Why companies have to say goodbye to "One size fits all"


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2018)

What does content marketing for online merchants and brand manufacturers look like in practise in Germany, aside from theory and commonplaces? Is there perhaps a large discrepancy between what is required and what is really going on? If so, then what are the reasons? The snapshot study by w&co provides the answers.  

Put in a lot of effort that was disregarded by customers? For a true insight into the problem areas of content marketing, w&co MediaServices surveyed managers and those in charge of marketing and sales through a series of personal conversations. The results were analysed in detail in the 2018 study “Content Marketing 2018: a balancing act between real hurdles and theoretical requirements”.

The very first question on how content marketing is operated by the company demonstrates a clear gap between aspirations and reality. Only six per cent continuously implement content marketing with a comprehensive overall strategy and central planning, while only four per cent have dedicated employees or service providers who create texts, images and videos for content marketing.

The overwhelming majority is working very half-heartedly. 20 per cent admitted to essentially not practising content marketing, despite considering it to be important, due to a lack of resources. A further 18 per cent are only active as required, in a campaign-oriented manner and for individual channels with a lack of continuity. Brands therefore have to garner the attention of their customers again and again.

Most companies also miss the opportunity to cater to their customer and their decision-making processes. Only ten per cent of those surveyed by w&co gear their content specifically towards target groups, the customer journey phases and the individual channels. This implies that 90 per cent distribute generic contents whose relevance, format and timing are more or less based on the principle of "one size fits all". Loyalty and long-term retention are hard to achieve using this method.

These are shortcomings that most companies are aware of. But how can these issues be resolved, and how quickly? When asked about their plans for the next two years, each fourth person claimed to align their content marketing in a more strategic manner and to manage it centrally for all channels. A quarter stated that content marketing would be considerably reinforced or would replace significant parts of other marketing measures. Every tenth person surveyed planned to work with a service provider who is an expert in their industry and requirements.

Questions concerning the most important aims of content marketing provided an interesting insight. The most common answer was to stand out from the competition at 37 per cent, followed by 15 per cent for reinforcing brand and/or company images. 13 per cent responded with brand awareness, meaning that 65 per cent aim for classic, traditional goals when it comes to content marketing.

Only few dare to take a more specific approach. 15 per cent declared customer retention to be their most important aim, while eleven per cent wanted to increase sales with existing customers, and six per cent focus on new target groups. Only two per cent focus on the transport of certain company values. Nobody opted for the optional answer to better understand customer requirements through the response analysis of content marketing. There were also no favourable responses to generating contact data in order to enable personally addressing the customer. The option for setting up a community or a network of influencers who actively deal with the brand also received no votes. Taking into consideration the answer options, it is much more exciting to look at what is nowadays no longer seen as a goal in content marketing. After all, everybody is talking about aspirations such as personalisation, analysing customer requirements and multiplier effects through communities and influencers – at least in theory.

The reasons for these vague objectives are of a technical and organisational nature. Around a third consider the complex processes to be the greatest challenge. Multiple interfaces delay the development, production and approval of contents. A further 14 per cent claimed that their content management is insufficient and error-prone. Searching for certain content versions and formats takes up large amounts of time, and a lot is done manually without system-supported workflows. Eleven per cent said they lack the possibilities to control production, and corrections are only carried out at a much later stage.

More than half therefore lack suitable IT infrastructures and workflow control over media platforms. This makes content marketing laborious and responsiveness is reduced, making active interaction with customers impossible. Technical deficiencies significantly impair the marketing team, making them unproductive and, far worse, suffocating the creativity that makes all the difference when it comes to content marketing. Every fourth person was faced with the problem of having content produced from more than one source, which does not contribute to the comprehensive development of the brand and its identity. This means that overall 79 per cent cannot currently achieve their highest goals in content marketing from the outset. Almost every fifth person surveyed (18 per cent) lamented the fact that various teams are responsible for various channels, meaning that synergy effects during the creation of images and texts are barely achievable. This makes content marketing unnecessarily expensive alone through the organisational obstacles.

When questioned about the most important necessary improvements 37 per cent mentioned processes: 23 per cent stated that many processes could be automated, such as workflows for approvals, data transformation and publishing contents in defined layouts, but there is a lack of necessary system integration. 14 per cent said their systems are not geared towards marketing or media requirements, which is why some processes are merely compromise solutions when it comes to processing and using content.

When asked what they wish for the most regardless of budget and staff, participants chose two requirements above all: a quarter (26 per cent) would invest more time in creativity and the conception of content that stands out from the competition and is truly relevant to customers. Another quarter (25 per cent) would initially invest in central IT platforms for the management, storage and publishing of content with automated workflows. 17 per cent of those surveyed wished for a central partner for content production and use in order to be able to operate with a higher level of quality and speed of reaction.

Requirements in terms of quality of content marketing will continue to increase in order to be able to attract any customer attention. And these challenges can be overcome: stop isolated systems, unclear processes and laborious manual routine work. This benefits marketing overall: more productivity and freedom facilitate consistent communication across all levels that stands out from the competition in a refreshing manner. Companies therefore now find themselves at an interesting turning point: content marketing that often only developed on the side through the e-commerce commitment has grown into a strategic tool.

This is a situation that could certainly lead to a reorganisation in saturated markets through brands that make the most of their opportunities through efficiently organised content marketing. The ability to do this does not depend on the size of the company or the budget, on the contrary: medium-sized companies can often implement changes much more flexibly and benefit from the fact that modernisation frees up resources that can be applied much more effectively and with a higher return on investment. 

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w&co MediaServices is established as a full-service provider with complete services for holistic omnichannel marketing. In addition to the implementation of web shops or shopping apps, the offer of services includes photography, creative services, pre-media and media IT for holistic enterprise content marketing.

w&co MediaServices 

Picture credit © Jenner Images/Getty Images

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