You are on page 1of 12

CRITICAL CAPABILITIES FOR EFFECTIVE

CONTENT MARKETING
October 2016

Author: Andrew Moravick


Research Analyst, Marketing & Sales Effectiveness

Report Highlights

p2 p4 p7 p11

83% of marketers Content Marketers are Leading Content Leading Content


surveyed by Aberdeen 37% more likely to be Marketers average Marketers are 96%
actively practice effective at lead 2.7x greater growth in more likely to be
content marketing. company revenue effective at connecting
management and
year-over-year. marketing efforts to
prioritization. revenue.

Aberdeen Group has found that the majority of its marketing respondents practice content
marketing. In this report, Aberdeen explores what marketers need to know in terms of common
performance capabilities, Best-in-Class benchmarks, and opportunities for improvement.
2
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

Aberdeen Group has Content Marketing – [Almost] Everyone is Doing It, But Who Is
Doing It Well?
found that 83% of its
marketing respondents Aberdeen Group has found that 83% of its marketing respondents
practice content marketing. Talk to most of them, though, and it’s
practice content
already an assumed fact – content marketing is just part of the
marketing. Talk to overall marketing game now. When practices become so
most marketers, pervasive, as content marketing is, there are often waves of
differentiation. In the early phases, high adoption coincides with
though, and it’s
high marketing performance – marketers adopt things like content
already an assumed marketing because it gives them a leg up on their peers. Indeed,
fact – content just over a year ago, Aberdeen’s report, Content Marketing for
Lead Generation: Success in Simplicity, showed that marketers
marketing is just part
using content for lead generation generated 3.3 times the number
of the whole of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) as their peers (34% vs. 10.3%).
marketing game now. The next wave in wide range adoption, though, often brings an
added level of sophistication. Practicing an effort like content
So, how do you win?
marketing alone, doesn’t stand out. The jig is up, and the novelty
of having creative, informative, or entertaining materials that
appeal to buyers based on value (not just branding), has worn off.
Content is what buyers expect. Patterns of this phase have also
appeared in Aberdeen’s research. Aligning Content to the Buyer’s
Journey: The Key to Competitive Content Marketing showed
marketers with buyer-aligned content enjoy double the revenue
attributed to their content marketing efforts, compared to those
without it (32.9% vs. 16.2%).

So today, where does content marketing put those who practice


it? In Figure 1, we’ve contextualized the performance of content
marketers against the performance of Aberdeen’s Best-in-Class
marketers and ‘All Others’ cohorts (defined in page 3 sidebar) for,
often, the most important performance metrics – revenue
performance indicators.

www.aberdeen.com
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

3
Figure 1: Better Than Average, but Not Best-in-Class – Content
Aberdeen's Maturity Class
Marketing in the Context of Revenue Performance
Framework
Aberdeen's research defines Best-in-
Class marketing performance by
benchmarking organizations against
several key performance metrics. In
this case, three metrics were used:

• Percentage of company revenue


attributed to marketing campaigns:
Best-in-Class: 50.7% vs. All Others:
24.4%
• Year-over-year improvement
(decrease) in customer acquisition
cost: Best-in-Class: 10.8% vs. All
Others: -0.8%
• Year-over-year improvement
(increase) in customer retention
rates: Best-in-Class: 3.9% vs. All Overall, we see that Content Marketers still maintain a slight
Others: 0.8%: advantage over the combined Industry Average and Laggard
performers that comprise All Others. Maintaining a 7% higher
By looking at organizational
average return on marketing investment (52% vs. 45), and average
performance, we then break the
survey respondents into three contribution to revenue (31% vs. 24%) is nothing to shake a stick
maturity classes, as described at. Nor is the relative delta that shows Content Marketers grow
below: company revenue at a 40% greater rate, year-over-year,
compared to All Others (7% vs. 5%). However, better than All
• Best-in-Class: top 20% of
performers Others does not, by default, put Content Marketers on par with
• Industry Average: middle 50% of the Best-in-Class.
performers
• Laggard: bottom 30% of With Content Marketers set against the Best-in-Class in Figure 1,
performers we see that there is still plenty of room for growth in
performance. For marketers to remain competitive, and to pursue
Sometimes, a fourth maturity class,
All Others, is used to describe such Best-in-Class results through content, it is critical to
Industry Average and Laggard understand what typical content marketers are doing well, and
combined. what these content marketers are struggling with.

