Content Marketing in the UK: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends

The Content Marketing Institute (the Vatican of our discipline) has just released their latest report on the state of content marketing in the UK (sponsored by Lionbridge, the translation and localization people — hell, they paid for it, might as well give them a decent backlink).

It’s called Content Marketing in the UK 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends and it’s a clear snapshot of a discipline in transition.

Drilling into the data (or even just browsing it), you can actually see the market swing into a new stage:

  • From “Let’s do this” to “Let’s make this work.”
  • From “Let’s try everything” to “Let’s focus.”
  • From “Let’s just learn how to make content” to “Let’s make content that our prospects actually care about.”
  • From “Let’s shoot and call what we hit the target” to “Maybe it’s time to measure this stuff.”

The picture that the data paints reflects the swing of the pendulum that Joe Pulizzi (orange-clad CMI Founder and charismatic leader of the Cult of Cleveland) predicted in his opening remarks at Content Marketing World in October. I wrote about it in a post called, Content Marketing slides into the Trough of Disillusionment (sounds more depressing than it actually is) and this data provides even more evidence of it.

Now seems like a good time to shut up and embed the damn thing:

Good stuff, right?

Five things I took away from this research.

The research includes both B2B and B2C companies, so keep that in mind (I’d love to see how B2B companies differ from our glitzy-but-embarrassingly-superficial peers — maybe Joe can dispatch an orange minion or two to break this data out).

1) The fire hose is still open.

As content marketing beds down as a core process in most marketing departments, the telltale signs of a bandwagon are softening – replaced by the more solid metrics of real practice.

Still, 66% of marketers expect their content marketing budgets to increase next year and 88% say they’ll produce more content next year than they did this year (I guess that means 22% expect to be producing more without a budget increase. Are they getting better at it? Producing more smaller pieces? Lying?).

That’s still a hell of a lot of momentum, but the data  throughout the report suggests there’s less of a herd mentality to it now and more of a considered investment.

2) I guess marketers hate committing their strategies to writing.

Once again, only 37% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. 41% have an undocumented one.

I don’t really get that. Maybe it’s because a documented strategy leads to more accountability and people will get away without being accountable if they can.

Or maybe it’s because people don’t really know how simple a content marketing strategy can be. Maybe they should download and fill out our Big Fat Content Marketing Strategy Checklist.

(This whole ‘undocumented’ thing is as weird to me as the UK’s so-called ‘unwritten constitution’. Call me old-fashioned, but if it ain’t written, it ain’t a constitution.)

3) When it comes to aligning a content team, meetings are good things.

I’m not big on meetings for meetings sake, but with so many moving parts, it’s not surprising that the more effective content marketers are also the ones who get together more and get more out of their meetings.

59% of the general sample said meetings were ‘Very or Extremely Valuable’ while 78% of the (self-rated) most effective content marketers said so.

Being successful in content marketing is about culture change. And change demands lots of sit-downs and chats and Kum-Ba-Ya sessions. Get over it.

4) It’s ROI time.

When asked about their top 5 challenges, UK content marketers drew a really pretty chart for us:

 top 5 challenges from UK content marketing study

Clearly, the pressure is on to make content that people engage with — and to be able to measure that engagement.

This is good. It means there’s some discipline coming into our discipline.

The need for consistency and variety are interesting too. Again, it feels like content marketing is bedding down and UK marketers know what they need to do.

5. Finally, senior marketers are getting on board.

On the list of top challenges, lack of buy-in from higher-ups is encouragingly low at 19%. Finally, right?

We did a straw poll back in 2010 (part of Project Open Robe) and discovered that these internal obstacles were the number one challenge that content marketers faced.

Old-school B2B marketers just didn’t get content marketing and the people who did get it reported to them. Which sucked.

Now, it looks like most senior marketers are on board. Which is encouraging.

So what are you going to do about it?

Content marketing used to confer advantage. Now it just gets you into the game.

If you want to turn it into an advantage, you have to do it better than your competitors.

Now it’s up to you, but this research – once again – shows that the marketers doing the best with content marketing are the ones who document their strategies. So if you’re one of the 62% who hasn’t done that yet, it’s a great place to start.

If you already have a documented strategy, maybe the next leap will be in getting better at measuring what works, so you can more consistently produce content that engages people. Boost your dog-to-home-run ratio (D:HR).

Maybe you didn’t need fresh new research or a top, award-if-not-so-winning-at-least-shortlisted B2B content marketing agency to tell you that. But it never hurts.

Comments

I think measuring changes in customer life time value will be the ultimate measure for content effectiveness and ROI, as it considers loyalty and affinity to purchase. Challenge is can we accurately measure and predict CLV? At Kairos we are working on content scoring models based around impact to CLV.

    Thanks Glen. CLV is no doubt a critical metric over a long period. For many of our clients, it may be too long-term to help steer decisions now.

    But I imagine we’ll all get good at both short-and long-term metrics!

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