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The rise of content science

With content marketing now firmly entrenched as part of the B2B mix, it’s time to think about how to do it better. My US colleagues have been looking into this and recently surveyed 277 businesses to establish current trends. 

Unsurprisingly, they found that businesses are at different stages in the maturity of their content marketing capabilities. What’s more surprising is the impact this has on the bottom line. Brands using ‘Best-in-Class’ approaches are enjoying content-related revenue contributions five times higher than those of their peers.  

The survey data showed that most brands’ content marketing passes through five distinct phases as it matures: the Content Marketing Continuum. Understanding this may help other brands progress more quickly to a stage where content marketing is optimised to deliver tangible returns. 

The Content Marketing Continuum:

  1. Getting started   
  2. Ramping volume
  3. Optimising channels
  4. Adapting to buyers
  5. Building community and advocacy

Identifying and documenting these five stages enables companies to make decisions that increase the benefits of content marketing programs.

Most of the survey respondents fell somewhere between stages 2 and 3. The main focus is on volume. They’re feeling the pressure to generate enough content (stage 2) and are beginning to optimise their content creation across marketing channels (stage 3). Many of them are stuck in a loop of creating and pushing out content, rather than thinking strategically about the role it can play. 

Best-in-Class respondents had broken the cycle and moved further along the continuum to stage 4. They recognise the need to meet the changing expectations of buyers and are focused on collecting intelligence that allows them to do this.

There are critical areas where the Best-in-Class demonstrate a superior approach. The first is mastering the creation process. They are not creating content on a whim; they have a plan and are focused. For example, Best-in-Class are 44% more likely to align their content to the buyers’ journey and the vast majority design content to meet the needs of their target persona(s). In addition, the Best-in-Class are tackling Stage 4 with gusto, planning and managing outreach across channels using social scheduling tools.

Progressing to stage 5 is perhaps the hardest leap of all. It requires the creation of assets that users don’t just value but are willing to advocate. The content needs strike a chord with them professionally and personally, and they need to feel they benefit in some way from association with it. 

Overall, it boils down to becoming more scientific about the use of content. In a world where there is a lot of content noise (thanks to the quantitative focus of many brands), Best-in-Class marketers are being forced to continually optimise their craft. This means having the right data to make informed decisions about the content strategy, not just overall, but on a personal level for each buyer.