3 Content Marketing Milestones that Marketers Should be Watching

“Every business is actually now in two businesses. The business of producing what you sell … and the publishing business. — @JayBaer

Publishing content that wins an audience is not all that new of concept in marketing.

For decades, businesses have used stories in traditional channels like magazines, books, television news programs and even radio shows to gain the attention and trust of highly targeted audiences.

In recent years, we’ve seen the phrase “content marketing” rise into the ranks of online conversations and even search trends, leaving many marketers in a scramble to learn how to leverage online publishing platforms and social media channels that help raise brand awareness and ultimately drives incremental sales.

The advent of this new marketing mindset also means that we will see a slow and steady progression of milestones that lead to wider adoption among businesses of all sizes.

Let’s explore a few of the most important milestones to date, shall we?

Milestone 1 – Budget Support for Content Marketing Programs is Increasing

A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Sherpa looked at B2B companies and how marketers are allocating portions of their budgets.

The study found that on average, 60% of respondents indicated that they plan to increase their content marketing budgets over the next 12 months. As compared to the same study in the previous year there was a 9% increase.

It’s apparent that the momentum for allocating dollars for content marketing initiatives is building, yet when compared to more traditional marketing budget allocations (like ad spends, discounting or email marketing programs, for instance) the percentage of dollars earmarked for creating and publishing content is still relatively modest.

Because the percentage of business actively using content marketing as a component of their over marketing strategy is still relatively small, it’s safe to assume that as the playing field becomes more competitive, budgets allocated to content marketing programs will continue to increase.

Milestone 2 – Brands Are Moving Towards Dedicated Content Marketing Teams

Producing a consistant base of quality can be a daunting and consuming task for marketers. Why?

  1. Due to the speed of real-time communication tools like social networks, brands are now forced to publish more frequently, simply to stay visible.
  2. Maintaining a high level quality and consistency for brand content requires significant investments of human time and attention.
  3. Because brands must stay relevant, marketers must have the ability to adapt their content to react quickly to news, crises or the other outside market forces.

Early players like Southwest Air learned that the tasks and responsibilities associated with content marketing we’re simply to massive to place on the shoulders of one dedicated resource. In stead, the brand paved the way, using more than 30 contributors to support their content marketing program.

Today, the idea of organizing dedicated content marketing teams is gaining popularity in some larger companies. This approach does present challenges for human resource managers tasked with hiring skilled personel and finding the budgets to take on additional salaries.

Other brands who are not ready to take on additional headcount have begun to lean more heavily on digital agencies to support the content marketing programs in that those partners typically have a head start on the acquisition of tools that make the process much leaner, and ultimately more cost effective.

Milestone 3 – Content Marketers Are Beginning to Push Boundaries to Win Audience Attention

Hundreds of thousands of blogs, social pages and profiles and shortened human attention spans have forced content marketers to be extremely creative and more willing to push the boundaries that might help surface their brand’s content above the clutter of the web.

Below are three very different examples of how traditional marketing boundaries are being pushed as a result of the rise of content marketing programs.

Coca-Cola has recently decided to bet the farm on content marketing.

In a move that might appear counter intuitive to most traditional brand marketers and CEO’s, Coke has not only developed a very in-depth approach to building content marketing into their business, the’ve actually used the strategy itself as a series of video content objects that audiences can view, share and react to across social networks and blogs.

While CEO’s might cringe that Coke is sharing strategic secrets that competitors like Pepsi might be able to copycat or counter act, the transparency built by the brands approach is winning significant attention from online influencers who have the ability to create a platform of buzz that will lend to the success of what Coke is planning.

Below is the first video from the Coca-Cola approach.

Spredfast is a social media monitoring and engagement platform that takes a very different approach.

The brand uses an incredibly creative approach to developing a white paper entitled 7 White Board Sessions for Every Social Strategist.  The idea is that readers can download the document in exchange for their email address and use the information contained in the paper to facilitate their own social business planning sessions.

While Spreadfast’s brand remains in the background, you won’t find a sales pitch for their platform anywhere in the content. Instead, the company is hedging their bets that by helping facilitate strategic planning for social media engagement, marketers will ultimately develop a need to purchase the software as a service that the company offers to support those programs.

In a much more edgy approach, Dollar Shave Club is winning the attention of the masses online by using well produce video content intended to entertain the audience while staying true to the benefits of the start ups new service offering.

The funny and somewhat ridiculous nature of the video also has jumpstarted a meme across the web, garnering more than 4 Million views on the video below (which is also embedded on the companies homepage).  It was reported that the massive inbound traffic generated by the video actually crashed the companies servers at the launch of the campaign.

While the video is may not be appropriate for all audiences, it absolutely resonates with the younger male demographic to which it has been targeted. The production was also billed at less than $4,500 in total costs, generating more than 5000 subscribers to the service on the first day.  Not a bad ROI, by any measure.

All of these milestones indicate one thing — the art of content marketing is continuing to gain momentum and will eventually be included as a mainstay approach across all segments of business.

I’d love to know in the comments — how is your marketing department adapting to support content marketing? What challenges are you facing?

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