it, most people in management roles complain about limited resources. "I don't have enough time," "I don't have enough budget," and "I don't have enough people" are all common phrases in most workplaces. It's not that these woes are untrue because we've all been in career situations where we feel overwhelmed. The challenge is determining why and then fixing the problem.
It's a lack of time and bandwidth that we hear about most often, but in theory, addressing the budget issue solves this because you can hire more people - right? Yes and no. Many things can cause constraints, such as inadequate planning, constantly shifting priorities from the upper echelons, or suddenly losing a large portion of your marketing team.
Under normal conditions, resource planning and optimization are complex. But when you include the disruption of people job-hopping, things become even more daunting. In addition, recruiting and retraining are difficult and time-consuming activities piled on top of all the work that needs to get done.
#3 Securing Intra-Company Experts and Business Leaders
Another significant challenge involves getting others in the company to help with content. We are hearing this one more than ever lately. Two primary audiences are involved - the technical experts and the business leaders or visionaries. It's not easy for specialists or visionaries to participate since everyone has their own time constraints and priorities. Perhaps a symptom of the post-pandemic business climate, getting time with either group is especially tough these days.
In 2020, we wrote a series of articles called Collaborating with Engineers on Content Marketing. A central theme focused on leveraging internal expertise and other resources to help build more authoritative content. Throughout that series, we discussed the realities of getting time and attention from folks in different departments and suggested some ideas to help. Click the link above to access the e-book if you haven't seen it.
#4 Reaching Engineers
The next challenge impacts most markets trying to reach a tightly-defined audience. A strong content marketing program is great, but the best information in the world is worthless if nobody sees it. In addition, reaching specialized professionals in engineering, manufacturing, and other related disciplines is a struggle for even the largest organizations.
There are two primary options. Either work with 3rd parties like industry-specific publishers and social media channels to leverage their reach - or develop an audience yourself. There are obvious advantages to building your own audience. You don’t have to pay to message them and can directly monitor their behaviors and responses to your activities over time. If you do everything right along the way, you stand a good chance of converting your content users into paying customers at some point. The keys are consistency, delivering real value, and balancing educational vs. promotional content.
The downsides of DIY publishing on a large scale are also intuitive - it takes significant amounts of commitment, budget, resources, patience, discipline, and focus to succeed. In addition, you will be under constant pressure for short-term results as your content marketing program slowly takes root and ramps up. Early and continued executive buy-in will be crucial to secure the time you need. Without that support, what started with good intentions will quickly crumble.
As a result, few companies attempt to go all-in. Instead, the scenario we see most often is a hybrid model. One in which the internal content team deploys third-party resources to augment its efforts. As a bonus, marketers often benefit from perceived objectivity and unbiased messaging by outsourcing content such as research or trend reporting. See the article Which Forms of Content Should I Outsource? for more context.
#5 Producing Video Content
We all know that video is a communications and marketing powerhouse. For the past 4 years, nearly 90% of companies have used video marketing. Insivia, research shows that viewers retain 95% of a message when watched compared to 10% when reading text. And a single minute of video is worth about 1.8 million words, according to Forrester. With the pervasive adoption by millennials and the strong educational value for engineers, there is no doubt that video consumption is here to stay. Read our Power of Video Marketing article for additional reference.
The challenge of producing quality video content is that it's very resource-intensive, and significant investments are required. If you do enough videos, having assets such as equipment, software, a permanent recording studio, and people with production skills will be worth the price. However, in most cases, economies of scale are hard to achieve (see here for some production-related tips).
Also, video is simply the content delivery vehicle, albeit a very effective one. Undoubtedly the technical aspects of production are essential, at least as important as the development of the ideas presented. The creation of the theme, goals, script, tone, and "feel" are also key inputs for success.
Videos are fantastic marketing tools, but much thought and energy go into making them. That's why many companies outsource at least some of their production or decide to sponsor relevant content created by publishers.
We strongly believe in the power of content marketing and the value it brings for companies that stick with it. For most marketers, content is an essential ingredient of their strategy - but like anything worthwhile, keeping up the momentum takes a high level of effort, patience, and commitment.
Along with the historical challenges we often hear about, the impact of the pandemic and, in particular, the “Great Resignation” trend have made content marketing that much harder in 2022. But hang in there! Now, more than ever, your audience needs the knowledge and insight you offer through your content. And you would be wise to keep investing in virtual relationships that will lay the foundation for future sales.
To help marketers understand and improve issues such as these, we provide a wide range of free resources to help. In addition, we offer numerous services to help augment your team's content marketing program. If we can help in any way, please click below to learn more or connect with us. Thank you for reading, and we hope you will join us for the rest of the series!