www.aberdeen.com
4
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

Content Marketers Contrasting the Strengths & Weaknesses of Content Marketers:

are 37% more likely to Starting with the good news, so to speak, in casting Content
be effective at lead Marketers against Non-Content Marketers (Figure 2), we see the
corresponding marketing capabilities that are elevated by general
management and content usage.
prioritization.
Figure 2: Strengths of Content Marketers vs. Non-Content Marketers

 Read the full


report “Content
Marketing for Lead
Generation:
Success in
Simplicity”
 Related Research
“Aligning Content
to the Buyer’s
Journey: The Key to
As Figure 2 represents the percentage of marketers who are
Competitive effective at each listed capability, the differences between
Content Marketing” Content Marketers and Non-Content Marketers are most
impactful when considered in terms of likelihoods for
effectiveness. For instance, only 10% more Content Marketers
report being effective at lead management and prioritization
efforts (managing, scoring and prioritizing leads based on
behavioral and demographic data). However, in terms of
probability, Content Marketers are 37% more likely to be effective
at lead management and prioritization, compared to Non-Content
marketers (39% vs. 29%). As content provides more data and

www.aberdeen.com
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

5
contextual elements to analyze lead behavior and qualification,
Content Marketers Content Marketers should naturally be more effective, as the
are 35% more likely to probability suggests. That is, a lead generated from a download of
be effective at an asset like “How to Be Successful with Widgets” comes with
much more context of buying intent vs. purchased contact
capturing net-new information, for example.
leads and contacts
Of course, the general content marketing practitioners in Figure 2
from inbound are still not beating their Non-Content Marketing counterparts by
marketing activities. a landslide, in terms of effectiveness. This suggests that there are
probably some significant challenges that come with content
marketing as well. This is what makes the reality-check provided in
Figure 3 so critical.

Figure 3: Weaknesses of Content Marketers vs. Non-Content Marketers

 Read the full report


Marrying SEO &
Content Marketing:
The Power Couple
You Can’t Ignore
 Related Research
The Subtleties of
Supporting Sales
Enablement with
Content Marketing

Here we see where being a content marketer, on its own, does


not guarantee being effective in certain competencies. Generally,
for example, Content Marketers are actually 47% less likely to be

www.aberdeen.com
6
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

effective at earning positive social media conversions (mentions,


word of mouth referrals – i.e. shares, media coverage) compared
to Non-Content Marketers (29% vs. 42%). In this case, while 92%
Leading Content of Content Marketers practice social media marketing, only 39% of
Marketers average Non-Content Marketers do so. Without content to share, Non-
2.2x the return on Content Marketers must rely on social media to drive conversions
solely through the interactions they have. By necessity, Non-
marketing Content Marketers using social media skew the effectiveness
investment. levels for driving social conversions in their favor, as that’s their
primary goal. For Content Marketers, social media functions
primarily as a distribution channel, with the primary goal of
generating clicks. This content amplification, created from social
media sharing, is a secondary perk.

Overall, Figure 3 shows where Content Marketers need to


improve in order to catch up to their Best-in-Class counterparts.
Naturally, better benchmarking leads to more methodical,
predictable improvement, as key elements for success are
documented and iterated upon. More effectively connecting
efforts to revenue also helps dictate content priorities (for
example, the highest yield efforts garnering the most attention).
However, given the many possible avenues of content marketing,
establishing such revenue ties can be challenging as well.
Nevertheless, these weaknesses are not faults against Content
Marketers, but instead are distinct opportunities for growth.

