Content marketing fails to deliver insight, claims research from Forrester

Content marketing fails to deliver insight, claims research from Forrester

In content marketing, knowing our audience is the key to everything we do. It’s this ‘expert insight’ that underpins our content and campaigns. And, the idea that we understand what makes our audience tick is part of the intrinsic value that an effective marketing team adds to businesses.

On the surface, this is all fine – in the digital era, because of the overwhelming level of data available, it is easy to form a connection with our audience. Isn’t it?

Surely we are thriving in a golden age for marketing where platforms deliver more data-driven insights and react to change faster than ever before, and where 70% of a buying journey is automatic. Sadly, the reality doesn’t quite match up.

We recently conducted research with Forrester Consulting which found 94% of firms still face challenges with generating insights from marketing-created content and experiences.

Do you really know your audience?

This is alarming on so many levels. With virtually every company struggling to generate the level of insight needed to make engaging customer experiences happen, it’s impossible to know if your message or product is cutting through.

What’s more, we’ve already established that knowing the audience is key to marketers’ work. But, if you don’t know how your audience is reacting to a piece of content, can you really say that you know your audience?

Nick Mason... alarming findings

This is also more than just an issue of how marketers engage with audiences. The failure to gain insights from marketing material is having massive implications for marketing departments and agencies’ reputations.

Now a common belief: marketing does not drive growth

The research found that there is now a common belief that marketing is not focused on insights that can help close business, meaning it fails to drive growth. Sales departments are especially sceptical and are 21% less likely than marketers to say that marketing is the key driver of business growth.

On the surface this might seem staggering, but marketing’s failure to generate meaningful insights is actually unsurprising when we look at the post-delivery stage of the marketing process. It’s here where the stumbling blocks begin to appear and those valuable ‘insights’ become little more than instinct based on a very limited pool of qualitative feedback.

More so, generalised click data and audience demographics are only half of the picture when it comes to creating truly engaging content. It is content that generates prospects for sales, uncovers new opportunities through data, and delivers on the expectation for meaningful digital experiences.

The poor state of data

The primary problem is that most data gathered by marketers in the post-delivery stage is unstructured, prohibiting us from gleaning any insight from the sea of seemingly meaningless stats and figures. This poor state of data is because we still present our most important content in outdated formats. As a result, we are either offered unstructured data or in some cases no data at all

The most important questions that marketers can ask to generate actionable insights should focus on how content is received by consumers –

  • Did they actually read it?
  • If they did open it, how long did they spend reading it?
  • Did they spend more time on one section than the other? If so, why?
  • At what point did they bounce?
  • Did they share it? And with whom?

These might seem like simple questions. But they actually begin to offer big answers on the road to creating truly engaging content.

Adopting digital first platforms

Moving away from older formats, like the commonly used PDF, and implementing modern digital first delivery platforms are marketers’ best bet to start answering these questions now. A digital first approach will immediately offer users more visibility of analytics and enhanced targeting options. In turn these are proven to provide lead conversions and retentions, increased productivity and clearer revenue attribution.

All that work for nothing

Without proper actionable insights it is extremely difficult to ascertain if all our hard work is actually proving a hit, or if we’re simply falling on deaf ears. As the technologies for tracking and understanding audiences and performance evolve, those who keep this mind-set will find their successes – and their careers – washed away by agile, results-driven marketers. So, it’s wake up time for marketers.