Nearly two-thirds of marketers say they expect their content marketing budgets to increase in 2022. If you are part of a marketing team producing more content is likely to be one of the goals for this year.
Regrettably, a lot of organizations waste time and money by failing to create content that engages and influences their target audience. In India, businesses struggle to overcome a variety of content marketing challenges.
The phrase “content marketing” was born in 1996 at a discussion for journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors. In India, content marketing is only about a decade old, particularly in B2B marketing, where the emphasis has historically been on trade publications and events. It took a while before we started focusing purely on content marketing. Perhaps the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of content marketing as businesses shifted their focus from events.
In India, our content marketing challenges are nuanced. While they share certain characteristics, our markets work differently from those in the West. Let’s look at some of the most significant content marketing challenges facing marketers in India and how they can be addressed.
7 Biggest Content Marketing Challenges in India
1. Measuring Input vs. Output
You’re part of a marketing team that produces a large number of content pieces every month. But often, when someone questions you about the impact on the bottom line, you’re clueless. Does this sound like a familiar situation? We’ve all been there.
Most businesses don’t have clear goals defined to evaluate the effectiveness of content marketing, which means as content marketers, you get assessed invariably on input instead of output.
This means as a content marketer, you are being evaluated on the number of content pieces produced every month or the quality of those pieces (which is again subjective). Such businesses often have a high employee churn, as individuals resign when they notice their work doesn’t affect the bottom line.
2. Disconnected roles & responsibilities
Most of us have been part of at least one matrixed organization where the content marketing responsibilities are shared between different teams. The entire content marketing function resembles an assembly line where creation, distribution, and analytics are split between different teams.
The team responsible for content creation lacks insight into distribution and analytics. Similarly, other teams have a compartmentalized view of the whole cycle from beginning to end. As an individual contributor, you may feel like a cog in the wheel, and marketing feedback loops in such businesses may last many months to a year.
3. Thought leadership ends up being personal branding
Thought leadership is one of those buzzwords that gets tossed a lot in conversations, but very few businesses and executives really understand what it means to be a thought leader. Most organizations struggle to define their approach to thought-leadership, and even when they do, they usually don’t know how to measure it.
Thought-leaders are supposed to be experts in their field, but most executives struggle to build their personal brand. For instance, most CEOs have a negligible presence on social media, and those who do hardly have any interesting insights to share.
A thought-leadership program without clear goals becomes a personal branding exercise for your executive team. If you’ve been in a meeting where someone from the executive team mentions that they want you to position them as a futurist, you already know what I’m talking about.
To influence someone’s thoughts and decisions, you ultimately have to produce content of value for your audience. If you don’t have a unique perspective or opinion to share, then you’ll never be able to call yourself a thought-leader, let alone the people who follow you.
4. Obsession with perfection
Nine out of ten content marketers would agree that consistency is crucial for growing your audience. But yet, in India, we have a particular obsession with perfection. It is very likely you would have asked yourself, “what if this isn’t good enough?” before hitting the publish button.
The pursuit of perfection often hinders our efforts to build an audience. Usually, when people create content, they want to be viewed as thought leaders and compare themselves to firms like McKinsey, BCG, and The Economist. However, it would help if you remembered that they have an audience, whereas you do not.
Earlier this year, I read a short story on ‘Parable of Pottery Class‘ on Ali Abdaal’s blog, which pretty much explains the problem when one aims for perfection.
There was once a pottery teacher named Brian. He decided to divide his class into two groups one month. For 30 days, Group A was required to create a pot every day (so 30 pots in total). On the other hand, Group B was required to work on a single pot for the whole 30-days.
Brian evaluated the pots at the conclusion of the month. Each of the top ten pots came from Group A, the individuals who made one pot every day. None emerged from the group that concentrated on perfecting their single pot.
5. Investing in Content Long Term
If you’ve been a content marketer, you probably already know that it takes time to see returns from your content marketing efforts. Especially if you’re in a competitive niche, it will at least take a two-three year window to see pay off.
If your executive team is not patient enough to wait for the duration, then you should focus your efforts on performance marketing. There is nothing wrong with this approach because you still have bills to pay.
Start-ups usually ask Jose Cayasso, founder of Slidebean, whether they should invest in content marketing, and he usually starts by saying, “It may not be what your start-up needs right now.”
He usually asks them whether they have the runway to wait because they need to get customer feedback and usage metrics as fast as possible, and content marketing is slow. It is as slow as marketing can get.
6. Blog ≠ Traffic Acquisition Channel
At numerous firms, content marketing has evolved into a primary source of traffic acquisition. Each writer is assigned a goal for the volume of traffic that each piece of content should produce. It’s an approach similar to some of the publications in the West.
It is one of the most under-discussed content marketing challenges in India. Aja Frost, Hubspot’s head of English SEO, discusses this in one of her keynote talks on how the business ranked for unrelated keywords/phrases.
Hubspot draws nearly seven million visits from its blog every month. But when she started managing search engine optimization for the firm, she quickly realized that most keywords they were ranking for had low commercial intent.
For instance, one of the keywords they were ranking for included ‘how to create a GIF’ while the reader might find value in the content, it is unlikely that it will convert into paying customers.
This is also a challenge that faces many businesses in India; while they might be drawing a lot of traffic from their content marketing efforts, most of their effort will not impact the bottom line.
7. Producing high-quality content
The internet is a copy machine. Every piece of content ever produced will be copied, repurposed, and shared endlessly until it completely loses value. Producing high-quality requires research and a unique perspective on the topic that only extraordinary writers manage to do.
In the last few years, I’ve worked with almost every agency and freelance marketplace in India to realize that it’s incredibly difficult to find good writers.
Recently, a writer approached me for work after I examined one of their previous articles and pointed out how the content lacked any SEO research. Their justification was that they often depend on their clients for keyword research and structure.
Writing blends various disciplines, including storytelling, search engine optimization, communication, and editing. Often, a content writer never grows to become a content marketer. They get too comfortable creating content that the impact on the bottom line never bothers them.
The tiered pricing structure of freelancing marketplaces has worsened this since writers are often evaluated based on their prior work, creating an endless rat race to increase the price per content piece.
Any writer with a conscience should strive to create a body of work that influences the bottom line. I am conscious of how little influence certain writers have, but that is precisely the point; if you want to change a business, you must begin somewhere.
How to Overcome it
It’s challenging to change the status quo, especially with organizations used to running their content marketing functions a certain way. But the changes begin with content writers, marketers, and executives who want their content marketing efforts to influence their bottom-line.
Content marketing as an activity needs shorter feedback loops; if you endless chase perfection, then chances are you might not see results as soon as you should. Define clear goals, produce content consistently, assign clear roles and responsibilities and more importantly, invest for the long term.
Many of the most successful content brands have been doing this for years. Even at the age of 62, Seth Godin makes it a point that he gets up early and publishes a piece of content every week. Of course, not all of the content he publishes is well received, but what matters most is that his audience has something to look up to.