The State of Content Marketing Operations for the Enterprise

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The State of Content Marketing Operations for the Enterprise

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Content Marketing Institute Executive Research Series ...

Content Marketing Institute Executive Research Series

As more companies have adopted content marketing, one challenge remains pronounced: How should marketing leaders operationalize and scale this nascent discipline? They need a structure that will help them with everything from creating content their audience truly values, to distributing it in places where their customers and prospects are, to continually measuring what works so they can refine their processes.

While organizations of every size need to figure this out, this challenge is more complex for enterprise organizations, as they are charged with collaborating and
proving value at so many different levels of the company.
Additionally, subject matter experts, whose input is so
critical to content creation, may be scattered throughout
the company.

While there is no one right way to structure a content
marketing team — and in fact we found substantial
variances in team structures as they exist today — a
hybrid structure appears to be emerging in which certain
aspects of content marketing are centralized (such as the
identification of key themes/topics and the production of
content), while other aspects are decentralized (such as
the execution of programs by the business unit that has
the subject matter expertise or the geography).

In short, while many leaders are making tangible progress
in these areas — and there are many who feel they are
effective — there is also palpable frustration as these
leaders struggle to truly transform their marketing, which
requires them to transform their cultures.

This report specifically looks at the following areas:

Organizational challenges
Team composition and integration
Budgets and distribution
Content marketing effectiveness

