Content marketing is becoming more integral to organizational success every day.

Fully 88% of B2B marketers report that their organizations are using content marketing, and 76% plan to create more content than they did last year, but only 30% consider their content marketing effective, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute.

In short, content marketing is a high priority for many marketing organizations, but most are struggling with the strategies, processes, and technologies that help them succeed.

Content marketing—and the construction of a concerted strategy around it—is only going to get more advanced as 2016 progresses, leaving content strategy leaders with much room to grow and excel.

Here are the four things that content leaders should be most aware of regarding their content strategy this year and beyond.

1. Attributes Content Strategy Leaders Should Possess

The content strategy leader should be able to facilitate content alignment through centralized content assets and messaging, as well as ensure that those assets are widely available to the departments that need it (especially Sales).

Key characteristics or strengths necessary to succeed in a content strategy role:

  • Writing/detail-oriented: copywriting, editing, and content planning skills
  • Organized: able to manage multiple vendors, agencies, budgets, projects, and individuals
  • Analytical: strong data analysis and management skills
  • Leader: strong leadership, communication and presentation skills
  • Collaborative: able to coordinate and build consensus across the organization/departments
  • Flexible: comfortable being a change agent, managing multiple projects and interacting with multiple teams and executive levels

2. Goals for Content Strategy Leaders

The overarching goal of a content strategy leader, according to SiriusDecisions, is to "create comprehensive, enterprise-wide visibility for the strategy, people, processes, technology and measurement that contribute to improved content lifecycle management."

The five major goals a content strategy leader should strive to achieve are...

  1. Content accessibility: Provide widespread, available access to relevant content for all of an organization's individuals, at any time.
  2. Brand awareness: Gain maximum external exposure to an organization's message and vision through content (77% of B2B marketers say brand awareness is a top goal of their content marketing).
  3. Message consistency: Ensure consistent messaging and branding regardless of the medium through which content is delivered (this goes for salespeople and other external-facing parties).
  4. Revenue generation: Generate quality leads/accounts through marketing content efforts to convert into sales.
  5. Content effectiveness: Use content analytics to understand how content is used internally (by sales reps) and externally (by buyers) and determine what works and what should be modified for maximum effectiveness.

3. Challenges Content Strategy Leaders Face

Because a content strategy leader works closely with multiple organizational departments and external vendors and partners, he or she runs into various challenges.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, some of the biggest content-strategy challenges large companies face are the following:

  • Content management: One of the most straightforward yet most difficult challenges, content management is typically a constant headache for content strategists. Content is created, stored, edited, shared, updated, and saved in a multitude of locations, giving content strategists a substantial amount of work to consolidate, locate, and ensure message consistency for those assets.
  • Lack of integration/alignment: Especially in enterprise companies, it can be difficult to get all departments aligned and using the same storage and tagging methods, content repositories, and even messaging. When departments act as silos instead of an integrated ecosystem, content management and strategy creation can seem impossible.
  • Lack of buy-in/vision: Similar to alignment, gaining buy-in for a content strategy, initiative, or investment can be a challenge simply within the marketing department. But reaching consensus with the organization at-large sometimes seems like a battle not worth fighting. Content strategists must be diligent and proactive in increasing buy-in and consensus for certain initiatives.
  • Measuring content effectiveness and engagement: Content strategists must find a way to track how content is used by both internal and external audiences so they know what messaging and which distribution channels, media, and formats are and aren't working.

4. How to Overcome Those Challenges

  • Conduct a content audit: Take inventory of all content on the company's website, as well as all internal and external content that supports the sales process, customer and partner support, and data collection. Then, use analytic or content management tools to assess the effectiveness and usage of each asset to determine how accessible and successful all assets are.
  • Integrate CRM, marketing automation, and content management tools: To better align their sales and marketing departments, organizations must integrate those three major solutions. Doing so further helps identify content gaps and new target audiences, and also track content usage. Even more so, it allows content strategists to analyze how sales reps used content in certain selling situations—and, most important, tie content efforts to won sales.
  • Make content accessible from within the CRM or email, or both: One of the biggest challenges for a content strategist is making sure that content is as accessible as possible for all external-facing employees. Making sales content available within the CRM and email ensures that the sales organization is using only the content deemed appropriate by the content strategist, thus increasing brand and message consistency.
  • Eliminate one-off content creation: Most content strategists report not having enough time to reach their goals; the never-ending content requests from all over the organization are a major reason for that lack of time. Content strategists can give Sales the ability to create its own content—including presentations, proposals, contracts, and more—without compromising message and branding control with content automation tools integrated with CRM.
  • Measure content usage: Increasing buy-in for an initiative or reaching consensus on a strategic initiative is difficult to do without quantitative data and recommendations. Content usage analytics helps to quantitatively measure content's contribution to the sales pipeline and gives content strategy leaders much more credibility for budgeting, investments, and personnel growth opportunities.

* * *

Content leaders will continue to wage an uphill war against outdated and hard-to-find content in 2016. But it is a war that can—and should—be won. By addressing the challenges above and acting swiftly to combat them, content strategy leaders will find themselves in a position to create, manage, and distribute content that wins.

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A Content Strategy Leader's Road Map for Success in 2016 (and Beyond)

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image of Alyssa Drury

Alyssa Drury is the content marketing manager at Seismic, a leading content automation solution provider.

Twitter: @alyssadrury

Linkedin: Alyssa Drury