Whether you’re a marketer or not, engaging in active listening can be one of the most important methods to broaden your learning. So we’ve done just that.
In our latest survey, we asked 1,000 marketers seeking help with their content marketing one simple question: “What’s your biggest challenge with content?” No multiple-choice selections or series of check boxes. Just an open-ended invitation to reply — and to allow us to listen.
When reviewing our report, please consider:
- Marketers were actively seeking content marketing information at the moment they were surveyed — which could affect the overall level of expertise expressed in the results.
- Each marketer submitted their biggest challenge with content, not their only challenge.
- Responses ranged from single-word submissions (roughly 29% of all submissions) to multiple sentences in length.
- Our category breakdowns include percentages of responses by themes within their respective category. See our methodology.
What are marketers’ biggest challenges with content? Let’s dive into the survey results:
Time is the single greatest challenge with content…. Or is it?
Marketers mentioned challenges related to time more than any other theme. Even the word “time” itself appeared as the most frequent single-word submission among the 1,000 replies in our survey. But is the obsession with the clock really just about seconds ticking by? Perhaps not.
Although having enough time to execute any plan might be a challenge, an underlying factor could simply be organization, or the mere prioritization of tasks and goals from the get-go. Nothing puts more pressure on time than having too many goals, especially if any are unfocused or unrealistic, or lacking an organized process to achieve them.
So if time is your greatest challenge, perhaps a thorough review of your content strategy or a total overhaul of your approach to time management might help. For better planning, start by creating a foresight calendar for your brand.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to time:
- Time to curate it all
- Finding the time to create it
- Having too many ideas, not enough time
- Finding time to research and write the content
- Developing valuable content in the most effective time
- Finding the time to handle all the phases of content marketing!
- Needing to take nascent content strategy from zero to 60 in less than a year
Creativity and quality flummox marketers far more than strategy or analysis… But isn’t it expected?
When it came to categorizing marketers’ greater challenges, themes related to the production of content (i.e., the creativity that drives it) and its ultimate credibility (e.g., quality and relevance) led as the largest areas of concern. And maybe it stands to reason… If only 1 in 10 marketers cited strategy as their biggest challenge, perhaps most know what they want to achieve with content but are far less confident in how to make it happen.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to the more creative and qualitative aspects of content:
- Making it feel genuine
- Getting creative with it
- Being clear and concise
- Coming up with original ideas
- Storytelling in a compelling way
- Offering insightful and relevant content
- Making abstract ideas tangible for our audience
- Creating useful and meaningful content for my audience
Just “creating it” leads the pack of production challenges… Or perhaps knowing where to start?
Marketers used the phrase “creating it” more than any other single phrase in articulating their challenges. Simple. Concise. Yet, could it signify a general lack of direction in knowing where to start, or, conversely, a matter-of-fact assessment that, yes, creating content takes effort, Captain Obvious?
To pull a classic line from theatrical studies: Drama is in the doing. When all factors are combined, the creation of content — from generating ideas and finding talent to revising work and optimizing it for distribution — can be a laborious process. “Creating it” is a convenient catch-all phrase, whether you’re a jaded expert or a newbie to content marketing altogether.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to production:
- Creating it
- Producing at scale
- Creating enough of it!
- Coming up with original ideas
- Finding new ways to grab the audience
- Keeping up a consistent flow of quality content
- Writing content that supports our brand narrative
- Developing enough compelling content to move the business
Quality itself confounds more than engagement… Or is it a chicken-and-an-egg problem?
When it came to the credibility of content — the aspects through which audiences connect with and establish trust with a brand — marketers were twice as challenged by the quality of content than its ultimate ability to engage. That being noted, one could argue you can’t engage without having quality content to begin with.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to credibility:
- Making it feel genuine
- Getting users to engage
- Making it original and accurate
- Keeping content fresh and relevant
- Ensuring it meets our audience’s interests
- Producing high quality content that provides value to readers
- Having a clear message and branding across multiple channels
Time remains ever elusive… But does it speak to a broader challenge about process?
As mentioned earlier, time was the number one challenge with content across the board. However, when people say they “don’t have time” for something, they might not mean they literally do not have time. Not having time could mean a lack of commitment, a lack of organization or process, or a general lack of resources.
If we were to do a secondary survey, we might further investigate the challenges with time itself by asking marketers about specific points in their process where they seem to waste or misuse time the most, whether because of inefficiencies or common obstacles.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to process:
- Finding time
- Scheduling the calendar
- Organizing and tracking
- Managing the review process
- Getting all stakeholders involved
- Having time to get someone to do it
- Collaborating with different departments
- Planning and executing a sensible plan versus being reactive and random
Marketers want attention wherever they can get it… But do specific channels matter as much as we think?
