Content Marketing Isn't Mature Enough Yet, Forrester Report Finds

According to a new report from Forrester, creating engaging content is proving to be a major challenge for B2B marketers. Though more than half of the marketers surveyed are in the process of developing a content strategy and are working toward implementing it, most are not far along enough in the process to see results, according to Forrester analyst and report author Laura Ramos.

Although 51 percent of B2B marketers believe their practices are very mature, roughly 85 percent can't attribute business value to content activity. "While creating great content is something even the best marketers and agencies toil over, we feel that this disconnect reveals a more fundamental problem with content marketing today. Content marketing doesn't produce expected results," Ramos wrote in the report.

There are several reasons why content marketing is tough for organization, but failing to make content creation a priority could be a large part of the problem. Producing content is typically not the first item on a marketer's job description, and according to the report, 72 percent of marketers say less than half of their marketing staff plays a primary role in content marketing. "When marketers don't recognize that their charter is to produce content buyers want, then content marketing quickly degrades to talking about products, features, and what the company has to offer," Ramos says.

Another concern is that marketers are primarily producing content only when a need arises—in other words, they're developing content to fill in the gaps.

According to the report, 62 percent admit to producing content on a campaign-by-campaign basis, "a practice that fails to address how buyers experience this content over time," Ramos explains. With 47 percent focusing mainly on creating content for distribution channels such as their company Web site, online advertising, email, and social media and 16 percent developing solely sales materials and collateral, "[the] data shows an acute focus on acquisition that practically ignores the rest of the buyer's journey," she adds.

Marketers also often don't emphasize the right things in the content they create. For example, while 71 percent say their content features case studies or customer stories, only 3 percent say this is a primary focus of their efforts. "Prospective buyers want to know how products or services will help them. Learning how [a company] helped other buyers just like them demonstrates this capability. Marketing execs need to refocus their team's efforts in this direction," according to Ramos.

Putting more emphasis on other types of content can help as well, particularly content that buyers can turn into actions. Only 12 percent currently make publishing research and perspectives central to their content marketing, and none engage external experts.

If marketers are ready to get serious about their content strategy, Ramos recommends thinking more about building relationships, not just deal opportunities. "Marketers keep the focus on acquisition and let communications with their current customers languish," Ramos says. While more than three-quarters of respondents say that they frequently communicate to their customer base, only 5 percent make this a priority, proving that this trend "is difficult to resist," she adds.

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