CMOs want to reach their target markets in the most effective way – an obvious point. But how can they achieve this most efficiently and effectively? To answer this question, iResearch Services conducted an independent survey of 500 CMOs/-1 professionals from the UK and USA to gather their insights on content, budgets, ROI and best practice.
The burning questions...
The survey asked experienced marketing professionals:
- Which form of marketing engages with their audience most successfully? What budget is allocated to each area?
- Share your preferred strategic marketing techniques to research and reach your target audience.
- What types of content provide the best engagement?
iResearch identified the top performing channels marketers have at their disposal and presented them to the survey audience to choose from:
- Content marketing
- Direct marketing
- Database marketing
- Social media marketing
- Product marketing
Content marketing tops the list for audience engagement
The marketers surveyed believe that content marketing delivers the highest levels of audience engagement compared to other forms of marketing, followed by search engine marketing in second place. Content marketing also receives the biggest marketing budget allocation (23%) compared to only 10% spent on product marketing and social media marketing, respectively.
Thought leadership leads the way
One third (34%) of marketers believe opinion based content provides the best engagement and almost three quarters (71%) believe thought leadership provides the best results for sentiment and relationship building, yet two thirds (66%) of marketers still believe advertising is an effective element of a marketing strategy.
The importance of proper research
61% of marketers believe that issues-led content that shows an understanding of the audience’s business or industry challenges receives higher engagement. Primary research is the most popular way CMOs research their target audiences to generate insights for thought leadership, at 20%, closely followed by secondary research at 17%. This is unsurprising, as the importance of getting to know your audience in depth before targeting them with marketing campaigns cannot be underestimated.
Where are the biggest budgets?
Content marketing takes a larger share of the marketing spend at 23% and is clearly a growing area for marketing investment – compare this to only 12% for SEM and 10% for social media marketing , and it seems content is still king.
Alongside content marketing activity, direct marketing also (16%) tops search engine marketing (12%) for budget allocation. Organic search marketing is still up there with the best way to generate leads. However, it takes time to generate results and is dependent on the search engine to work. There are methods to ensure your SEM is effective, but it remains a gamble. Direct marketing, on the other hand, gets the brand right in the face of its target market, and when combined with killer content, strengthens a brand’s proposition while engaging with audiences on a more in-depth level.
For these elements of the marketing mix to work you need a deeper understanding of your target audience. Your various datasets should have identified those clients that are not only willing but able to engage with your offerings. Those are the audiences to which direct marketing is best suited and should have a tailored and segmented content strategy in place.
Keeping it socially distanced
The research shows that the way in which people are consuming content is changing, with more CMOs utilizing content marketing (23%) as opposed to investing in event marketing (11%), as the remainder of the calendar year continues to focus on virtual events as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The drive to online events automatically brings together the content and digital strategies, offering opportunities to reach clients and potential clients at each stage of their journey.
It is not surprising that social media is a popular method of driving engagement. While social media marketing can stand on its own, it is always best to include this as an integrated part of the overall content marketing strategy for improved and more measurable success, matched with each stage of your client journey.
Thought leadership: creating content that resonates
Marketers have highlighted the need to create content which is relatable and addresses issues-led matters frequently; after all, the challenges businesses face change daily. Successful organizations position themselves as industry leaders by sharing their expertise with their community and beyond. As part of a data-driven thought leadership strategy, this will not only ensure they can effectively communicate with their target audience but will strengthen the sales pipeline.
The fact that marketers believe that content marketing delivers the highest levels of audience engagement compared to other forms of marketing speaks volumes; but we know that the way that audiences consume content is continuously changing. This makes it more important for CMOs to review, test and adjust their strategies frequently in order to ensure they are still driving value and achieving results through their content marketing activity.
It is important for us to continue to address the needs of CMOs and to ensure they can effectively communicate with their target audience and therefore strengthen their sales pipeline. Creating relatable, issues-led content is key to this and it is clearly a form of content that is an integral part of all marketing strategies. Organizations need to position themselves as industry leaders by sharing their expertise, and a data-driven thought leadership strategy is exactly the way to do that.
Five tips to create valuable, issues-led content
1. Think about your audience
Content marketing enables businesses to demonstrate their knowledge and area authority, but also it provides a chance to focus on specific audience groups, to build engagement and customer relationships. CMOs therefore need to ask themselves: who am I trying to target with my content, and what messages do they want to hear about? This is the first step to consider; and shapes the rest of the content strategy.
2. Talk about the challenge, not the product!
Product-led content will only make your audience think they are receiving a sales pitch. Talk about what is going in their world; what challenges are they facing every day and how can you help these challenges to be addressed? After all, we now know that over 6 in 10 marketers believe that issues-led content will receive higher engagement.
3. Drive it with data
Data-driven content will show your audience that it is not just your opinion, but that your thoughts are proven and mirrored by the rest of the industry. It will also help to show your audience that they are not alone, as many others may be facing the same challenges.
4. Consider where they will see your content
Would your issues-led, data-driven content be best placed on your website, or within your cornerstone content? Should it be sent via an email marketing campaign to prospects, or placed on a highly ranked, authoritative publication that is read by your target market? As you defined your audience in step one, this will inform the best content placements and channels.
5. Measure engagement levels for continued success
We know that thought leadership content is far more engaging, especially for B2B audiences, but it is important to measure how the content is performing and use this analysis to inform future pieces of content and campaigns.
About the author
Yogesh Shah is CEO of iResearch Services and is on a mission to help brands realize their full potential via thought leadership. Yogesh is an active member of CASRO, MRS, ESOMAR and MRSI and holds an MBA in International Business & Marketing with a specialization in Research and Data Analytics.
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