More in: Marketing , Business
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  • 1. C O N T E N T M A R K E T I N G I N S T I T U T E E x ecuti v e R esearc h S eries The State of Content Marketing Operations for the Enterprise: Research on the Process, Team, Budget and Content Marketing Effectiveness
  • 2. OVERVIEW A s more companies have adopted content marketing, one challenge remains pronounced: How should marketing leaders operationalize and scale this nascent discipline? They need a structure that will help them with everything from creating content their audience truly values, to distributing it in places where their customers and prospects are, to continually measuring what works so they can refine their processes. While organizations of every size need to figure this out, this challenge is more complex for enterprise organizations, as they are charged with collaborating and proving value at so many different levels of the company. Additionally, subject matter experts, whose input is so critical to content creation, may be scattered throughout the company. While there is no one right way to structure a content marketing team — and in fact we found substantial variances in team structures as they exist today — a hybrid structure appears to be emerging in which certain aspects of content marketing are centralized (such as the identification of key themes/topics and the production of content), while other aspects are decentralized (such as the execution of programs by the business unit that has the subject matter expertise or the geography). In short, while many leaders are making tangible progress in these areas — and there are many who feel they are effective — there is also palpable frustration as these leaders struggle to truly transform their marketing, which requires them to transform their cultures. This report specifically looks at the following areas:  Organizational challenges  Team composition and integration  Budgets and distribution  Content marketing effectiveness Methodology: About the CMI Executive Research Series In Spring 2014, Content Marketing Institute (CMI) embarked on a qualitative research project to develop a deeper understanding of how enterprise marketers are approaching content marketing. Topics addressed included operations/team structure, international strategy, budgets, effectiveness, challenges, successes, and what the marketing department of the future might look like. CMI partnered with Market Dynamics LLC, which conducted interviews with 27 senior-level enterprise (1,000+ employees) marketers actively engaged in content marketing strategy and/or content marketing in their organizations. The interviews took place between April and May 2014 and comprised marketers from both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. The State of Content Marketing Operations for the Enterprise is the first of two reports that will synthesize the information gathered from those interviews, along with insights gleaned during the inaugural CMI Executive Forum 2014 — a two-day gathering in May 2014 of 40 enterprise marketing leaders (some of whom also participated in the qualitative interviews). Quotes that are included throughout are those from participants. 2
  • 3. CONTENT MARKETING REQUIRES A DELIBERATE SHIFT IN ORGANIZATIONAL MINDSET The efforts of our interviewees suggested that to embrace content marketing as a strategy, teams — and ultimately the whole organization — must change the way they think and function. As a result, these marketing leaders needed to address the following challenges (among others) as they structured their organizations and processes around content marketing: Getting buy-in: More than one-third of the marketing leaders interviewed mentioned a lack of buy-in around content marketing from their management, which ultimately affected if and how they got support from other teams. This was a substantial hindrance, as the transition to content marketing can be difficult for companies to make. Bridging silos: Despite a common interest in compelling content, different groups still have different goals. A customer-facing team may be generating content to increase revenue per client, while a separate marketing group may be focused on driving overall traffic for lead development. Add to this a classic lack of internal communication and you’ve got the inevitable makings of cross-purposes, rework, and other inefficiencies. Closing the skills gap: Structuring a content marketing team is a relatively new requirement in many organizations. There are many skills needed to manage and measure an editorial process, such as the ability to create and manage a calendar, to optimize content for various channels, and to efficiently repurpose content. These are different skills than the ones that many traditional marketers possess, such as product-focused marketing and media planning. Developing subject matter expertise: Those with the first-hand knowledge necessary to create unique, relevant content are scattered throughout the company and attending to — and measured on — the distinct goals of their day jobs. Many subject matter experts are not writers, and because of this, it can be difficult to get help in developing content. ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGES 3
  • 4. CONTENT MARKETING INHERENTLY DEMANDS MORE COLLABORATION THAN TRADITIONAL MARKETING Unlike advertising or other traditional approaches, content marketing simply isn’t a function that organizations can relegate to and contain within the marketing department. In most cases, the responsibility for content marketing — regardless of whether there is a formal team — sits within marketing. However, content marketing inevitably involves significant participation by many parts of the organization, especially when looking for subject matter expertise, sourcing brand stories, or supplying company channels with the content itself. Create cross-functional teams: More than two-thirds of participants said they receive content from product marketing, but they also collectively catalogued a whole host of other contributors throughout their organizations, including:  Website team  Creative team  Engineering  Product development  R&D  Customer relations/ education  Sales  PR  Field marketing  Communications  Legal  HR CENTRALIZE  Overall content marketing strategy  Key themes/topics  Brand guidelines  Some distribution Handle at local level  Translation  Localization  Specific distribution Create a global view, with local execution: The majority of people we interviewed are managing content across the world, balancing the need for global consistency with the need for local relevance. While various models exist, there is a clearer trend on what types of activities are managed by a central team compared with those handled at the local level. In short, these executives: A look at managing content marketing in a global organization “We don’t produce all the