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Keep up to date with the latest content marketing tips and news.

20/May/2019
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Testimonials can be one of the most important weapons in the marketer’s armoury, but they can also be difficult to get right.

In a recent issue of PR Matters, the roundtable column by members of the UK International Public Relations Association (Ipra), former chair Millie Dizon was asked for advice on how to come up with inspirational testimonial campaigns that had the ability to enhance the brands being serviced.

She answered: “Testimonials are important marketing tools, and have a way of touching the hearts and minds of the public. This is because these are often viewed to be authentic and very relatable.  But you are right when you say that this is not an easy task.”

The effectiveness of a well-delivered testimonial campaign is widely recognised. A recent WebDAM survey revealed that testimonials outperformed all other forms of content marketing for their effectiveness. Nearly four-fifths (78%) of survey respondents said that they put as much trust in a review as they did recommendations from people they knew.

Interestingly, the survey also found that using both positive and negative reviews could be more effective than pushing positive feedback alone. Nearly a third (30%) of people suspected dishonesty or some sort of censorship when confronted with nothing but positive reviews, with a mixture of positive and negative being perceived as more trustworthy.

In an article on marketingprofs.com, marketing executive Ella Patenall said that testimonials can help to build trust between an organisation and its users or customers.

She added that a good testimonial “outlines key benefits, makes comparisons with other products, and backs up the claims you’ve made about your product or service.  That’s why many businesses choose to include a form of testimonial in their marketing.  But some are more effective than the others.”

According to Patenall, there are at least three important types of testimonial that marketers should consider – quotes, case studies and video testimonies.

Quotes are the simplest format and you’re all familiar with seeing customer quotes in all sorts of circumstances. “In the age of short attention spans, such quotes should be succinct and snappy to catch attention immediately,” she said.

She added that areas covered in this sort of quote would typically include information on how the customer found the process, how effective they found the service or product to be, and whether they would recommend it to others. Authenticity was particularly important for quotes, and including the person’s name, company and other corroborating information could help engender trust.

Case studies are a powerful tool for marketers as they can use them to demonstrate the positive results delivered to a previous client in a more in-depth way than brief quotes. They can also use visual elements, such as infographics and graphs.

Videos can have a great impact and be very relatable. However, they should be well-executed. Otherwise, they could look amateurish and off-putting. At the same time, authenticity is key throughout, so there’s a need to strike a balance to make sure your testimonials don’t look like they are pre-prepared or supplied lines being delivered by actors.


13/May/2019
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Marketers are still finding it difficult to deliver personalised content marketing materials to audiences at the right time but are getting better at creating tailored messages, a new joint study by Vennli and Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found.

The Optimise Content Marketing Performance Through Active Audience Listening study released last week aims to get to the bottom of common challenges and issues marketers are dealing with on a daily basis, including the advance of cutting-edge tech and the need for strategies and long-term content planning.

The good news is that documented strategies are now helping to lay the foundation for strong creative distribution. Six in ten marketers say they have one, which is a healthy 17% increase over the number reported in the 2018 whitepaper. However, while marketers are putting down strategies on paper, acting on them is proving to be difficult.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they are still forced to adopt a “project-focused” mindset where they must react to internal requests and changing conditions rather than being proactive. This is making the task of aligning content output with a planned strategy more troublesome than it otherwise would be and is having a negative knock-on effect in other areas.

For example, just 22% said they are building content based on buyer personas, which are essential for serving up more targeted articles, videos and messages to end users. Furthermore, a mere 15% said they can currently align content with a customer’s journey.

“It’s clear that companies know what message they want to convey to their target audiences,” Vennli CEO, Marty Muse, said. “However, what they want to say versus what their customers want to hear doesn’t always match. Incorporating solutions, like content intelligence, can confirm the right messages at the right time at the right place so that marketing teams no longer have to guess.”

All these issues are holding companies back in their efforts to deliver content at the right time to the right customer. More than half (51%) said they disagree or remain neutral with the notion that they can deliver timely content through the right channels to engage with the audiences that matter to them. Just one in ten had a strong feeling that they could do this effectively.

“What the research revealed is that today’s marketers are too busy managing content to manage content well,” CMI’s chief strategy officer, Robert Rose, said. He added that many brands still have a blind spot in terms of knowing exactly what their audiences need and want to hear, primarily due to a failure to implement listening strategies. To address these issues, marketers could outsource all or part of their content efforts to a third party to free up time and resources to implement core strategies effectively, leverage new technology (including AI and automation) to improve the quality of repetitive tasks, and move away from a culture where internal requests from different parts of the business take precedence over a unified strategy.


