State of Content Marketing 2021: This Year’s Biggest Opportunities, According to Our Research

I’ve always loved original research.

It’s a romance that dates back to the second grade, when I decided to test 10 different dog shampoos on a focus group of mutts, grading them across a rubric of smell, length of effectiveness, and, of course, fluffiness. It took some work and I smelled like Brian from Family Guy after a bender, but in the end, it paid off. I won third place in the science fair as the youngest entrant.

I may have peaked in second grade, but I still love original research. I’ve gotten to do everything from a large-scale study of how consumers perceive native ads to an examination of how political ads effect voters brains. Research is my secret content weapon. It’s the easiest way to create content that stands out, and you get to learn something interesting about the world in the process.

Earlier this year, we surveyed 530 marketers about their biggest goals, challenges, and opportunities. In May, we published our State of Content Marketing research report and hosted a webinar to analyze all the findings. Let’s dive in to three of the key opportunities. I encourage you to download the full report (no form, I promise).

Opportunity #1: Educational courses

If you read this newsletter, you might have heard me beat this drum before, but now I have a whole new stick to use.

In a large consumer study we conducted earlier this year, 58 percent of consumers said they’d be somewhat or very likely to take a free educational course from a brand. This makes sense. Brands have expertise. People want that expertise, so long as it’s not a commercial dressed up like a piece of content.

content marketing comic

This is arguably the biggest opportunity in content marketing. And yet! Only 2 percent of respondents said educational courses were the content format they were focusing on most this year.

If I were you, I’d see that as an opportunity. Your competitors aren’t doing it. So why don’t you?

Opportunity #2: Getting buy-in from your CMO

Over the past 10 years, I’ve gotten a close look at a lot of content marketing programs as either a reporter or strategist. Let me tell you a necessary truth: The best programs have buy-in from the top. GE, Amex, Marriott, Red Bull, Hubspot, you name it—there’s always executive support. Without it, your job suddenly becomes harder than trying to win a break dancing competition with Chris Christie.

Look at him go.

That’s why I was mildly concerned by the results of another question from our survey: Only 66 percent of respondents agreed that their head of marketing understands and supports their content marketing program.executive support

Now, you might be saying: “66 percent is pretty good!” If this was the CEO, you’d be right. But for the love of New Jersey, it’s 2021. Your head of marketing should know why you’re doing content marketing by now. It’s almost impossible to capture anyone’s attention without high-quality storytelling.

If your boss isn’t on board yet, the best thing you can do is showcase why content will help you reach your broader business goals. There’s an art and a science to this. You want to play on both your boss’s business sensibility as well as their deep, ego-driven fear of falling behind the competition.

If you need help, I go over exactly how to do it in this free webinar.

Opportunity #3: Up your content measurement game

One reason why those CMOs might not be bought in: Only 68 percent of respondents said they had documented content marketing goals and KPIs. It’s hard to get buy-in if you can’t prove success, and you can’t prove success unless you write down your freaking goals to track how you did.

content marketing goals

Even more worrying, only 36 percent of respondents said that they were satisfied with their company’s ability to measure the success of their content.

Listen, marketing measurement isn’t easy. We all know this. But you can either cry on the floor with a magnum bottle of sauvignon blanc and a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s, or you can tackle your problems head on. (Or, like me, you can do both!) We created this Content Measurement Maturity Model to help you do the latter. You’ll have to get your own cheap wine and ice cream.

If you want to see all of our research, click here to read the full State of Content Marketing report for free. As a final benefit, I promise there will be absolutely no GIFs of Chris Christie dancing in the report, which may be just as important as the data.

Image by MicrovOne

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