content for all of our offices around the entire world, but we do develop a body of corporate content that the countries will, in turn, either translate or use in a content marketing sort of a way. They will merchandise it or do different things with it to fit their local market needs. The country offices also create a lot of their own content, as well. That’s why I would say we technically aren’t a centralized content marketing organization, because we have offices all over the world that operate independently based on what their local markets need.” “We create content both centrally and at the regional levels; it’s being translated into different languages, but we’re not localizing it yet. We’re considering a model where maybe we create 80 percent of the core content, and the local offices complete the remaining 20 percent. This way, those who are closest to their customers can customize the content for their particular audience.” “We’ve prioritized five or six topics as a company. All of our marketing programs are driven around these key topics globally. Within these big buckets of topics, messages may differ slightly based on competitive situations. Certain messages might be emphasized more than others, depending on what tweaking is needed at the local market level.” 4
  • 5. TEAM COMPOSITION REMAINS UNIQUE TO THE ORGANIZATION TEAM COMPOSITION AND INTEGRATION Marketing leaders ponder two key questions when deciding how to approach content marketing:  How should the team be organized to manage content creation, distribution, and promotion?  How can we best involve other appropriate groups in content marketing—especially subject matter experts? We found no definitive right way to structure a content marketing team. In fact, there was substantial variation in team structures as they exist today, even among those who reported their efforts to be highly effective. If there was any common thread it was the reminder that, regardless of the model used, it’s crucial to align the goals for different departments so that everyone is working toward — and measured against — the same outcomes. Given the other themes we heard — including content marketing demanding significant organizational change and inherently deeper collaboration — we found some of the most compelling content marketing structures to be those that walked the line between centralized and decentralized responsibilities. The delineation of these “hybrid” structures was often this:  Centralized: The identification of key themes/ topics and content production functions are centralized.  Decentralized: The process of getting all the right people involved and customizing content is done by business unit or geography. Here are a few more interesting models shared during our interviews: All-in, ad hoc models work well within organizations that are “beginning the shift”: This model carves out different content-oriented functions and roles that make sense within existing marketing units, distributing the responsibilities throughout the marketing organization. “Content marketing is everyone’s job, at least in marketing. There are groups that have content responsibilities, and so we are getting smarter about how to divvy up the tasks that are associated with content strategy, development, distribution, and measurement.” 5
  • 6. Engaging external content marketing agencies and in-house “agency-like” teams seems to work best with large companies trying to mature and/or are currently experimenting with different models: In several organizations, the content team plays an advisory role in which one or more persons from the marketing department partners with business units that have subject matter expertise. A similar process can also be used with external agencies (instead of in-house agencies). Infusing subject matter expertise is a key challenge for many organizations, and this approach addresses this while staying true to the content marketing discipline. “We have an agency type of model, where our marketing generalists work with business units to help them execute in the best way… or we may tell them to change some strategies because there are better ways to do X right. Everything is defined — for example, we’re going to do X number of events, X number of direct mail pieces… and here’s the thought leadership that we need to help entice and engage our target audience and our target executives. My team then helps them create that content — everything from the actual thought leadership, to the direct mail piece, the email, white paper, case study, podcast, webinar, events… all of it.” “The ideas or strategies for developing a certain content stream come from all over, but the creation of content is centralized. My group tends to be the creative force that helps units refine their strategies for developing the content and gives them input on how to deliver it.” Assigning channel managers works best when there is one primary owned media platform (e.g., a blog): Other companies are centralizing around specific channels (e.g., a topical blog) creating full creation, managerial, and distribution. These independent channel teams may draw on a marketing or organization-wide creative services team to supplement their content creation. For instance, the team may look like this: Here are a few approaches to working with agencies: Hire freelancers who are present in the office: Those who want flexibility or don’t have budget for a traditional full- time employee are having success using freelancers who work in the office next to other employees. Differentiate what agencies and freelancers do: Marketing leaders need to recognize what strengths freelancers and agencies have — and what skill gaps that will plug. For instance, agencies may work on evergreen content, whereas other freelancers can focus on real-time content. Find journalists with editorial experience and extensive networks: When editorial planning skills are needed, marketing leaders are having success in hiring people from a publishing background to help set up and manage processes. An additional benefit to hiring journalists is that you can often tap into their networks. Rely on agencies for design: Many marketing leaders are using agencies to develop the creative design, but the content comes from within. 6