29/Apr/2019
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Content marketers are overwhelmed by the sheer scale of technology platforms and services available to them and largely get by via the use of outdated brute force methods, according to a study by Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

The 2019 Content Management and Strategy Survey show that marketers have never had it better in terms of the options available to them, but the near-limitless avenues to success are making it difficult to create and optimize a seamless pipeline for creativity and distribution. More than three-quarters admit that manual work still takes precedence despite having systems in place and having the appropriate technology, such as automation, available.

The good news is that businesses now recognize the critical importance of content marketing and have made the effort to adopt a strategic approach during the last 12 months. About 59% of those surveyed said they now have a documented strategy for content in place, and more than three-quarters are strategic in at least some part of their efforts.

When drafting strategies, aligning content with business goals and objectives is a high priority for marketers, as 94% include these elements. Other popular aspects of strategy include defined roles and responsibilities (79%), measurements and KPIs (76%), desired outcomes (72%) and workflows (71%).

However, a failure to identify the right tools for the job is undermining efforts to achieve many of these plans. Just 16% say they are using the right technology and maximizing its potential, while 42% believe they can leverage the correct technology but are not making the most of it.

The mish-mash of technology and platforms is making it very challenging for enterprises to scale their content marketing campaigns, with one in ten even admitting they are still doing things ad-hoc. Again, only a mere 13% say they have a “completely systemic approach” capable of supporting their production, management and distribution channels effectively.

“This year’s research suggests that while many organizations have a handle on the physical management of content assets with nearly 70% having undertaken content inventories and audits, there is a great need for optimizing the use of technology to make content flow more quickly and seamlessly throughout the enterprise—and to get that content in front of the right audiences at optimal times,” CMI chief strategy advisor, Robert Rose said.

Putting audience wants and needs above all else has been a key trend for content marketers during the last 12 months, but the majority are still struggling to serve up experiences that are tailored for each subset of a target audience. Six in ten admit that knowing what is most important to focus on for an audience is an ongoing challenge.

Content marketers also continue to operate in a silo, often away from IT, sales and wider marketing departments. Respondents said they are aware that improving communication between each of these teams will probably be the single biggest strategic challenge during the remainder of 2019. Those that can increase cooperation and collaboration stand the best chance of driving the best returns from content marketing.


15/Apr/2019
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Pharmaceutical brands need to do more to create and distribute “relevant and meaningful” content, according to a new report released last Thursday by Gartnerthat highlights the importance of improving digital strategies in the sector.

The first Gartner L2 Digital IQ Index: Pharmaceutical Rx U.S. study found that most brands in the pharmaceutical industry have not been able to pivot from a brand-centric approach to one that puts the patient at the heart of the experience and messages. Gartner noted that today’s consumers are both sceptical and savvy and that brands must, in turn, go to extra lengths to ensure that their needs are being met.

Gartner ranked 88 pharmaceutical brands in the US based on their performance in digital endeavours, and it did so by analysing more than a thousand data points across “critical dimensions”, such as social media, content marketing and site functionality. The primary takeaway is that while digital marketing efforts are meeting an adequate standard, much more can still be done.

Three-quarters of the brands were able to achieve a rank of “average” or better according to Gartner, which said the performance was impressive in part due to the “unprecedented” levels of regulation and scrutiny in the sector that can often hamper marketing campaigns.

The importance of serving up better content was highlighted by the fact that two-thirds of consumers say they use credible information that they have read or viewed to improve their own decision-making processes. Gartner said that many brand websites are still “content-poor” and that just half have up-to-date conversation guides or patient stories.

“It’s not enough to have average digital capabilities these days – pharmaceutical brands must ensure that their content is present, relevant and meaningful enough to take action on,” Gartner’s sector lead, Chris Beland, said.

He added: “Pharmaceutical brands in the U.S. face unprecedented levels of scrutiny and regulation, including strict limitations that have a profound impact on how they market to consumers. Despite these difficulties, consumers continue to look to brands’ digital channels for credible information and guidance.”

Paid search is also a key battleground for pharmaceuticals, as 68% say they regularly engage in competitive keyword bidding. Gartner noted that brands that focus their budgets on category search terms usually drive better return on investment but said these efforts must also be supported by more organic strategies.

This theory is strengthened by data in the study showing brands with effective social, mobile and email content efforts can deliver a larger portion of website traffic and general performance. Going mobile is crucial, as 83% of all traffic is now centred on mobile sites. Gartner also urged brands to incorporate prominent calls to action in content to generate better ROI.

Only three of the 88 brands analysed came away with a “genius” rating. These were Repatha, FASENRA and Humira. A further 28 are classified as “gifted”, while 37 are “average”. At the other end of the spectrum, 11 pharmaceutical brands received a “feeble” ranking.


12/Nov/2018
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Engineering companies should create a diverse mix of content formats and improve their websites to capture new leads and sales in 2019, according to a new report released last week by IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing.

The 2019 Smart Marketing for Engineers Research Report highlights the growing importance of managing a successful content marketing campaign and outlines a few key findings and trends to help brands influence buying decisions in several sectors, including manufacturing, automotive and aerospace.

Hundreds of tech pros and engineers were polled for the report, and the vast majority said that the written word in the form of case studies and datasheets is now the most valuable creative outlet. This is because buyers want in-depth and relevant content that can solve problems and influence decisions, while brands benefit from enhanced credibility.

Rewriting web pages and overhauling UI and UX will be another crucial strategy for engineering enterprises next year, as potential clients often make snap judgements on a website’s appearance and how easy it is to navigate. Those that fail to optimise in this area can lose sales immediately, as buyers abandon a page and go elsewhere.

The central role of content marketing and web pages also feeds into a need to overhaul SEO. Search engines act as the foundation for traffic and new leads, so engineering companies should invest in a wide range of content resources, including regular blogs, and optimise everything for Google.

Meanwhile, Content Marketing Institute (CMI) released the latest part of its Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for manufacturing sector last week. More than half of marketers in this industry say they have pivoted away from sales and promotional messages and are now prioritising the informational needs of audiences instead.

Serving up added value content has emerged as a major trend during the last 12 months, but manufacturing marketers are still behind B2B content marketers. Around four in five marketers in the manufacturing sector also admit to not having a documented strategy, which suggests their approach to content is yet to mature.

“There’s a clear way for manufacturing marketers to turn around their perspective,” CMI’s research director, Lisa Murton Beets, said. “They need to stop creating content without taking the time to first understand and prioritize the audience’s informational needs. This goes back to the importance of having a documented content marketing strategy.”

While manufacturers are playing catch up, many do recognise the importance of content, as 56% of those that have increased investment during the last 12 months have spent more on the creative process. Four in five are now also using new technology relating to data and analytics to better manage their efforts.

Looking ahead, more than a quarter are planning to use “personas” during content marketing campaigns in the coming months, which will take adoption rates for this technique to 66% by early 2019. Finally, the notoriously long sales cycle in manufacturing prompted 68% to cite serving up content for multi-level roles as the most pressing challenge for the year ahead.


01/Oct/2018
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Financial services enterprises are pivoting away from traditional media channels and doubling down on cost-effective content marketing to reach wider audiences, according to a new study by Yell.

The financial services specialist survey polled the opinions of 250 senior marketers in the industry and revealed key trends and interesting insights its latest annual State of Financial Marketing report. The main takeaway is that marketers are looking to make budgets go further, as the majority are not planning to increase spending on the activity during the next 12 months.

While budgetary thresholds are mostly standing still, the same is not true for content marketing investment. This appears to be a primary focus for those in financial services, as a sizeable 77% said they will spend more engaging articles, blogs, videos and infographics in the coming months, while 62% will divert more funds into improving and maintaining corporate websites.

Social media is another important outlet, as 54% of marketers are planning to increase paid social media spending, while a similar number will do the same for email marketing. These forms of digital marketing are becoming more popular in contrast to more traditional channels, such as print, radio and TV, where investment is dropping off.

There will be a net reduction in spending on ads on “passive” traditional channels during the next year. Print advertising will see the biggest decline, as 23% of marketers said they would spend less in this area. One in ten also said TV advertising budgets will fall. This indicates more “active” channels, such as content and social media, are now the go-to options for marketers.

As the switch to digital continues, marketers still have several pressing concerns and challenges that are preventing them from getting the most from their endeavours. Just under half said a lack of time and resources is making it hard to achieve their objectives. This is a problem they plan to address by working with an expert third party, such as a content agency.

Only one in five said time and resource constraints were a “significant” issue two years ago, so this is an alarming rise in a comparatively short period. Marketers are also struggling to get to grips with the latest wave of cutting-edge technology, as 80% said inefficient platforms are hindering their efforts to achieve targets and goals.

“The pressure being placed on financial services marketers to do more with the same, or even fewer resources, is once again the top of the charts when it comes to marketers’ concerns,” Yell founder partner, Nigel Roberts, noted. “Last year it was our contention that this was due to a massive increase in channels that marketers are being asked to service, without necessarily being given more budget or people to assist them.”

