Rebecca Lieb's picture

Rebalancing for Content - The New Marketing Equation

There's been a rash of news stories recently with headlines so misleading it's hard to believe they passed editorial muster. Yet a quick search of Google News reveals no less than five articles with ledes very much like this one: "P&G to cut 1600 staff after CEO discovers digital media is free".

Any serious marketer knows "free" is nonsense. As with SEO, content marketing shakes marketers loose from the expense of the media buy. But budgets, staffing, skill sets, education, agency relationships, investments in technology and shifting strategy to align content with other marketing initiatives (yes, even advertising) all require substantial investment, and require marketers to rebalance both strategies and tactics.

That's what Content: The New Marketing Equation examines. Following on the heels of my book on content marketing, which looks at why content marketing matters, this research report examines how organizations are adapting to the challenges it presents: the need to think like a publisher rather than an advertiser; moving from episodic campaigns to sustained content initiatives; and creating a genuine culture of content throughout the organization because stories don't reside in the marketing department.

The report identifies the five stages of maturity an organization can achieve as it becomes more proficient at content marketing, including a self-assessment tool to score your own level of content proficiency. We also look at the content channels marketers are using now, and those they say they will in the future. As they move away from text-based channels, e.g. articles and blogging, into more technologically sophisticated areas such as video, mobile and image-based information, it's clear "free" does not enter into the equation.

For the report, we conducted 56 interviews with subject matter experts and companies as diverse as Coca-Cola, American Express, GE, IBM, Adobe, Ford Motor Company, Wells Fargo, and Intel. Below, the questions we asked each interview subject.

  • How much of your/your clients' content creation is outsourced vs created in house? (rough % question)
  • Have you run into any problems with outsourcing content creation to agencies?  Have they been able to effectively align the content they create with your brand ?
  • Can – and should - content marketing initiatives be reconciled and integrated with advertising?
  • What are the most effective types of content you've used to promote your brand?
  • How should organizations rebalance? How should internal and external resources be aligned? How do they integrate silos for more effective messaging and spend?
  • Have you needed to hire new employees or create new teams?  How many did you have to bring on?  Which teams did you have to create?  What drove you to the conclusion that this rebalancing was necessary?
  • Where are these new resources coming from? Should they be assigned to the same agency that handles advertising? Outsourced to PR firms, digital consultancies – or staffed in-house? Can they – and should they – be integrated with or otherwise reconciled with “classic” advertising?
  • How are internal staffing needs changing? How much content creation can realistically be outsourced – does this lead to a “clueless handler” situation?
  • How are determinations being made regarding when it’s better to buy vs. create or earn media?  Who ultimately makes that decision?
  • How do you determine the optimal mix between bought vs earned media?
  • What types of agencies (advertising, PR or new breed) can walk the walk and support content marketing initiatives? (Lord knows, everyone and their brother is talking the talk.)
  • What qualities do you look for when evaluating these agencies?
  • What are the most common 'red flags' you look for when deciding to work with an agency?
  • How do you get management buy-in and measure content marketing initiatives?
  • What new types of content do you anticipate adding to your arsenal in the next year?  Three years out?
  • Which types of content do you plan to phase out or found ineffective?
  • How is your organization adapting its structure to accommodate content marketing?
  • Are there any questions that you wish we had asked you/we should have asked? And who else do you think we should speak to for this research report?

Many thanks to the numerous people who tirelessly contributed their time, knowledge and expertise to making this research happen. We'd be delighted to hear your reactions and to provide direction or guidance on your own content marketing or strategy needs.

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog

Thanks to the media and bloggers discussing this research:

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Ad Spend Versus Marketing Spend

Will Facebook absorb five percent of online ad spend by year's end? According to how many media outlets are interpreting a recently published forecast, yes.

I say, not so fast.

There's spend and there's spend. Some of it is on digital advertising, and some is on digital marketing. There's a world of difference between the two - particularly prior to one of the year's most eagerly anticipated and ballyhoo'd IPOs.

The report in question is Efficient Frontier's Global Q4 2011Digital Marketing Performance Report. It states Facebook's spend share "reaches 2.7% of biddable online advertising spend in Q4 [2011]."

OK, I can buy that estimate, give or take.

It's the 2012 forecast, however, that's highly questionable. Note that Facebook's 2011 spend share is qualified: biddable online advertising. I know what that is. Efficient Frontier's Facebook forecast for the coming 12 months is all over the board:

FaceBook [sic] WILL REACH 5% OF ALL ONLINE ADVERTISING SPEND BY THE END OF 2012. As marketers improve their ability to acquire and engage Facebook fans, brands will continue to pump new budgets into Facebook to capitalize on the social network’s reach and the amount of time users spend there."

