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Marketers Are Creating More Content, but They’re Not Sure Why

By Natalie Burg March 8th, 2016

It’s not often that research plays out like a disaster film trailer, but a recent study by Accenture Interactive delivers all the requisite drama. Marketers are drowning in a tsunami of content. And it’s only getting worse.

“It’s almost as though content is growing faster than our ability to perceive the change,” said Donna Tuths, global head of content for Accenture Interactive and author of the study. “This is, to me, indicative of that we’re about to see an inflection point. There is a transformative moment that we’re reaching very quickly.”

According to the data, 50 percent of marketers have more content than they can effectively manage, and 52 percent say their peers can beat them at execution. Add on that 80 percent of those leaders also predict their output will increase over the next two years, and you’ve got yourself a potential disaster in the making.

The study, which is aptly titled “Content: The H2O of Marketing,” makes the case that content marketing has come to resemble a tidal wave. Truths suggested that the report was meant to examine a hypothesis Accenture had noticed—mainly that marketers were blindly creating more content without the confidence that the work actually driving results.

“Water has to be managed,” she said. “There is a finite amount of content that can be created, managed, and distributed based on most of the means that we have today.”

Improving the process

This disconnect starts at the top and trickles down the organizational ladder. Without support and guidance from executives, it’s going to be difficult for ROI to follow.

“There is no painless pill to take to get out of this. It’s going to take work on many levels both within the organization and within the ecosystem of partners that all content marketers are living in,” Tuths said. “The mandate for [content] is going to require C-suite sponsorship.”

But what exactly should this more centralized, transformative approach to content look like? According to the study, it all boils down to to better planning.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they spend more time on operational details of managing content as opposed to branding and strategy. And two years from now, 80 percent expect to spend more time on operations.

“The less you plan, the more you end up with just a real cacophony and chaos,” Tuths said. “And it drives the waste.”

Waste appears to enter the creative process in many ways. The study found that 78 percent of respondents struggled to implement their technology.

Tuths says she is currently spending time with customers fine tuning their operational model, determining where content will be stored in the organization, how it will be archived and tagged, who will have access to it, and other process-oriented strategizing.

“You have to think of [these tasks] like librarian services,” she said. “Thinking about speed to market, it’s really fast if somebody wants to go in there and grab something that’s pretty close to what they need and do minor modifications.”

One way to make this process more efficient, according to Accenture, is to repurpose content. Marketers can make their work go further by adapting it for different mediums—like turning an article into a SlideShare—or recycling it by breaking up longer e-books and whitepapers into multiple posts (something we refer to as divisible content).

Just like with water, it’s beneficial to everyone if marketers conserve their content as much as possible.

Improving resources

While executive support is crucial for any content program to succeed, so, too, are the tools and talent that power the program.

The study asked marketers to rate how 13 different factors could influence an organization’s ability to head in the right direction. Better technology topped the list, but the results were very balanced, as you can see in the graphic below.

“This really indicated to us that there’s no silver bullet here, and that they kind of know there’s no silver bullet,” Tuths said. “All these things are going to be required.”

Technology, strategy, time, and organizational support were all valued, but on more than one occasion, marketers voiced their concern about one resource: talent. About a third of respondents claimed that they weren’t prepared to produce more content because they lacked the right talent.

“There is a very tight market for talent,” Tuths explained. “The skills needed are evolving rapidly. To attract the best talent in this space you need to be seen as being serious about content and content marketing.”

Based on these findings, the Accenture Interactive survey has identified one major problem affecting today’s marketing landscape: The underlying approach for how people create content is supremely flawed. Quantity isn’t all that relevant if the quality of what you publish suffers.

If marketers want to survive the tidal wave headed this way, they’re going to have to get smarter about planning out—and sticking to—their content strategies.

Image by Shutterstock
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