He added: “This year it feels like much of the same, but there is a sense that the focus is moving away from traditional channels, with content delivery being regarded as having greater importance within financial service institutions.”


24/Sep/2018
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According to a new study published by B2B research enterprise Clutch, brands that produce business content with added value will benefit from a snowball effect of enhanced awareness, engagement and retention. The study also outlines a range of interesting trends and information for marketers.

The good news is that content marketing appears to be working as intended. Almost nine in ten of those surveyed said they had completed the purchase of a brand’s product or service after consuming content online, while more two-thirds believe the articles, blogs, videos and infographics they consume are either useful and valuable in some way.

Content marketing can trigger positive actions from consumers in a variety of ways. For example, more than half said they would take the time to research what a brand offers if they deem a piece of content to be engaging and offering added value. The report notes that giving “value first” is a preferable strategy, as it will feed into awareness, search intent and sales further down the line.

While 33% said that the content they consume is often “biased and unreliable,” these materials would not put them off from purchasing a product entirely. On the contrary, almost three-quarters of people said they had bought goods or services from a brand despite their concerns about the quality of content marketing.

Content that is transparent and unique will drive engagement and sales in the best way for brands, but the results suggest less reliable promotional resources may also have a place in the marketing mix. However, marketers need to approach with caution, as it is difficult to get right.

“I think audiences can find content marketing biased and unreliable if the content is, in fact, biased and unreliable; audiences aren’t stupid,” said Arron Richmond, a content manager for High Speed Training. “This is a gigantic missed opportunity because the one thing content marketing should aim to achieve, above all else, is increasing a customer’s confidence to buy from you.”

Targeting value is still the best method for serving up content that audiences want to engage with, and Clutch believes there are three primary factors involved. The first is to produce content tailored to the specific preferences and issues of an audience, using keyword research and customer outreach to underscore topics that will resonate.

Brands should also showcase their expertise by doubling down on a “core question.” This practice allows writers to answer with authority while hitting the bullet points that audiences want from content. Finally, brands should optimise for SEO, as 87% said they use Google and other search engines to find business content.

The study also unearthed a few surprising takeaways about content and what each generation prefers. Millennials are often criticised for their short attention spans and love of simple videos, but blogs and articles were the most popular with young adults and Generation X. Baby boomers also enjoy articles but prefer to read reviews and product descriptions. In contrast, just 16% of Millennials said they prefer these descriptions.


17/Sep/2018
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According to a new study published by Dun & Bradstreet, the vast majority of B2B marketers believe data and analytics play a major role in personalising content and driving sales, but around half are still not confident about the quality of data they have at their disposal.

The annual B2B Marketing Data Report shows a growing recognition that data underpins marketing strategies and campaigns, with 89% believing that data quality is a key driver for content marketing and sales. This is a 15% increase from the previous study, and that figure has steadily tracked upward for several years.

Data is now a crucial business asset for several reasons, according to B2B marketers. The top activities that data underscores are campaign execution and personalised content. In a world where brands are serving up more materials across social media and corporate websites, data is now viewed as a tool to help them cut through the noise and connect with target audiences effectively.

In addition to optimising content campaigns, data is also being used to generate customer insights via analytics. This also feeds into content strategies and improves decision making throughout the marketing pipeline. Other top activities centred around data include sales prospecting, sales closing, and lead qualification and scoring. Basically, data is now an essential part of marketing, from the first stage to the last.

While data has become more important during the last 12 months, B2B enterprises are more hesitant about the quality of data they have. This lack of confidence is making it more difficult to manage content marketing initiatives at a time when these efforts have never been so crucial to driving awareness, engagement and sales.

“B2B companies are currently at a crossroads,” Dun & Bradstreet Global Head of Marketing, Josh Mueller, noted. “They overwhelmingly understand the value of data to their organizations, but have not yet figured out how to collect, integrate and apply that data in insightful ways to help make business decisions. Organizations that have established a solid data foundation as core to their sales and marketing programs can improve performance over their counterparts that don’t have that data foundation.”

One other issue that is holding B2B marketers back is a lack of data integration with the wider business. A sizeable 90% of the 250 marketers surveyed said they find it challenging to line up marketing data with sales and other activities when attempting to execute campaigns across a plethora of channels. Just a third said they can make sense of a buyer’s journey. These blind spots subsequently make it more difficult to serve up the right content at the right time. Integrating data with CRM is another common problem.

“By using data to connect sales and marketing activities, businesses can better identify new opportunities, focus on the right audience with the right message, arm sellers with the right intelligence, and provide learnings that enable them to continually improve their strategy,” Mueller added. “When done right, this is the winning formula for more personalized, efficient, and impactful marketing at scale.”


