Using content marketing to drive thought leadership

Analysing what key statistics in the technology sector tell us about content marketing and thought leadership practices for IT vendors and resellers.

Content marketing has become a common concept within the technology industry, with 93% of technology marketers stating it was used within their business last year in a bid to attract new clients and increase thought leadership within their market. The growth of this area is substantial within the technology industry with 36% of technology marketers having a content marketing strategy, up from 33% in the previous year. So why do technology companies feel that having a content marketing strategy is important to their company and how does the current content marketing landscape look for tech companies?

How important is a content marketing strategy for thought leadership?

Having a clear strategy is a key contributor towards finding success with content marketing. However, this is not always an element that receives the focus and attention it needs. Relevant and regular content is essentially what will attract consumers to you rather than your competitors and therefore it seems obvious that the content you are sharing is of a high standard. In that case, is there any excuse that 70% of marketers lack a consistent content strategy? Or that only 3% of tech marketers feel their organisation’s use of content marketing is very effective?

It seems as though companies have finally acknowledged the importance of a strategy relating to content creation and distribution. Figures show that in 2016, 49% of companies will have an allocated executive that will be solely responsible for the strategies relating to a company’s content marketing, and for ensuring that any content being shared is relevant to their clients and regularly monitored and updated. It does seem that this should be a given as technology marketers now allocate 29% of their total budget to content marketing so what they deliver should be effective for the business.

Considering how critical to an organisation’s success a content marketing strategy is, it is surprising that many have not yet adopted the process of creating a structured process. Last year, 33% of technology marketers said they held a documented content marketing strategy for their organisation. 50% only had a verbal strategy and 14% had no strategy at all.

However, does the documentation of a strategy really influence the effectiveness of content marketing? 2016 B2B technology trends show that through documenting a content marketing strategy it does in fact increase the overall effectiveness level with 57% of the most effective technology content marketers having a documented strategy. In comparison to this, only 10% that fell within the least effective category had documented their strategies.

Thought leadership building and content marketing deliver many benefits and outcomes to a business – many over and above traditional business generation techniques. However their effect is more subtle, and building credibility in a market can take months if not years, therefore it is difficult to measure success in the short term, and difficult to quantify in a spreadsheet. Many companies often have a different outlook on what they would consider to be a success in terms of their content marketing goals and targets. Clearly, sales figures are often a determinant of success, with 37% of companies stating that achieving positive sales figures is their most important goal. However, leading up to the potential increased sales figures there are multiple contributors which can be viewed as a direct result of strong content marketing. Success looks different from company to company and each goal slightly alters the content marketing strategy which needs to be used.

However, as well as ultimately looking at the sales leads which come from content marketing, companies can also base success around customer recognition levels, brand awareness increases and their overall credibility in the market. Although for many organisations, increased sales is the ultimate goal, and one of our clients expressed that they realised their content marketing was successful when they attended their usual events and clients would approach them to discuss the topics they had shared on LinkedIn. To them, this indicated the success of their content marketing strategy and the effectiveness of the content they were sharing through their social media channels. This wouldn’t be reflected on a spreadsheet – but doesn’t undermine the impact it has had on their business and future prospecting work.

Are tech companies hard done by with the marketing content they have to produce?

Within the tech industry consumers have a much higher dependence on the information that is on offer to them, due the complexity of technology and the speed at which developments change and new products are released. In the past 12 months when researching B2B purchasing decisions, buyers have used the following methods of research collection: White papers (83%), case studies (67%), webinars (75%), blog posts (56%) and infographics (52%).

The overall opinion within the technology industry is that companies are not producing enough of the right kind of content to satisfy buyers. This has influenced the strategies of many organisations with 75% stating they will produce more content in 2016 compared to 2015 in order to meet their customers’ needs. With 78% of the IT committee requiring some form of education in order to make a change to their regular IT systems this seems like an obvious activity to undertake – but it’s important to remember that customers prefer unbranded, non-salesy content when researching potential solutions to their problem. It can be counter-intuitive to move away from talking about your own brand or product, but trust us – your customers will thank you for it.

The statistics show that companies with only 1-9 employees (83%) are those that are in the most preliminary stages of content marketing (80%). Not only this, but surely smaller companies who are trying to better establish their brand should be looking to provide their customers with as much information and content as possible in order to compete with larger organisations within the market and educate their clients about why a smaller provider might make sense for them. The end outcome from this tends to be that when a customer searches for your product or service and notices that you are often publishing new and interesting content around their market, challenges or interests, then they will appreciate that you have an in depth knowledge of the subject and can speak with credibility and authority on your topic.

Can one method of content marketing please everyone?

Content marketing has the power to deliver huge benefits for technology organisations, however it is by no means a simple task to create this success. Providing an in depth knowledge whilst keeping the reader engaged and interested in your ongoing content collateral is a difficult prospect, particularly within the technology industry where there needs to be a relative balance between humorous and serious and personal and corporate topics. The over use of any of those four categories could easily give a negative impression to the customer, especially when they are trusting you with potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Effective content marketing is therefore a key focal area for the technology sector’s business generation teams with only 3% of technology marketers rating the effectiveness of their organisations’ content marketing as ‘very effective’.

Therefore, what makes an effective thought leadership article? A recent LinkedIn survey suggested that consumers prefer to read about general industry topics rather than a constant stream of specific product areas, as long as they are prioritised for your audience, with a more general outlook on the area you are researching. There also needs to be a high focus on combining content marketing with ongoing lead generation activities and not separating them – but viewing them in conjunction and ensuring that content strategies are aligned to telemarketing, SEO and Field Sales objectives.

In conclusion…

Content marketing can take a variety of forms, and be as simple or elaborate as your budget will allow. Although perhaps a daunting task at the start for technology companies, there are many ways in which content can be integrated into pre-existing marketing strategies. Within the technology industry many companies are already using social media channels to communicate with customers and gain a good understanding of their clients’ focuses and activities. Therefore, already established social media channels are a hugely effective way to share content with existing or new followers.

But companies are missing a trick when it comes to leveraging these platforms, especially LinkedIn – across their Directors and Sales teams. 72% of technology marketers stated LinkedIn is a significantly effective social media channel alongside Twitter and YouTube, with 83% of IT buyers, according to a LinkedIn survey, using social media for IT news and information each month. This is simple and straightforward way to reach new customers and every sales person and manager within tech companies should be exploiting their LinkedIn, company blog and social media platforms.

One person plugging away in an organisation won’t cut it – thought leadership requires a critical mass of information, shares and perspectives – developed across the organisation, curated between teams and distributed via all employees.

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