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The 2016State of
Content Strategy Goes Beyond
the Marketing Department
By Omar Akhtar
October 25, 2016
Includes survey data from 528 digital transformation leaders and strategists
To understand how brands are using
content to achieve business goals
and deliver on customer needs, we
surveyed over 500 content strategists
in North America and Europe across
major industry verticals including IT,
retail, manufacturing, finance, and
We tested the hypothesis that content
is no longer a marketing function,
but a strategic tool for multiple
parts of the organization to meet
business objectives and deliver on
a unified customer experience. We
charted the progress companies have
made towards achieving this vision
across several different aspects of
the business, including leadership,
organization, strategy, and technology.
We also created a snapshot of the
most common practices by industry
and identified the future initiatives and
technologies that companies were
• Most companies have moved beyond using content purely for marketing
purposes. They are now deploying it across other parts of the business such as sales
and service. Over 80% of the respondents said they had a unified content strategy that
applied to the entire organization.
• Majority of companies displayed high levels of maturity for digital content
operations. Over 80% of respondents said they had executive support, were able to
attribute revenue to content, and created personalized content based on customer data.
• Companies still struggle with aligning teams around a common content vision.
Despite having a unified content strategy, 55% of companies said aligning multiple
teams around that strategy was their biggest challenge, and 70% said this alignment
was one of their top initiatives in 2017.
• Brands use content mostly to create awareness and build credibility as thought
leaders. The top objectives for producing content were brand health (36%) and
thought leadership (32%).This implies that brands are neglecting other opportunities
to use content such as inspiring trust, or providing product support.
• Brands produce most content in-house (68%). However brands also rely on user-
generated content (62%) and to a lesser extent, outside agencies (43%) to help scale
the production of content.
• Data drives content. Almost all companies (99%) use some form of data to create
relevant content, the most popular sources being social media metrics (65%) and website
analytics (63%). Data analysis was the most desired skill (67%) for content strategists and
51% of respondents said the data team was leading the content strategy discussion.
• Nearly everybody uses Facebook for content. Brands received the most
engagement for their content on Facebook (71%) followed by email (61%). To get that
level of engagement, brands are spending ad dollars to amplify content. Another key
channel: 46% cite native advertising as their most engaging content.
We believe that in 2016, mature and effective
companies use digital content, not just in
marketing, but across their organization.
Content can do more than the typical
marketing objectives of creating brand
awareness or maintaining brand health. It can
now promote loyalty, create transparency, fuel
a community, provide technical support, and
even generate direct revenue.
So we set out to track how far companies
had come in managing content across the
organization, what objectives companies
were pursuing, and which strategies they
were implementing. We also tracked factors
that drive maturity, such as executive
support, revenue attribution, and the
use of sophisticated technology such as
An additional goal of this study was to create
a snapshot of current content practices. We
determined what respondents considered the
most effective formats, delivery channels, and
measurement techniques for their content
strategies -- and what they planned for the
For each of these questions, we looked at
variation across industries and geographies.
Based on responses to our behavioral questions, we found that companies displayed high
levels of maturity when it came to how they used digital content. Over 80% of respondents
agreed that they had content strategies that extend across departments, executive support,
and the ability to deliver data-driven, personalized, real-time content (see Figure 1).
CONTENT PRODUCING COMPANIES
SHOW HIGH LEVELS OF MATURITY
INDICATORS OF MATURITY FOR PRODUCERS OF
My company has a unified content strategy
that applies to the entire organization
Executive leadership fully supports and
invests in using branded content to achieve
My company is able to directly tie revenue to
engagement generated by branded content
My company creates relevant content based
on customer data gathered from multiple
Multiple departments within my company
consistently produce content according to a
central vision and common set of guidelines
My company can deliver personalized
content in real-time to customers based on
the actions they take on our digital properties
8% 4 1
14% 3 1
12% 2 1
14% 2 1
Agree Somewhat Agree Neutral SomewhatDisagree Disagree
• 41% of companies agree that
they have an organization wide
content strategy. When we include
people who “somewhat agree,” this
proportion rises to 88%. Companies
are planning beyond content marketing
plans, working on central strategies
across all customer-facing departments
who can benefit from deploying
content. In Europe, only 31% agreed
that they had a unified content strategy.
Comparing industries, IT was the most
confident, with 49% of respondents
saying they had a unified strategy.
• 39% of respondents had the
complete support of executive
leadership. And an additional 44%
somewhat agreed that they had
complete support. The majority of
companies have executive buy-in for
using content, which indicates that
it has graduated from the “testing
and learning” phase to showing
real business impact. This figure was
consistent across North America,
Europe and all industries, but with
higher support (55%) in manufacturing
companies, where the benefits of B2B
content are clearer.
of companies say they
are able to create content
based on data gathered
from multiple sources
• 39% of respondents can tie content efforts to revenue generation. Adding in
those who could identify some support, 86% could show revenue results. This is
a crucial factor in getting departments other than marketing to invest in content
as a strategic tool. North America (44%) has made more progress in this regard
than Europe (31%). Comparing industries, IT (45%) and manufacturing (45%)
were most likely to be able to tie content to revenue, while retail was least likely
(30%). Again, B2B companies were more likely to attribute revenue impact to
content. This can be explained by the comparatively long sales cycles of IT and
manufacturing companies, where content has a greater chance of influencing the
purchaser to make a considered decision.
• Overall, 38% of companies create content based on data gathered from
multiple sources. Unifying data to create an accurate picture of the customer and
their needs continues to be a challenge, not just for content strategy, but for teams
that are focused on the entire, unified customer experience. Only 29% of European
companies could do this, while North Americans were more confident at 44%.
• 36% of companies say they’re able to align different content-producing
departments. A key component of a mature content strategy is that multiple
stakeholders create and follow the strategy, which enables many departments to
coordinate as they create content on their own. This was tougher for finance (28%)
and healthcare (26%) respondents, where compliance with regulations makes cross-
department coordination challenging.
• 35% of companies can create personalized content and deliver it in real-
time. This is a little surprising given that marketing tech platforms have
been offering this technology for at least the last two years, and there are
more tools than ever that enable companies to create personalized,
data-based content. It highlights a gap between the technology
and its adoption, and indicates that brands still aren’t factoring
personalization and real-time delivery into their content strategies.
There was also a sizeable gap in adoption between North America
(40%) and Europe, where only 28% of respondents said they
practiced real-time personalization.
of companies say they’re
able to align different
of respondents are
able to tie content
efforts to revenue
Companies are well versed in the
technology and skills needed to
execute a digital content strategy, but
still face challenges on the processes
side, specifically around alignment and
setting governance across multiple
teams (see Figure 2).
BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR CONTENT PRODUCING
Question: What are the biggest challenges you face in creating and implementing a content strategy? (Choose 3)
Aligning multiple teams around a unified strategy
Accessing relevant customer data
Difficulty in proving business impact of content
Producing content at a large scale
Purchasing or integrating the right software
Getting investment/support from
Hiring the right
aren’t on the
same page when it
comes to defining
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