03/Sep/2018
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According to the latest biannual CMO Survey, Marketing spending on social media has hit record levels during the last year even though many brands are still unable to determine their return on investment and prove its real impact.

Marketers now invest 13.8% of their total budgets on social media, which is a 4% increase from the figure reported 12 months ago. It also represents the fastest rate of growth and suggests that while Facebook has recently tweaked algorithms to reduce the visibility of brand content in news feeds, other platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat, may be picking up the slack.

While spending has increased, just a quarter of respondents said they can quantitatively prove the impact of its social marketing campaigns. More worryingly, 39.3% said they had no idea about its impact at all. Therefore. knowledge gaps still exist, but the situation is improving. Last year, 45% could not determine the impact of their social marketing, while only 16.3% could.

Rising social spending agrees with the findings from a separate study released by BuzzSumo and Buffer last week. It found that there were 8.1 million pieces of content posted on Facebook during the second quarter of 2018, which is an increase of 1.1 million pieces over the figure from the first quarter. On average, brands are now creating 90,000 posts every day.

While quantity is soaring, brands are seeing a slowdown in organic engagement, either due to the emergence of other social platforms or of the algorithm change noted earlier. There were more than 29 million interactions on Facebook in Q1 2017, but this number has decreased sharply and stood at just 12.8 million for the latest quarter.

Engagement is a challenge for brands, but the CMO Survey found that marketers are still committed to increasing social media spending. They expect to allocate 16.3% of their budgets to the practice during the next year, and this amount will increase to 22.9% by 2023.

Third-party agencies are also playing a more pivotal role in the social marketing mix, as 21.7% of a brand’s activity on these networks are now handled by agencies, a marked increase over the 18.7% figure from last year. These agencies are usually adept at managing a range of content output, from editorial articles and blogs to engaging infographics and video.

Finally, the CMO Survey also shined a light on the changing role of marketing and how it has broadened over the last five years. The clear majority of marketers now lead their company’s brand activity, social media presence and PR. However, there has been a slight decrease in marketers taking the reins for ad campaigns and promotions.

Political issues are a difficult subject for brands to parse, as 67.8% believe having a say on public affairs can limit their ability to interact and engage with a wide audience and retain current customers. Six in ten also believe that incorporating politics into content and messages could make them stand out in the wrong way.


24/Aug/2018
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According to a new annual report published by Clutch, four out of five consumers have purchased a product after reading a high-quality piece of content marketing from a brand online.

Content has long been a key driver for awareness, sales and revenue, but it is particularly impactful during the search stage when pushing potential customers along the sales cycle is so important. Serving up engaging content at the right time can make it much easier to convert interested buyers into paying consumers.

Editorial articles, blogs, videos and infographics can do this in several ways according to the study. Half of the respondents said they would be more likely to conduct research about a company and take a closer look at their line of services and products after consuming content, while 53% said it would drive them to return to a brand’s corporate website.

The big takeaway for brands is that content makes consumers more motivated to engage with them. Just over two-thirds said content marketing campaigns add value and are useful, while the majority prefer editorial and high-quality content in the form of articles and videos capable of addressing their own wants, needs and concerns.

“Readers are aware that [online business content] is created for marketing purposes, but appreciate brands that provide honest, reliable, high-quality content,” Rebrandy executive Louisa McGrath said in the report. “This builds trust and awareness for a brand, which is invaluable and of growing importance.”

Clutch noted that consumers now expect certain hallmarks in content to deem it to be high quality. These include “originality,” in the sense of providing a new slant on an already established topic with deeper analysis, new information or unique points, and a “narrative”. People are now eager for storylines, themes and case studies to be included.

Brands should also look to discuss issues that may be relevant to their audience and customers, provide actionable tips to help them and built trust, and back up what they are saying with authoritative, trustworthy sources.

Consumers are now also more aware of the content marketing campaigns deployed by brands, but this is not seen as a negative development, as audiences want to read and view messages that are relevant and valuable in a convenient manner. In fact, more people want content to be served up across a variety of platforms to meet their consumption demands.

“Current technology allows people to consume content in all hours of the day across different devices,” Lead to Conversion executive Andrew Travers said. “Providing content in multiple formats allows marketers to put their message in front of target audiences in a way that’s most convenient for them.”

For those interested in steering away from some of the tell-tale signs that a piece is content marketing, 27% of respondents said that being published on the company’s website is the primary giveaway. This was followed by having links to the company’s website, an author biography linked to the company and a discussion of products and services that the company provides.