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Why Content Marketing Success Will Be Harder to Achieve in 2016 

| Jan 3, 2016 728 views 4 Comments

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We’re now well into the prediction season, and it’s easy to find articles, blog posts, and webinars that include forecasts of what will happen in marketing during the coming year. I tend to avoid making prognostications, but I feel confident in saying that content marketing will become more challenging in 2016.

During the past few months, several developments have suggested that storm clouds are building on the content marketing horizon. Last fall, the 2016 content marketing survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs revealed that only 30% of respondents rated their content marketing efforts as effective, down from 38% in the 2015 edition of the survey. The drop of eight percentage points is significant because the perception of effectiveness had been fairly steady for several years – 42% in 2014, 36% in 2013, and 40% in 2012.

The July 2015 version of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing showed content marketing on the decline – having passed the “peak of inflated expectations” and beginning the slide toward the “trough of disillusionment.” In his column for the December 2015 issue of Chief Content Officer magazine, CMI founder Joe Pulizzi agreed with Gartner’s assessment and wrote, “Now is when we will witness the greatest content marketing failures of all time.

In early 2015, research by TrackMaven found that during 2013 and 2014, the volume of content produced per brand increased by 78%, but the engagement produced by the content decreased by 60%. More recently, an analysis by BuzzSumo revealed that social shares of content have plummeted, even for highly-respected content sites.

Taken together, these developments indicate is that content marketing success is becoming more elusive and difficult to achieve. The reality is, “easy” content marketing successes are how harder to find. The “low hanging fruit” is mostly gone, and companies will need to devote more time, energy, and money to achieve above-average results from their content marketing efforts.

Successful content marketing has become more difficult to achieve for three reasons. First, as more and more companies have implemented content marketing programs, the volume of content available to potential buyers has increased exponentially, and so has the competition for buyer attention. Mark Schaefer saw this coming a couple of years ago and discussed it in his provocative blog post about “content shock.”

Second, over the past few years, we have developed a substantial body of knowledge about how to do content marketing effectively. Overall, this has been a positive development, but it also has a downside. Many marketers have incorporated these “best practices” into their content marketing strategies, and therefore many content marketing programs tend to look alike, making them less effective for competitive differentiation.

Finally, while there is strong evidence that a lot of ineffective content is still being produced, there’s also a growing volume of good to very good content available in the marketplace. This has allowed customers and prospects to become more selective about the content they will spend their valuable time consuming. Therefore, it’s more challenging to produce content that will consistently win mindshare and create meaningful engagement.

There’s no doubt that building an effective content marketing program is becoming more difficult, and there’s no silver bullet solution that will make the challenges magically disappear. There are, however, several ways to improve your odds of success, and I’ll discuss some of these tactics in future posts.

Image courtesy of filip bossuyt via Flickr CC.

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4 Responses to Why Content Marketing Success Will Be Harder to Achieve in 2016

  1. Michael Lowenstein January 6, 2016 at 8:19 am (48 comments) #

    A number of excellent points made here. For me, this finding – In early 2015, research by TrackMaven found that during 2013 and 2014, the volume of content produced per brand increased by 78%, but the engagement produced by the content decreased by 60% – strongly suggests that, beyond available volume and more sophisticated marketing, it is the personal relevance and perceived value and actionability of the content itself that has declined.

    Too often, we are seeing puff selling and advertising cloaked as content, with a minimal amount of real information, that its effectiveness as a marketing element has been compromised. Before pushing pieces of content, marketers would be well-advised to first obtain some insight from customers/potential customers on whether the material is effective or not.

  2. David Dodd January 6, 2016 at 1:09 pm (9 comments) #

    Thanks for your comment, Michael. I agree with you that there is a lot of overtly promotional content still being produced, and I have no doubt that not much of that kind of content is shared, if it’s read or viewed at all. I also think, however, that the explosive growth in the amount of content available makes it harder to gain attention and mindshare. And, maybe the novelty of social sharing is beginning to wear off, at least a little.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  3. Graham Hill January 7, 2016 at 4:22 am (963 comments) #

    Hi David

    I agree with Michael in that far too many marketers have jumped on the content bandwagon and as a result, we have seen a flood of irrelevant, useless, company-centric content produced.

    For example, I recently reviewed the content for one of a UK bank’s product lines, as part of a marketing transformation project. Almost without exception, the content was all about the bank’s product, provided little of any use to customers and the tiny bit of content that was useful was provided during the wrong interactions with customers.

    As Norwegian marketer Helge Tenno describes in a post on ‘Next Generation Content is the Product’ what is needed is for marketing to evolve from just being something that trys to generate demand by talking incessantly at customers, to something that also helps customers satisfy their demands before, during and particularly, after the point of sale.

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

  4. Wes Finley January 26, 2016 at 3:11 pm (1 comment) #

    I agree that content marketing is becoming more challenging. As more brands produce content it becomes more difficult to be heard over the noise.

    I believe content marketing will continue to evolve and successful brands will implement new technologies to better target their content marketing strategy. Let’s hope 2016 is the year marketers begin implementing methods that better serve customers and the bottom line.

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