What Your Customers (and Competitors) Think About Online Advertising and Content Marketing

With ad-blocker downloads on the rise and criticism of banner ad effectiveness a theme among industry pundits the past few years, my team at ScribbleLive recently partnered with industry analyst Rebecca Lieb to explore the latest consumer and marketer attitudes toward online advertising and content marketing.

The resulting report, The Eclipse of Online Advertising, reveals widespread dissatisfaction with traditional online advertising tactics.

For example, consider this telling quote from the media chief of a top-five CPG advertiser: “Ads on the Internet are not fit for purpose and never have been.”

When you pair the above sentiments related to online ads with the below statistics related to content marketing growth, it’s easy to see how the marketing world is changing.

Moreover, now that content marketing as a discipline has grown up, marketers are increasingly prioritizing content within the digital mix.

You’re probably well aware of this shift… but perhaps not the following insights.

1. There’s a serious supply and demand problem with online content

Brands are creating more content than ever. The 2016 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that 77% of B2C marketers plan to produce more content in 2016 vs. 2015.

But that doesn’t mean that people will consume it. In fact, the average time that people are spending with digital media every day remains relatively flat. As such, the bar has been raised for content marketers who want to cut through the clutter.

2. The rise in ad-blocking software signals the need to alter course

Consumers are increasingly viewing online ads as a nuisance to be avoided. Recent data released by PageFair and Adobe estimated that nearly 200 million people are using ad-blocking software worldwide. That figure represented a 50% increase over the prior year.

Commonly cited reasons for using ad blockers include the intrusiveness and excess amount of ads, as well as the effect they have on site performance.

Online ads today face an uphill battle for consumer attention. Marketers must find a better way to engage their audiences.

3. Quality is much more important than quantity

As content marketing eclipses online ads, marketers might be tempted to pursue a volume approach. But is quantity of content really the answer?

The data suggests it is not. Recent research from TrackMaven shows that increased social media posting is inversely proportionate to engagement rates.

Measuring content output is easy. But measuring quality is not. Brands serious about their content strategies must put KPIs in place─ones related to metrics like engagement and lead generation─and track their efforts carefully against them.

4. You must understand the customer journey before building your content strategy

Developing a content strategy is hardly a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Many brands tend to dive in too quickly, throwing pieces of content against the wall of consumers to see whether anything sticks. However, brands first need to spend time understanding the customer journey and then build their content strategies around that journey.

The customer journey should also inform your channel mix. With more digital content than ever competing for consumer attention, expectations run high for brand experiences. Consumers want companies to deliver content when and where they need it most. Does your brand have a handle on that information? If not, the development of your content strategy is premature.

5. Effective content strategies require true empathy

It’s easy to observe your customers’ behavior and think that you understand them. But do you truly empathize with them?

Without a real understanding of your customers’ motivations, a content strategy will never be informed. And the only way to truly empathize with your customers is to talk to them. It’s that simple.

Get to know your customers’ pain points. What annoys your customers? What is valuable to them? Don’t just ask yourself these questions─ask your customers.

For example, Cintell recently published a benchmark report on the use of personas that found marketers who take the time to research and document customer personas are twice as likely to be successful. You can’t empathize with someone unless you understand where they’re coming from.

6. Executing efficient, quality content is hard─but possible

Building a well-informed content strategy isn’t easy. Executing on it as an organization can be even harder.

The brands that do it best focus on:

  • People: Content is the key pillar of marketing, but a brand’s content shouldn’t come from just its marketing team. Involve the complete organization in the content process, and your brand’s voice will be all the more authentic for it.
  • Tools: You must be able to plan, execute, and measure your content marketing efforts, and there are tools and platforms to help you do so. Evaluate your options carefully, and put the proper systems in place to help you succeed.
  • Process: Define your content processes clearly. Understand the life cycle of your content─what to create and when, who will create it and how, where it will be distributed, and how it will be measured. The clearer your map, the more likely you are to reach your desired destination.

The companies that are successful over the next few years are ones that develop informed, customer-centric strategies, execute efficiently, and use data to optimize and refine their approach.

That may seem like a tall challenge, but it’s a huge opportunity for the companies that get it right.

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