What does it take to make a content marketing program successful? Every organization answers that question differently based on its goals.
Still, successful programs tend to share characteristics that can provide directional hints for other content marketers.
CMI’s newly released Enterprise Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2022 sponsored by Imagination reveals those clues for marketers at companies with at least 1,000 employees. In this research, top performers are defined as those who say they consider their organization’s content marketing extremely or very successful.
Here’s what top-performing enterprise marketers do differently.
1. They measure content performance (and do it well)
Ninety-three percent of top performers say they measure content performance, and more than half (61%) say they’re doing an excellent or very good job at it.
Why is that remarkable? When you look at the responses from the entire group of enterprise marketers, the measurement picture looks different. A still high percentage (78%) say they measure content performance, but only 36% say they’re doing a very good or excellent job with it.
Click to enlarge
Measuring performance is hard. But it’s one of the most important things content teams must do in 2022, according to CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose.
After all, without measuring performance, you’ll struggle to understand what’s resonating and what needs improvement. And you’ll never be able to prove the value of your content marketing program.
2. They take advantage of content marketing technologies
Top performers had higher adoption rates for nearly every content marketing technology. The biggest differences came in three kinds of technology: content creation/calendaring/collaboration/workflow, customer relationship management (CRM).
Eighty-nine percent of top performers use content creation/calendaring/collaboration/workflow tools versus 77% of all enterprise respondents.
I’m not surprised to see top performers are more likely to use these tools. Calendaring is an essential part of content marketing strategy. Top performers tend to have larger, and tools for organizing processes make collaboration teams easier and more efficient.
Sixty-two percent of top performers use CRM systems versus 50% of all enterprise respondents. Top-performing businesses tend to be laser-focused on customers. CRM systems provide a central place to manage contacts and the sales process, streamline processes, and improve workflow.
Content performance/recommendation analytics
Forty percent of top performers use content performance/recommendation tools versus 26% of all enterprise respondents. That’s the widest gap we observed (14 percentage points) between top performers and the total set of enterprise respondents.
I see a link between success and measurement. If you can gauge content performance, you can tune and adjust to continue to improve.
Click to enlarge
3. They differentiate their content
In a sea of sameness, differentiation gets your content noticed.
Successful enterprise content marketers know this: Seventy-two percent of top performers say they always or frequently differentiate their content from their competitors’ content. But among the general pool of enterprise marketers surveyed, only 49% do.
Click to enlarge
Top performers seem to differentiate their content not because it’s harder to capture attention but because it gets them results. Only 37% of top performers say it has gotten difficult to get attention over the last year compared with 49% of all respondents.
How do these top performers differentiate their content? We didn’t ask that directly, but we did find a clue. Top performers attribute their overall content marketing success to “the value our content provides” (70%). And it’s safe to say that valuable content can be a differentiator.
Spend some time figuring out that special content or content experience only your organization can provide.
4. They are focused on their customers
Top performers are more likely to see the full journey of buyers. Seventy percent strongly or somewhat agree their organization provide a consistent experience across the engagement journey. About the same percent (69%) crafts content based on the stages in that journey.
In contrast, only half (51%) of all enterprise marketers indicate they provide a consistent experience and/or create content for the stages in the buyer’s journey.
Click to enlarge
Top performers are also more likely to prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their organization’s sales/promotional message (79% vs. 61% for all).
The bottom line? Top performers know the true value of content marketing is realized when the customer is put front and center – from content planning through their content experience.
They have even more differences
While the report goes into more detail, the top performers also distinguish themselves by:
- Reporting higher levels of content marketing maturity
- Documenting a content marketing strategy to guide their efforts
- Expecting bigger budget increases in 2022 compared with 2021
- Having more full-time content marketing employees on staff
Even if you can’t secure a bigger budget or more full-time staff, you can still take steps to improve the performance of your content marketing program. Consider the success differentiators you can change. Can you put the audience at the center of the content experience? What about analyzing your available metrics to see what’s working and what isn’t? Are you doing the most with the tech you have?
If your content marketing program is not as successful as it could be – even if you already consider it a top performer – you can take steps to make it great or even greater.
What are you doing to propel your content marketing forward in 2022?
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute