Content marketing is not new. Brands have been publishing promotional content for centuries, but when the web became a major part of everyone’s life, marketing’s focus shifted to more easily measurable strategies, especially display advertising.
The content marketing movement is a useful corrective, putting the focus back onto a vital marketing strategy in the digital era.
It’s been something of a struggle for content marketers to convince brands that content is a worthwhile investment, but in 2018, most brands recognize its value, even if they have trouble regularly generating high-quality content. According to a recent survey from Zazzle, 79% of brands report that content marketing has been positive for their business.
When we get down to brass tacks, all marketing is about sales, revenue, and the bottom line. And that’s how it should be. We don’t create content for pleasure or its aesthetic qualities. Brand content must sell. However, it’s often difficult to measure whether content is successful at that fundamental level.
It’s easy enough to measure how many clicks search advertising generates and how many of those clicks convert into paying customers. It’s not quite so simple with content. It would be a mistake to measure the value of content by the number of people who read it and immediately become a customer. That figure is interesting to know, but not really indicative of the effectiveness of a content marketing strategy.
Much of the effectiveness of content marketing lies higher up the funnel with brand awareness and engagement. These are “softer” measures than sales and revenue figures, but they’re still vital to any marketing strategy. Content is fantastic at building an audience, and properly targeted content can be used to build an audience that converts. It’s difficult to measure the impact of brand awareness and mindshare except via proxy measures like engagement. Nevertheless, there is considerable value in filling the top of the funnel.
Zazzle’s survey shows that brands are becoming accustomed to the idea that “softer” targets like brand awareness and engagement are an important part of measuring the success of content marketing:
“This is a good sign because it is clear that purse string holders are beginning to look past immediate results and towards building long term audiences.”
Hard-nosed data-driven marketers may retort that fuzzy measures like brand awareness can’t be formulaically converted into sales figures, and they’d be right. But however diffuse brand awareness might be, its value is immense. Brands are built on awareness and the aura of familiarity it creates. Generating that aura is only part of what successful content marketing — broadly understood — can provide, but it’s an important part.
Let’s finish with some good news for content marketers. According to Zazzle’s survey, 23% of marketing budgets are currently spent on content and 70% of brands expect that investment to increase.