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Nov 13

Category: Marketing & Business Development

Content marketing isn’t new. Ensuring that a consumer is engaged with a brand and that the brand remains front of mind, through the provision of interesting, useful, and valuable content has been around for over 100 years.

Today, however, as the new — online — content marketing era matures the simple production of content that is interesting to a target segment of customers is only part of the story. Yes, content still needs to be high quality, interesting, and valuable (otherwise why would anyone read it?), but it also needs to be organised in a way that captures prospective customer information and helps to convert them into customers.

In other words, the new dominant marketing strategy — content marketing — requires that marketers not only maintain the skills of old (market research and creative, compelling writing and design), but develop new skills in data capture, storage, and analysis.

Content marketing, and the skills required of the next generation of marketers is changing fast. To stay competitive in the marketing jobs market in the coming years, marketers need to start adapting in order to keep up.

The 19th-century origins of content marketing

Though we may only have been seriously using the phrase ‘content marketing’ for the last decade or so, it actually has a history that stretches back far further. Consider three examples, both from the turn of the 20th-century

  • In 1895, John Deere — manufacturers of farming machinery — launched The Furrow, a magazine providing information to farmers on how to make their farms more efficient and profitable.
  • In 1900, Michelin — of car tyre fame — began distributing their, now famous, Michelin Guide, offering motorists travel advice, accommodation tips and, of course, restaurant reviews.
  • In 1904, Jell-O — makers of luminous desserts — introduced consumers to their new product by distributing tens of thousands of free recipe books, contributing to sales of over $1 million a year (around $30 million in today’s money) by 1906.

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Content marketing, in the sense of these three historical examples, is simply company-created media that aims to keep customers interested and engaged with the product — and so continuing to buy it and, hopefully, talking about it.

The 21st-century transformation of content marketing

Now, content marketing is almost everywhere. In their 2014 benchmark survey the Content Marketing Institute found that 93% of all business-to-business (b2b) companies were using content marketing.

The volume of content out there is increasingly at an enormous rate. Forrester Research has predicted that unstructured enterprise content is growing at a rate of 200% annually. Lots of companies are now functioning as content factories, filling the web with vast quantities of blog posts, infographics, videos, and social updates.

Until recently at least, content marketing in the 21st century — aside from the sheer volume being producing — wasn’t hugely different from the content marketing being producing in the 19th. Almost all firms opened a Twitter account and started a blog and began to try and inform the world of the many ways their product or service could save them time/money/energy/whatever.

However, whether that content is actually helping to fulfil business objectives is now coming under the spotlight. Despite all of this content being produced, only 22% of marketers are confident that they can actually measure a return on investment — four-fifths of marketers are spending time and money producing content with no idea whether it is influencing their bottom line.

That last statistic is why content marketing is now starting to change. When the Economist Intelligence Unit interviewed senior marketers early in 2015 they found that 80% wanted to restructure their marketing teams to better support business goals — 29% thought that change was needed urgently.

Content alone isn’t enough. As the Content Marketing Institute concluded in their 2014 benchmark report the challenge now is ‘closing the gap between having content, and having content that really works for the business’.

What the new era of content marketing means for skill requirements of future marketers

The drive for content marketing that clearly delivers a return on investment is contributing to big changes in the skills required of marketers. As the Economist Intelligence Unit concludes, ‘in the battle between art and science, science has won. Digital, technology and operations are top and creative is at the bottom. It’s not that creative doesn’t matter, but in most of the world and for most businesses it’s a legacy skill and no longer a focus of demand’.

This conclusion is reflected in the five areas marketing directors highlight as being in need of improvement in the coming years. All of the top five are technical, data-driven areas of work — creative skills just don’t feature.

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Marketers today have more tools available to them than ever before — from sophisticated CRM systems, to automated email and remarketing, and even embedded devices sending streams of data on buyer behaviour. But capturing all of this data, extracting the essence, turning it into something intelligent that can be acted on, and attributing the sale to some discrete piece of content or interaction? That is much harder.

Do you have the skills to make it in the new era of content marketing? 3Search works with leading companies to help them find the marketing talent they need to drive their marketing teams. Interested? Check out the latest opportunities on our website.