Understanding The New Challenges of Content Marketing

Content marketing what can we say about it? Let us think about that for a second. I am guessing that your initial thoughts to that question are it is big and brands cannot ignore it. You would be right. Brands, particularly SME brands, cannot ignore it because it is important for SEO and clear evidence that it generates leads and new business. But I argue that increasingly now we need to think more deeply than that about content marketing. Too often we only scratch the surface rather than dig deep beneath it when it comes to understanding content marketing. Indeed SME brands can often become so absorbed in producing content for their content marketing efforts that they do not take the time to sit back and think about what is happening in the content marketing industry. Hopefully this month’s opinion piece column by me will help with that process.

Content marketing is becoming “harder” yet not too many brands always see that because they can become too absorbed in the process of content production. Or if they do see it they can easily forget it. Why is it becoming harder? The answer to this is with the rise of content marketing over the last few years more and more content is being produced by brands online. As more and more content is produced by brands this means that your content marketing efforts increasingly have to offer more value for free to your target audience than what it did before.

The reason is that to make your content stand out in a crowded space it has to be not only engaging and interactive – but also valuable to your target audience. But this is the thing it is no longer enough for your content to be “valuable” – and in any case what does that word “valuable” in the context of content marketing even mean in real terms? What does “valuable” content look like? How do we define “valuable” and is our definition of “valuable” content right? Do you see the point I am making here? We need to take the time first to define “valuable” in the context of the content marketing industry itself and the future direction it is heading in. Valuable is a subjective word. What is “valuable” to one person is not necessarily “valuable” to another. Value changes with time it does not remain static. What is “valuable” to the consumer or customer in content marketing terms today is not valuable to them tomorrow. Value is constantly changing and evolving but again do we always truly understand and see that when we are absorbed in producing content for multiple digital channels?

Content marketing is not free. That is another myth. It always requires investment in terms of employee training, employee time spent on generating content for social media sites, blogs, and brand websites. Content can include text, written articles, images and interactive digital video production. That all takes time and a budget to produce. Then there is the post production intelligence gathering activity of analytics to refine your content through learning what works and what doesn’t. It is time intensive. If I am sounding too negative about content marketing at this point keep with me. You see I am not against content marketing – how could I be when the evidence clearly tells us it is time well spent – but I do believe increasingly now in a crowded digital content space brands need to think more deeply about it.

The mistake many brands are making today I feel is that they are not increasing their investment in content marketing each year in line and correlation with the growth in the content marketing industry each year. As content marketing as an industry grows year on year your investment in content marketing as an SME brand has to increase in line with that. Not everybody sees that and if they do see that do the question I pose is do they really truly understand the full future implications of it?

Increasingly an element of future budget planning and a greater future focus on ROI is arguably needed to resource content marketing efforts both sustainably and effectively. With increased investment in any activity the C suite of a company always demand more evidence to justify ROI (return on investment) which is why measurement of content marketing is going to increase going forward. SME brands should prepare now for that change. Those that do will be ahead of the game and competitors.

Finally, on a general note I believe that SME brands cannot and should not be on every social media channel out there producing content for it. There is no one size fits all. Nor should there be. And don’t even think about sharing the same content across all your social channels! That doesn’t work and there is an increasing realisation of that now. Each social media channel is different and has different features. The real challenge is to first find out how best to leverage that channel and its features for you and your content marketing efforts as part of the digital marketing mix. In the future I believe more SME brands increasingly concentrate focus on a fewer number of social channels as they realise the need to increase their investment wisely in content marketing in line with the growth seen each year in content marketing.