  • 7.  A hub manager who oversees the entire platform for the owned media approach (e.g., the blog)  An editor who supports the hub manager by managing all freelance writers and expert influencers who contribute content  A social media coordinator who pushes out the content and directs traffic back into the hub This team is supported by the broader (marketing- focused) creative services team, which is also responsible for creating materials for marketing and other functions of the business. This structure can then be leveraged as more platforms are considered. “Our main avenue for distributing or presenting our content is Facebook, social media in general, Facebook in particular. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google +, all are coordinated, leveraging the content that we create and distribute on our blog. We created a Wellness/Medicine/Healthcare Blog. We post all of our content there. We promote that content throughout all those social channels. That’s our primary model for content marketing.” A central strategist model seems to work effectively when the business already has executive buy-in and the effort is to fundamentally transform the team: A central, corporate group creates strategies for each industry, solution area, and geography. A central content strategy team translates that strategy and supporting research into content plans, which are then brought to market by different execution teams, such as field marketing and business development. Unlike the agency model, in which the business units or other decentralized subject matter experts come to the table with overall goals and topics, in this “top-down” example the strategy and themes are centralized at the corporate level and then executed at the business unit level. Here is one way to structure a central strategy team:  An industry and strategy team creates annual go-to-market strategies for each industry, solution area, and geography.  A content strategy team applies the research from the industry and strategy team to create the content strategy for the target verticals, countries, and solutions.  Field marketing builds the execution plan for the content strategy for things such as events, webinars, and campaigns. They are the ones that essentially have the discretionary budget, in marketing, to make the local calls in each of the cities and countries around the world.  A business development rep team pursues the prospects generated by the field marketing team. From there, they’re nurturing qualified leads that are handed over to sales. “I still want the field marketing teams to have some flexibility and obviously localize the strategies, but by and large, once we set content strategies, they are going to be followed.” 7
  • 8. INTEGRATION OF CONTENT MARKETING TEAM MEMBERS WITH OTHER MARKETING FUNCTIONS IS TRICKY BUT IMPORTANT Technology is changing fast, so an integration with IT is vital: For many companies, technology and marketing automation go hand in hand with the success of content marketing. Additionally, other technologies to support content marketing are springing up everywhere. As such, collaboration between IT and the content marketing group is crucial. In our interviews, we heard as much variety in how companies structure the relationships with IT as we did in the organizational structures for content marketing itself. We heard about:  Marketing departments that manage and own their own technology (within the guidelines and blessings of IT) so that they can move more rapidly  Marketing-dedicated technology roles that dual report to marketing and IT  Full marketing technology teams that sit within IT  Formal liaison teams between marketing departments that create content, and IT departments that manage the publishing systems What was in common? Not surprisingly, where there was little collaboration, there was notable frustration. Improved relations with other “communications silos/departments” is critical: While integration and better communications with all of the communications teams was mentioned, PR, in particular, was a group that was discussed by several participants. In many cases good content was not being shared or used to its full potential by PR and the content marketing team. One suggestion to improve this relationship: “We are building what I would call a content factory. Part of the intent of this content factory is to equip our global PR and analysis agencies worldwide with content they can pick and choose from.” 8
  • 9. BUDGETS ARE GROWING AND ARE A VERY REAL PART OF THE MARKETING MIX BUDGET AND DISTRIBUTION We asked participants how much they are spending on content marketing, including all the resources (staff, materials, media) needed to create, manage, and promote content. The estimates we received varied widely, from $50,000 to $50 million annually. The median spend on content marketing was $1.75 million with about 1 in 6 organizations spending over $10 million annually. Hard dollar spend likely has more to do with industry and company size than with content. The key takeaway is that while there was no agreement about the broader areas that should be included within the “content marketing budget,” those with specific content marketing strategies knew where they were spending their money. Although ranges in budgets exist, two trends were clear: Marketers are prioritizing content programs, and spending is getting real: On average, the companies dedicated about one-third of their overall marketing or marketing/communications budget to content marketing. This is in line with what we have found each year in our annual content marketing research. As with most other areas of our survey, we found a wide range of allocations. On the low end, marketers are spending under 5 percent of their marketing budgets, and on the high end, they are spending 80 percent. Effective marketers are allocating a higher percentage of budget to the promotion of content: Moving beyond hard dollar spend, we wanted to figure out how companies are allocating the money they spend on content marketing. There are three “buckets” we asked leaders to consider for their spend:  Content creation: People, processes, and technology to create and produce the content and materials  Content distribution and management: Social channels, software, and agency costs around distributing content  Content promotion: PR, ads, and other paid channels used to promote the content being created The general allocation was 50 percent of budgets on creation; 25 percent on management and distribution and 25 percent on promotion. 9
  • 10. LARGER BUDGETS DO NOT CORRELATE TO GREATER EFFECTIVENESS, BUT CONTENT MARKETERS ARE FEELING EFFECTIVE Defining what’s “in” a content marketing budget is a difficult yet important part of getting ROI: Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s quite difficult to estimate the total budget around content marketing. How do you draw the lines as to what’s budgeted as content and what isn’t?  What costs should be included?  When evaluating people costs, many people aren’t dedicated resources. How should you account for their time?  What are departments outside of the marketing leader’s domain spending, including those that are global? As one participant explained: “That’s why I am not going to answer it specifically because I just don’t think it’s a line that we draw on how much are we spending on content. I could go through all the functional names within marketing. There isn’t a function we call content marketing. There is content being created, consumed, and delivered in many places across the company. It’s not like housed and... here’s where the content marketing budget is located, and you get X amount of dollars.” 10