Five percent may be a great headline, but it's highly unlikely that Facebook advertising is what's being referred to here. Will advertisers double their "biddable online advertising" budgets to "acquire and engage Facebook fans"? Don't bet the farm on it.

What I do agree with is that marketers will "pump new budgets into Facebook" to reach and engage consumers. Every single one of the 56 marketers I interviewed for my forthcoming research report on content marketing are creating more content, much of which is going into social media channels, such as Facebook.

What's important to understand (and it's hard to believe media reports on this have been so sloppy) is these are by no means advertising budgets. This is marketing spend, and much of this money is not funneling directly into Facebook's coffers. These new budgets are going into strategy, creative and production.

Anyone considering buying Facebook's stock would do well to understand the difference.      

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Social Media Control

Organizations wouldn't consider for a moment the concept of not knowing where their financial accounts are (or not having signatory power over them). Ditto accounts with key vendors and suppliers.

Yet my colleague Jeremiah Owyang found in the course of conducting research for his just-published report, "Managing Social Media Proliferation," that companies have, on average, 178 social media accounts (not counting employee accounts), yet the majority don't even have an accurate inventory of these assets.

This is a must-read for any company active in social media. Jeremiah and his research team also evaluate 25 vendors in the space. So this is also a buyers guide (a first for Altimeter Group research).

Take a look, and please feel free to download the report or share it with colleagues.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Learning in 2012: My 10 Top Digital Marketing & Media Topics

Another year, another stream of predictions. Not that predictions aren't interesting, mind you, but I've never been one to focus on them. Sure, I avidly follow trends in digital marketing and media, but what really jazzes me about following the sector for a living is the surprise factor. It's not knowing what comes next because next can be so out-of-left-field disruptive.

The other cool thing about this job is it's like being permanently enrolled in grad school. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love constantly watching and learning. So rather than share predictions for 2012, it seems more grounded and sensible to share a list of the top things I plan to study more closely and learn more about in 2012. Perhaps one or two of these topics will turn into a formal research report, perhaps not (oh, to be able to deep-dive into everything!).

  1. Behavioral Targeting: Not to begin on a negative, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced BT plain doesn't work. That's why I'd like to examine it more closely. Having done all my holiday shopping online, as well as extensive research and buying for a home remodeling project, it's appalling how many wasted BT ads I see, most for the selfsame products I actually bought from the advertiser. "This can't be right," says my consumer persona to my analyst persona. "Look more closely at the methodology of all those studies out there that 'prove' BT's effectiveness."
  2. Personalized Search This has been going on a while now, of course, but more and more, your search results differ significantly from my search results. Location, time of day, social graphs, search history -- a zillion factors figure in to what search results are displayed, and as a result, what ads and data appear in your browser. Need to keep up with this continually moving target.
  3. Social Media Fatigue Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Miso - and that's just a few off the top of my head. Just as consumers never watched all of the 200 or so cable channels bundled into their subscription packages, there's only so many hours in the day to update where you are, what you're doing, what you're watching and eating and with whom. This space seems primed to shake out, doesn't it? How will consumer behavior and adoption change, and how fast can new social plays keep launching?
  4. Big Data Collecting, crunching and making actionable data from disparate on- and offline sources will require significant investments in technology, manpower and learning for companies. Big data is all the buzz, yet many marketers still don't know precisely what it is. Everyone needs to bone up on this topic in 2012.
  5. Real-Time Marketing Top consumer brands, notably Pepsi, are starting to take this topic very seriously, and even some B2B giants such as GE are looking at the space. Monitoring, assessing, triaging, assigning, and responding to real-time conversations, events, posts, tweets and other digital information increasingly matters. And like Big Data, the challenges and resources it requires are formidable. A fascinating area to keep an eye on.
  6. Regulated Industries It's fascinating to watch highly regulated industries, such as pharma and banking, attempt to embrace digital marketing in general, and social media in particular. They face formidable barriers and more interesting challenges than most. I'm hoping to speak with more marketers from regulated sectors to learn more about how they're coping.
  7. Internet of Things When everything has an IP address, everything gets a lot more interesting. Once devices from cars to refrigerators and the dog's food bowl are connected, the implications for marketing, communication and even society will take surprises turns. This space is quite simply mesmerizing.
  8. Effects of Social Movements Occupy Wall Street fallout, the presidential election in the US, societal shifts in the Middle East. Social change resonates in digital channels (and vice versa). It's going to be a big year for social change, and that will inevitably impact digital.
  9. What's Starting Up? As always, I'll be keeping a close eye on start-ups. What's launching trend-wise? Who's getting funded? Who isn't? Following the money and the technology is not optional - it's integral to watching this space.
  10. Content Marketing A pet topic, the subject of my most recent book and my forthcoming research report. Keeping a close eye on how marketers are moving into content, which requires a rebalance of thought processes (ongoing, not episodic, campaign-based thinking), as well as new budgets, agency relationship and staffing requirements - not to mention a shift in corporate culture.