Leading Content Marketers Show the Full Potential for the


Practice:

Thus far in this report, we’ve compared the general attributes of


Content Marketers, Non-Content Marketers, and the Best-in-
Class. These cohorts provide an average overview of typical, good,
and better levels of marketing performance. Now, it is time to
consider content marketing in terms of best-case deployments.
Taking the three performance metrics used to define the Best-in-

www.aberdeen.com
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

7
74% of Leading
Content Marketers
are effective at Class (page 3), and using them to separate the top 40% of
performers who practice content marketing, Aberdeen has
earning positive social identified a cohort of Leading Content Marketers. Contrasted with
media conversions. the bottom 60% of performers (Following Content Marketers), we
can see into the marketing attributes that deliver the most
significant advantages from content marketing. For reference,
these defining metrics are listed in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Defining Leading Content Marketers and Following Content


Marketers

Performance Metric Leading Content Following Content


Marketers Marketers
Marketing's contribution to revenue 42.2% 19.4%
Year-over-year improvement (decrease) 5.5% -1.8%
in customer acquisition cost
Year-over-year increase in customer 5.3% -4.3%
retention rate
Source: Aberdeen Group, September 2016

While these three metrics are good for a holistic representation of


peak marketing performance – high revenue contribution,
efficient customer acquisition, and positive management of
customer expectations evidenced by retention – it is important to
note other areas of differentiation as well. Leading Content
Marketers, for one, average 2.2 times the return on marketing
Leading Content investment as Followers (72% vs. 33%). This also puts Leading
Marketers average Content Marketers in much closer proximity to Best-in-Class
performance (75% ROMI). Also of note, Leading Content
2.7x greater growth in
Marketers average 2.7 times greater growth in company revenue
company revenue year-over-year compared to Followers (11.5% vs. 3.1%). This too,
year-over-year. is very much on par with Best-in-Class performance (12%).

So what do Leading Content Marketers do effectively to achieve


such improved performance? At a glance, the competencies for

www.aberdeen.com
8
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

effectiveness shown in Figure 4 (covering strengths and


weaknesses of typical content marketers), would suggest that it is
simply, everything.

Figure 4: Leading Content Marketers Surpass the Best-in-Class In Marketing


Competencies

“Do everything better,” though, isn’t exactly actionable advice.


This is why Figure 4 also includes Best-in-Class marketers to add
further context. For example, we can see that 74% of Leading
Content Marketers are effective at earning positive social media
conversions, compared to just 36% of Best-in-Class marketers.
This indicates that effective use of social media, particularly in
garnering amplification from social conversions, is a hallmark of
Leading Content Marketers. Intuitively, this makes sense as
greater distribution of content through mentions, shares,
coverage, etc. increases the probability of clicks and conversions
on content, but increased clicks and conversions don’t necessarily

www.aberdeen.com
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

9
lead to more sharing or amplification. Thus, amplifying content
Leading Content
distribution is a significant compounding advantage for Leading
Marketers are 96% Content Marketers. Success builds on success.
more likely to connect Similarly, with a difference of 11% between Leading Content
marketing efforts to Marketers vs. the Best-in-Class in lead management and
revenue. prioritization capabilities (55% vs. 44%) and the ability to increase
productivity with integrated marketing technologies (63% vs.
52%), we see more compounding skill sets that, when refined,
help to expand the utility of content marketing.