  • 11. CONTENT PROMOTION IS BECOMING AN INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT PART OF THE CONTENT MARKETER’S BUDGET While content marketing is often seen as a way to own your media channels instead of renting them, using paid promotion to distribute content (instead of your product) is another key place where marketers are spending. Effective marketers typically allocate a larger percentage of their budget to promotion as they realize the importance of marketing their marketing. Four out of five participants have integrated content into their advertising programs typically as part of their brand messaging, with just as many promoting their content using paid advertising versus integrating it into overall advertising. Content advertising applications mentioned were white papers, banner ads/pay-per- click, and social media/LinkedIn and Facebook advertisements. 11
  • 12. Half of content marketers are effective, but all are challenged Half of content marketers are effective, but all are challenged. Only three of the 27 participants thought they were not effective. Regardless of confidence, all marketing leaders were quick to identify areas for improvement, noting specific challenges and roadblocks: The major challenge factoring into content marketing effectiveness was the lack of executive/leadership buy-in or vision, leaving content marketers with fewer resources to work with (e.g., people, time). When leadership buy-in and vision were lacking, companies placed less of a priority on content by allocating fewer resources (e.g., people, time). On the other hand, when marketing leaders considered themselves effective, they were eager to report the very real impact in terms of increased customer engagement and generation of leads/sales. B2B content professionals shared effective content marketing practices: “(Beyond budget), champions and leadership buy-in to help drive success and keep CM efforts moving forward” “We have good content and good people, but we also have fantastic technology that lets us distribute it properly.” “We could probably be more effective if we were even more integrated and had more integrated processes in place.” BUDGET AND DISTRIBUTION What Makes a Content Marketer Successful? Content Marketing Success Factors:  Having executive buy-in/vision  Taking a longer-term view  A collaborative & integrated approach  Dedicated content marketing team/ leadership  Ability to demonstrate content marketing ROI/value  A culture of change and openness  Ability to tap into subject matter expertise Factors that limit content marketing’s success:  Lack of executive/leadership buy-in  Difficulty measuring content/ROI effectiveness  Limited time/resources allocated to content 12
  • 13. Content marketers with codified plans feel more effective: As we often observe in our annual content marketing research, one of the key differentiators between effective content marketers and their peers is the presence of a documented content marketing strategy. As such, we wanted to see what role this played for the marketing leaders we interviewed. Eighty percent of those interviewed had some form of documented content marketing strategy or plan in place. About 40 percent reported a formal document or presentation existed — a number that is in sync with our annual content research, which found that 44 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. Roughly a similar share of participants stated that “elements were in place” and/or they were working towards having a more formal content plan or document. Many in the “in progress” stage have content marketing plans for some business units or beta test units but have not implemented the plan across the entire organization. “It’s not a corporate document, but we as a small team have architected a workflow and an objective.” “We do have guidelines on what I would describe as best practices. Do we have one central document? No.” “We have a written direction around content marketing. We have only begun to start this work from a strategic level, so, no, we do not.” Very few of companies interviewed indicated that there wasn’t any plan. This confirmed what our annual content marketing research suggested: A documented content marketing strategy/plan is a key element to the long-term success of the content marketing journey. What we have also found is that a written strategy helps determine what companies should be spending on — and what they should not. As such, it helps with more efficient spend. 13
  • 14. CONCLUSION The nascency of content marketing may explain why there is little consistency in how organizations are structuring their content marketing teams. While there is no one “right” way to organize around content marketing and while it is tough to draw conclusions about what the “answer” might be, larger companies classifying themselves as more effective on their content marketing journey tended to:  Leverage a combination of internal and external resources  Have a higher share of internal “owned” resources vs. external  Have a more centralized content management model In short, adoption of content marketing is less about the age or history of the company and organization and is, instead, driven more by the culture and mindset of innovation around content marketing. Regardless of where companies are in their content marketing maturity, though, marketing leaders who truly want to operationalize content marketing and get the most benefit need to transform their cultures. Our follow-up report, The Future of Content Marketing Teams and Keys to Transformation, will explore specific suggestions for content marketers who want to embrace and foster change within their organizations. 14
  • 15. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS CMI is grateful to the extraordinary companies that participated in our 2014 Executive Research and shared their insights and expertise.  3M  Ameriprise Financial  Avery Dennison  Beechcraft Aviation  Cisco  Cleveland Clinic  CSC - Computer Science Corporation  Diebold  DuPont  EMC  Fidelity Investments  Genact  IBM  Infor  Kraft Foods Group  LEK Consulting  Lincoln Electric  Master Control  McGladrey  Rockwell  SAP  SAS  Standard Register Business Service  Sykes Enterprises  Symrise  Towers Watson  Wells Fargo Advisors 15
  • 16. ABOUT CMI Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is the leading global content marketing education and training organization. CMI teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. CMI’s Content Marketing World, the largest content marketing-focused event, is held every September. CMI also produces the quarterly magazine Chief Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known brands in the world. CMI is a 2012 and 2013 Inc. 500 company. If you manage your content marketing program, subscribe to CCO magazine. 16