5 Content Marketing Hurdles: Where Are You?

October 31, 2011

Mark Roberge, VP of Sales at HubSpot (one of the standout companies due to its fantastic content marketing), came in for a party last week and we asked him to do a short video on the future of content marketing (shown below).

Mark’s video made me reflect on the hurdles that content marketers suffer through as they build their programs:

Content marketing hurdles

There are several hurdles that marketers need to get their companies over in order to maximize the competitive advantages that content marketing can create.

Hurdle #1: Ignorance

Many marketers are still ignorant about the benefits of content marketing.  I suspect that at least part of their ignorance is that marketers do not want to change and, therefore, they prefer to ignore the opportunity.  Content marketing is actually seriously difficult work for the marketing department and there are a lot of unique skills that are necessary to execute content marketing that are not found in the typical marketing department.

You will know if you have cleared this hurdle because you will understand what content marketing is and that you have a long way to go to maximize your program (to be clear, all companies have a long way to go!).

Only 10% of companies have cleared this hurdle in my view.

Hurdle #2: Perceived value

Some marketing leaders have woken up to the idea that they will have an incredible competitive advantage, but others have not.  For the enlightened marketers, they may perceive value, but they may not perceive enough value to reduce budgets for other marketing programs in order to fund a content marketing program, nor are they able to convince the CEO that there is enough value to invest additional budget into content marketing.  Need to perceive more value?  Here are some ideas from some enlightened marketers.  A more comprehensive argument is in Joe Pulizzi’s book, Get Content, Get Customers.

You will know that you have cleared this hurdle when you have budget allocated to a content marketing program.

Only 2% of companies have cleared this hurdle in my view.

Hurdle #3: People and skills

For the companies that “get it” and are ready to put resources against content marketing, the next hurdle involves getting the right people and skills as employees and/or freelancers to put together a content marketing plan and then execute it.  If you are stuck at this hurdle, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose put together an excellent book, Managing Content Marketing, that can give you a good understanding of how to put together a program.

Joe and Robert recently came in and delivered a workshop to our portfolio companies and the general consensus of the people attending was that hiring a Managing Editor was a really good early step in addressing this hurdle.  Joe later wrote a post on the topic, which is pretty descriptive.

You will know that you have cleared this hurdle, because you will have an engine that consistently generates great content in a mix of formats.

Less than 0.1% of companies have cleared this hurdle in my view.

Hurdle #4: Clarifying market targets and goals

Even when companies have a team and skills to create great content, they still have the hurdle of figuring out who the targets of their content are and what their goals are with respect to those targets.  This is very difficult work and most companies do not put enough effort against this hurdle.

You will know that you have cleared this hurdle because you will have personas developed for each of your targets, a content calendar that appropriately addresses the targets, and goals and measures developed that will allow you to know if your are making progress.

Less than 0.1% of companies have cleared this hurdle in my view.

Hurdle #5: Truly listening and then responding

Content Marketers need two big ears so that they can figure out what is happening in their market, with their targets, and the reactions to their content in the market.  Having goals and monitoring results against goals is great, but truly understanding how your targets interact with and respond to your content will really help you to tune your content to their needs and your goals!

You will know that you cleared this hurdle when your team makes content adjustments on a frequent basis based on what they are seeing in the market.  You will also see your overall measures improving at a more rapid rate.

I can only point to a small number of companies that do this well.

The FUTURE hurdle: One-to-one content marketing

Mark Roberge, my inspiration for this post, has some thoughtful points on the future of content marketing.  The way I describe his point is that you are going to have a lot of content over time.  How do you deliver the right piece of content to the right person at the right time?  I have not yet seen a good example of something like this in practice, but I do agree that this is the right direction for content marketing.

Which hurdle stands in your way to creating a significant competitive advantage by becoming the publisher to your target audience?

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.