That's my 2012 syllabus. What's yours?

Please reply in the comments. And if you're behind a company active in one of the above areas, perhaps we should arrange a briefing sometime this year.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

How To Pack Value Into an Analyst Briefing

And I thought as a journalist I did a lot of briefings.

It's been less than three months since I joined the Altimeter Group, and already I've conducted dozens of briefings with companies large and small, all active in digital marketing, advertising and media. Taking the advice of my colleague Jeremiah Oywang, my Fridays are pretty much briefing days, as many as 10 (10!)  in one day. My briefing calls are scheduled from morning to night, generally starting in Europe and ending somewhere in Silicon Valley. I limit briefings to 30 minutes to keep them on-topic, and almost never conduct them in person. Travel time is a luxury. It would radically curtail the number of companies I'm able to talk with.

Briefings have a lot of value both for the company and the analyst. Analysts are always researching; seeking ideas for new reports, or technologies and case studies that might influence or inform current projects. We're always seeking people and companies our clients might benefit from knowing (and vice versa). Often, we have our eyes and ears open for ideas that might inform our colleagues' work as well. Mobile Analyst Chris Silva and I, for example, have been constantly exchanging information and contacts from our briefings as we're at nearly identical stages in two separate research projects.

At Altimeter we have a system for sharing tagged, cloud-based briefing notes that puts all briefing information at the fingertips of all the company's analysts and researchers. That makes our jobs easier when we're trying to find information on specific types of companies or business, and benefits the companies we speak with, too. They're made more visible to more people.

The above illustrates the value exchange of a briefing. Yet compared with the hundreds (if not thousands) of briefings I've conducted as a journalist and editor, I'm too often disappointed at how many companies that brief me now that I'm an analyst fail to take full advantage of an opportunity that could benefit us both. Blame it on start-ups concentrating on a million things to do outside of media training? Probably.

At the risk of sounding precocious (after all, I am a freshly minted analyst), I'd like make some suggestions for getting the most out of an analyst briefing.

  • Half an hour goes quickly.  I begin every call by telling callers at exactly what time I have a hard stop. Please don't be late. And please don't focus on the information available on your web site. I've already read it. Too many briefings end with revealing the really new and compelling idea two minutes before our call ends and the next call must begin. Don't bury the lede!
  • Five executives on a call are at least three too many. See above, about 30 minutes elapsing quickly. Everyone wants the opportunity to talk. This results in too much noise and very little signal. Otherwise put: the more, the fluffier.
  • Provide names, titles and email addresses of who will be on the call - in advance. I can look up their bios. This saves a ton of time on intros, and allows me to prepare better, more focused questions.
  • Provide any deck, presentation materials, or online meeting URL at least one day in advance. The sheer number of companies that send presentation materials literally seconds before (sometimes, during) a briefing is Pet Peeve #1. A company did this last Friday via a service that required me to establish, then verify, a new user account in order to download their materials. It's unfair (not to mention impossible) to ask an analyst to do this in what's often literally a 45 second window between two briefings. Let's both agree to be locked, loaded and ready to go when our briefing is scheduled to begin.
  • Please talk clearly and into the phone You want your message heard. Please talk directly into the phone (not the speakerphone), particularly if one of us is speaking a non-native language. We're trying to understand one another. The analyst is also taking notes.
  • A briefing is not a speech, it's a conversation In briefings I far too often can't get a word in edgewise (and I'm a person not known to be shy about piping up). Some executives get on a roll and cannot - will not - be stopped until they've delivered a message from beginning to end. (Most often, it's those working from a deck. Some are a bit nervous, which they try to cover by being overly verbose.) Yes, a briefing is a presentation, but it's also a conversation. The analyst has questions, as well as a research agenda. They want to hear about your company and product. Make sure they understand the message. Pause. Perhaps make an effort to throw in, "Any questions?," "Is that clear?" or "Does this relate to any research projects you're working on now?" Try to make the briefing even more relevant to the analyst than they hoped it would be when they set it up with you.

That's it from me. What about companies out there that are veterans of analyst briefings? How can we make briefings easier, better and more valuable for you?

Oh, and to request a briefing with me, or any other Altimeter Group analyst, please fill out this form.

p.s. Turns out I'm far from the first analyst at Altimeter to tackle this topic. Take a look at what Jeremiah has to say (with links to Charlene Li weighing in as well).    

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


Get in touch