Prior to the start of 2020 (and before COVID-19), marketers were optimistic about the future of content marketing. Confirming this is a recently released study [download page] by the ANA and the Content Council, based on a 2019 survey of more than 120 senior-level marketers. At that time, some 7 in 10 respondents were cautiously optimistic about the prospects of content marketing in the year ahead, with 31% forecasting “clear skies” and another 40% predicting the next 12 months would be “cloudy” (indicating some room for improvement).
This optimism can be seen in the emphasis placed on innovation by content marketers. Almost half (46%) of those surveyed were expecting to implement test and learn strategies in the next 6 to 12 months, while 4 in 10 (41%) said they would be investing in marketing automation.
With 6 in 10 (59%) respondents reporting that their current tracking methods were not providing actionable insights, some 35% expected to implement actionable reporting as part of their content marketing strategy.
Additionally, content marketers had been looking at using innovation to further their personalization efforts. More than one-third (36%) expected to implement geo-targeting. And, with past research showing that personalization is the most popular use of AI for senior marketers, about one-quarter (24%) of respondents cited AI-driven personalization as one of the innovations they expected to implement.
Majority of Budgets Reserved For In-House Efforts
Another sign of optimism is the growth in content marketing budgets marketers expected to experience in the next two years. Per the report, current content marketing budgets had grown by 73% since 2017. And in two years, budgets are expected to grow by 42% to an average of $21.9 million. This prediction may in fact hold up, as a recent survey by LinkedIn and Visional Critical revealed that marketers are increasing content spend across several channels in light of the pandemic. Similarly, both businesses and consumers are consuming more content during the pandemic, per figures by NetLine and Media Frenzy Global.
If the plans of the ANA survey respondents do hold up, the majority of these budgets are expected to be spent in-house. Some 63% of content marketing services are being taken care of internally, with that percentage expected to hold steady for the next couple of years. This comes after a trend from 2 years ago that saw companies bringing more of their marketing services in-house, and only one-third of budgets going towards outsourced services.
As such, the majority of marketers said they are responsible for technology such as CMS and marketing automation (66%). The largest share of respondents also reported that they are responsible for strategy (61%) and measurement and analytics (55%) although other research shows that agencies expect to see revenue growth from these areas.
In many instances, marketers and agencies are pulling together to work on processes. This can be seen in the healthy share of respondents that said they collaborate with agencies in areas such as development and production (40%), distribution (38%), strategy (32%) and measurement and analytics (32%).
Agency Types and Evaluation
When companies do outsource their content marketing activities to an agency, they have a variety to choose from, depending on what activity they are outsourcing. The data from the report show that, as of 2019, marketers tend to turn to advertising agencies for brand storytelling (47%) or content development and production (41%). They are more likely to look to a digital marketing agency for content technology (48%), while the largest share employs media buying agencies for content distribution (55%), content measurement and analytics (51%) and performance marketing (45%).
And, when evaluating the performance of the agencies they outsource to, respondents cite quality content (52%), actionable insights based on data (46%), metrics-driven strategy (43%) and breakthrough creative (43%) as some of the most important attributes (top 3 boxes).
To read more, the full report can be found here.
About the Data: Findings are based on a 2019 survey of 126 senior-level marketers from the US and Canada, of which 90% were client-side marketers with the remainder coming from academia, nonprofits and associations. Respondent companies hailed from a variety of industries, with an annual average revenue of $8.1 billion.