Nevertheless, even among Leading Content Marketers, there is


 Read the full still room for improvement. In the case of measurably connecting
marketing efforts to revenue, Leading Content Marketers still trail
report the Best-in-Class. Fortunately, there are incremental ways to
Understanding develop content marketing’s connections to revenue, particularly
Best-in-Class CRM in managing the alignment of processes with sales. Moreover,
even here, the difference between Leading Content Marketers
Usage for
and Followers, and the fact that the majority of Leading Content
Marketing Marketers are effective at establishing these connections to
revenue, helps to underpin this competency’s importance.
 Related Research
Conclusion & Key Takeaways:
The B2B Business/
Customer Arc: With the majority of all marketers practicing content marketing
(83%), the demands on executing effectively with content have
Crafting Keystones
changed. Simply having content is not good enough. Marketers
from Marketing & must use content in concert with other, well-refined marketing
Sales capabilities. In this report, we’ve shown where simply practicing
content marketing contributes to improved effectiveness. Findings
have also defined where adoption alone is not a differentiator.
And finally, in the context of Leading Content Marketers, we’ve
shown that when the right capabilities come together with

www.aberdeen.com
10
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

content marketing, practitioners can even rival the performance


of the Best-in-Class.

Ultimately, to get the most out of content marketing, it is


important to remember:

 There’s always room for “better.” Content Marketers, in


general, average a 7% higher return on marketing
investment, compared to All Others (52% vs. 45%), but still
trail Best-in-Class by 23%.

Content Marketers  Make the most of marketing efforts amplified by content.


Of note, Content Marketers are 37% more likely to be
average a 7% higher effective at lead management and prioritization, compared
return on marketing to Non-Content marketers (39% vs. 29%). Exploiting
investment, compared behavioral data from engagements with content to add
context and insight to lead management and prioritization
to All Others. is an intuitively advantageous way to gain additional value
from content.

 Amplify content marketing performance by amplifying


social media effectiveness. 74% of Leading Content
Marketers are effective at earning positive social media
conversions, compared to just 36% of Best-in-Class
marketers. Social media success is clearly a challenge for
marketers, but the risk in developing competency is
rewarded among top-performing content marketers.

 Compound on benefits from content marketing efforts


with integrated marketing technologies. Eleven percent
more Leading Content Marketers are effective at
increasing productivity with integrated marketing
technologies, compared to the Best-in-Class (63% vs. 52%).
Moreover, Leading Content Marketers are also 68% more
likely to be effective at this capability compared to
Followers (63% vs. 37%). Top performing content

www.aberdeen.com
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

11
marketers start with effective capabilities, as noted in this
report, and then use technology to build on them even
further.

 Everything comes back to revenue. Leading Content


Marketers average 2.7 times greater growth in company
revenue year-over-year, compared to Followers (11.5% vs.
3.1%). They also average 2.2 times the return on marketing
investment as Followers (72% vs. 33%). And finally, these
top performing content marketers are 96% more likely to
be effective at connecting marketing efforts to revenue,
compared to Followers (59% vs. 30%). Content marketing
may be a creative endeavor in development, but in
deployment, it is all about revenue production.

For more information on this or other research topics, please visit www.aberdeen.com.

Related Research
Understanding Best-in-Class CRM Usage for Marketing; The B2B Business/ Customer Arc: Crafting Keystones
September 2016 from Marketing & Sales; May 2016

Aligning Content to the Buyer’s Journey: The Key to Content Marketing for Lead Generation: Success in
Competitive Content Marketing; October 2015 Simplicity; September 2015

Andrew Moravick, Research Analyst, Marketing & Sales Effectiveness

www.aberdeen.com
12
The Critical Capabilities for Effective Content Marketing

About Aberdeen Group


Since 1988, Aberdeen Group has published research that helps businesses worldwide improve their performance. Our analysts
derive fact-based, vendor-agnostic insights from a proprietary analytical framework, which identifies Best-in-Class organizations
from primary research conducted with industry practitioners. The resulting research content is used by hundreds of thousands of
business professionals to drive smarter decision-making and improve business strategy. Aberdeen Group is headquartered in
Waltham, MA.

This document is the result of primary research performed by Aberdeen Group and represents the best analysis available at the
time of publication. Unless otherwise noted, the entire contents of this publication are copyrighted by Aberdeen Group and may
not be reproduced, distributed, archived, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent by Aberdeen
Group.

www.aberdeen.com

14083