So, You Want Your Content to Be Audience-Focused. Be Prepared for Some Challenges.

CMI Content Marketing Audience Challenges May2020Marketers pride themselves on knowing their audience – and the most successful content marketers put their audiences’ needs first. Indeed, when it comes to the ingredients behind a successful content strategy, the highest-ranked factor among content professionals is the ability to understand and connect with an audience’s values, interests and pain points, according to new research from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). But when thinking about these audiences, three-quarters of respondents say that prioritizing marketing efforts toward one audience over another is a key challenge. So, what’s stopping content teams from redirecting their focus?

The CMI’s study suggests that human factors may be posing strategic content management challenges. Roughly 6 in 10 say they lack enough staff skilled in content strategy (63%) or that communication between teams (60%) is an issue. And while not covered in the study, another factor in managing content is the sheer volume many organizations have had to deal with. Even in 2016, a study by Accenture noted that that 1 in 5 organizations were producing ‘enormous’ volumes of content.

Other significant challenges cited by content teams reaching for an audience-focused approach are: knowing what is most important to the audience (66%); knowing the goals or emotional needs of the audience at a particular stage of the customer’s journey (65%); and knowing the steps in the customer’s journey (59%).

Respondents also indicate that being able to agree internally on market segment or persona definitions (47%) and identifying targetable demographics (36%) are key challenges. These challenges have a clear impact on the content planning process: just 4% of respondents said that their team always takes into account driving personalized experiences.

What’s more, challenges surrounding the customer journey show up in the fact that fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) organizations always take into account continuous experiences throughout the customer journey when planning content. Instead, the factor always taken into account by the largest portion of organizations is driving their brand’s value proposition (41%).

In short, there certainly seems to be some confusion on making content perfect for target audiences. However, this isn’t necessarily having too much of an impact on results.

Despite Challenges, Content Professionals Feel Positive About Strategy

Even with such audience-related challenges, a healthy proportion of content marketing respondents (who skewed more B2B than B2C) are seeing success from their content strategies. According to the survey, close to one-quarter (22%) of respondents consider their organization’s current content management strategy to be very successful, though just 1% rate it as extremely successful. Even so, more than half (56%) consider their content management to be moderately successful.

In other respects, most respondents feel positive about how content is perceived and in its application within their businesses. Most agree that their organizations view content as a core business strategy with appropriate staffing and budget (72%) and that they can easily reuse and repurpose content (83%). Similarly, 7 in 10 (69%) agreed that their team extracts meaningful consumer insight from data and analytics. However, fewer than half (45%) agreed that their organization delivers a successive customer experience from the first interaction.

That being said, content management teams are taking various steps to maintain a successful audience-focused content strategy, including research to better understand potential audiences (54%) and user experience (52%). Some 7 in 10 (71%) undertake content audits to evaluate existing content, and a further two-thirds (68%) keep a content inventory.

In terms of content development aids, the most commonly used among respondents are style and brand guidelines (89%), an editorial calendar (83%) and SEO (79%). Furthermore, audience focus does show up as a priority: 6 in 10 (63%) organizations use customer personas, and 4 in 10 (38%) use customer journey maps.

Read more of the findings here.

About the Data: Based on a Jan-Feb 2020 survey of 249 client-side marketers from the Content Marketing Institute database, all working at companies with more than 50 employees. Some 75% of respondents worked at organizations which sell to other businesses.

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