Are we in the Dark Ages of Content Marketing? Wait... What? Isn't the future of content marketing bright?

I'd like to think it is, but even as many practitioners are steadily stepping up their game, far too many B2B marketers are poking around in the dark, compromising their content marketing efforts with a lack of leadership, planning, customer empathy, content asset management, and analytic processes.

"Content is kind of everybody's job and nobody's job," said Content Marketing Institute's chief strategy adviser, Robert Rose. He shared a heap of amazing insights with me, as did four more content marketing experts: Ann Handley, Ardath Albee, Scott Abel, and Michael Brenner. If you know content marketing, you know that's quite a panel.

I'm happy to tell I'm about to bring you more insights from this panel of experts in various ways:

Ann Handley: On Content Marketing Leadership

Ann Handley co-wrote "the book" on Content Marketing, Content Rules, as well as the best-selling Everybody Writes, and is known as the world's first chief content officer (CCO).

I asked Ann, "Why should a company have a CCO?"

"Content is increasingly at the heart of what a company does to attract prospects, grow their audience, and ultimately turn the two camps into customers," she said. "So in my mind, you need have somebody who gets the big picture and is responsible for creating and amplifying content that's at the heart of the organization. Content is a relationship builder, so you've got to have somebody who really understands the business side of things as well as the marketing side of things."

Robert Rose: On Content Planning

Robert Rose co-wrote Managing Content Marketing and is the chief strategy advisor at Content Marketing Institute.

I asked Robert, "Does the absence of a documented strategy remain the biggest problem in content marketing?"

"It's a huge problem," Robert said. "It's interesting to me that the amount of content we create as a business today just continues to increase exponentially and we still haven't discovered we don't have a strategic function for it in the business....

"The businesses that we see that are having some level of success (and quite frankly, reducing the amount of content while increasing its impact) are those that are taking the time to do strategic planning for (1) why content should exist in the first place and (2) how it will be managed, optimized, and measured in order to move the needle for the business."

Ardath Albee: On Persona-Driven Strategy

Ardath Albee authored Digital Relevance and Content Strategies That Drive Results. She's the CEO and B2B marketing strategist at Marketing Interactions.

I asked Ardath, "How can B2B marketers get better at persona development—or even get started?"

"Developing personas takes a lot more than getting the marketing team in a room around a pizza and saying, 'OK, let's describe our buyers,'" Ardath replied.

"The problem we have as marketers is we know too much about our products. We think we know our buyers, but our perspective is skewed because we make it about what we think....

"When I work with clients, I stress the first thing they need to understand is [that] what they think probably isn't going to turn out to be what's true about their buyers, once we've done the research. So one of the things marketers really need to do is qualitative research. They need to do interviews. On top of that, they need to think about the relationships between their personas."

Scott Abel: On Managing Content Assets

Scott Abel is one of the world's foremost authorities on content strategy. He co-produced The Language of Content Strategy and founded The Content Wrangler.

I asked Scott. "Does lack of alignment between Marketing and Sales contribute to wasting cycles on creating content that isn't used?"

"Yeah, and I'd say it's not limited to these two departments," Scott answered. "Customers are exposed to the content they are exposed to. They don't care what department created it and they don't care if Sales and Marketing are misaligned. They really are just frustrated because they are looking for information and not able to find it. When they find it, it's incongruent....

"What's also interesting beside the content that's unused is the content that is used. Often the content that's being used—especially in a B2B environment—is technical content. It may be content created by Support, or Training, or Technical Communication, but it may in fact propel somebody from being a prospect to a customer. So I think there's a bigger problem here when we talk about the alignment issue, and that is we must be thinking of ourselves as brands instead of departments."

Michael Brenner: On Measuring ROI

Michael Brenner recently co-authored The Content Formula and is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group.

I asked Michael, "Do you think most enterprises are in the dark when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of the content?"

"Yeah, and part of this comes down to the difference between content and content marketing," he said. "Content marketing is ultimately much more measurable and quantifiable than either content or marketing by themselves.

"The ROI of content marketing is infinitely more measurable. We can identify the cost of the digital platform. We can identify the cost of the people that are running it. We can identify the cost to create blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, and the technology infrastructure that supports them.

"That's why we're seeing this shift in marketing overall from things that are less trackable to things that are completely measurable."

Gut-Check Time

You need to ask yourself: Are your content marketing initiatives helping your company thrive?

And then go deeper:

  • Does your marketing department have strong leadership?
  • Do you have a plan in place that everyone is on board with?
  • Is your content truly persona-driven?
  • Is your content being managed effectively across the enterprise?
  • Are you able to measure your return on investment?

High-performers make those high priorities.

Clearly, since you've gotten this far in the article, the insights of these marketing experts interest you. There's plenty more where they came from: Download the free e-book, and I'll talk to you in the webinar.

It should be illuminating.

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Five Top Content Leaders Shed Light on the Needs of Modern B2B Marketing

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Barry Feldman is the author of SEO Simplified for Short Attention Spans. Barry operates Feldman Creative and provides content marketing consulting, copywriting, and creative direction services. He contributes to top marketing sites and was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. To get a piece of his mind, visit his blog, The Point.

Twitter: @FeldmanCreative

LinkedIn: Barry Feldman