Monday, October 19, 2015

Content marketing probably won't help you acquire customers


For digital marketers, content is now part of the furniture. Content is everywhere and every brand owner has invested in content marketing at some point.

According to 2014 figures from the US-based Content Marketing Institute, 71% of B2C marketers use content for acquisition, the second highest score. Top was brand awareness on 79%.
Acquisition means getting something from a consumer, from a sale down to an email address. This is what starts a relationship.
But what if much of the budget spent on content was wasted, if consumers are at best only marginally interested in it? New research by the marketing organisationDMA, my employer, and The Media Octopus suggests this is the case.
The Customer Acquisition Barometer (CAB) is in its second year, looking at how, why and where consumers turn into customers. The research comes from responses from Beautiful Insights’ demographically representative YouSay panel of 1,072 people.
According to these responses, only a minority of consumers, 10%, had exchanged information with a brand in exchange for “exclusive content” over the past year, and that’s for brands they know. For brands they don’t know, this dropped to 9%.
Much more popular were loyalty schemes (46% had exchanged information with brands over the past year, down to 21% for unknown brands), competitions (33% for known brands, 23% for unknown brands), coupons (31% for known brands, 20% for unknown brands), and free products or services (27% for known brands, 17% for unknown brands).
Content barely made an impact against these more traditional forms of acquisition, and backs up our Consumer Attitudes to Privacy research, published in June, where content rated bottom in a list of inducements to share data. This automatically raises one big question: do paywalls work if customers are reluctant to exchange data for content? For acquisition, is content futile?
Now before you abandon your content marketing, a quick disclaimer. This new research focuses solely on acquisition, not retention, not engagement, not brand building.
One side-effect of the fragmenting media pie is the changing way people interact with these new media. For example, last year’s research showed social media to be somewhere only 4% of people would want to be contacted by a brand they are interested in. This year, that number rose significantly to a more respectable 13%.
Look closer and you see that for the 18–24 age group, this figure increases again to 30%. Our relationship with new media is changing.
The same may be true for content. For 18- to 24-year-olds, the proportion who shared their data in exchange for content over the past year almost doubled to 19%, and for those aged 25–34 it’s 20%.
But if content is to have a hope of persuading consumers to part with their data or money, then they need to trust that brand.

The CAB research suggests that marketers are actually retreating here, putting up barriers to consumer trust. Last year marketers were conscientious about giving customers control where possible: 93% gave clear opt-outs at every stage of their marketing, the same proportion clearly stated how customer data would be used (one of the principles of the Data Protection Act). This year those proportions fell to 56% and 62% respectively.
Finally, and this is the elephant in the room for content marketing, nobody will give anything for bad content. Those 10% of people who chose to exchange something for content – it must have been worth it.
So what should marketers do?
Trust would be a good place to start. Consumers want control over their data and their personal information, so give it to them. Content may not be a reliable way to acquire customers now, but as our relationship with content changes, so may consumer attitudes. But if those consumers don’t trust you, it’s a non-starter.

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