In our entire survey, marketers mentioned Google only once, cited Facebook just twice, and identified no other specific distribution channels by name as their biggest challenges.
At first, we thought this was rather surprising, but in a time when new distribution opportunities seem to pop up every day, whether in the latest apps or online streams, perhaps it’s a sign of segmentation fatigue: There are just too many distribution channels to consider when developing a fully integrated content strategy.
Marketers in our survey seemed most focused on tried-and-true search and social sharing as the most important behavioral methods for connecting with their audience. So maybe it comes back to basics: If the message matters more than the method (the behavior of connection), then perhaps the method, in turn, matters more than the medium (aka distribution channel).
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to traffic:
- Promoting it
- Making it viral
- Reaching everyone
- Getting high Google rankings
- Relating title and topics to SEO
- Inspiring others to share content
- Knowing where to distribute content
- Getting content found by the right audience
Converting and generating leads are equally challenging… But does their cost not matter so much?
When it came to respondents concerned most about hitting KPIs, 6 in 10 marketers found converting or generating leads as their biggest challenge. By contrast, only 1 in 8 cited return-on-investment as their most looming pain point with content.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to KPIs:
- Converting it to sales
- Measuring improvement
- Mastering per-dollar value
- Generating leads from content
- Creating additional lead magnets
- Setting benchmarks and measuring results
- Tying content to conversions and delivering ROI
- Proving the business impact of content marketing
Audience and targeting dominated as the specific challenges with strategy… But maybe a little research could go a long way?
Although “research” showed up as the biggest content challenge for only a small percentage of marketers, the interpretation could go either direction: Maybe most marketers have done their homework (and know how to research) or, on the contrary, most haven’t (and don’t realize the importance of informing their content with data). We’re hoping the former is true.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to strategy:
- Defining my niche
- Deciding what to produce
- Hitting all the stages of the customer journey
- Aligning audience needs with marketing goals
- Knowing what will appeal to potential customers
- Getting the strategy right so it works on many levels
- Knowing how much and what information to include
- Finding interesting and relevant research to inform our content
It all comes down to this: Finding good talent is hard… But it doesn’t have to be.
When it came to marketers most concerned about resources, finding talented people was twice as challenging as finding a budget to actually hire them. So when implementing a content strategy, the question of “Who’s going to do it?” often far outweighs the questions of “What content are we going to create?” and “How much is it going to cost?”
Of course, there are affordable solutions to this dilemma, where you can easily find and hire vetted freelancers to make your message come alive.
Examples of challenges marketers noted in relation to resources:
- Finding talent
- Prioritizing resources
- Finding good and affordable freelancers
- Finding someone with experience in our “space”
- Getting quality writers with a marketing mindset
- Getting marketing managers to recognize that you have to pay real money for quality
And a little more about the top 35 challenges…
When you review our final tally of challenges categorized by theme (shown above), remember that we asked marketers about their “biggest challenge” with content, not their only challenge. And taking in consideration that respondents were actively seeking content marketing information when they replied to our survey, the results might have cascaded in a completely different order had the group of respondents been a differently targeted audience.
For instance, had the targeted group been primarily editorial professionals and publishers, we would have expected to see a substantially different set of challenges. There’s little doubt “editing” and “approvals” would have been closer to the top of list and not the bottom. Agree?
As part of a ClearVoice survey, which ran January – September 2017, we asked 1,000 marketers seeking content marketing help a simple question: “What’s your biggest challenge with content?” Respondents submitted answers in their own words. We provided no multiple-choice selections or other contextual prompts. We categorized replies, which ranged in length from single-word responses to multiple sentences, into 35 themes based on keywords and recurring sentiments. We further categorized related themes and rolled them up into seven main categories.
All survey submissions were individually written, so we made the best attempt to capture the true intent of each response. For example, a submission that cited “finding new topics that don’t sound like old topics” as the biggest challenge was categorized under the “Generating Ideas” theme in the “Production” category. Although “generating ideas” wasn’t specifically mentioned, it clearly was the intent or theme of the response. Additionally, roughly 1 in 8 responses identified more than one “biggest challenge,” and we assigned them to multiple categories accordingly.
As the process for categorizing responses required interpretation beyond objectively identifying specific keywords and phrases, it’s possible that another review of the responses could yield different themes and results in the survey analysis.
Download the full report: 1000 to 1: What’s Your Biggest Challenge With Content?