At 21 years old, the banner ad is a technological dinosaur. Up to 50% of ad clicks are accidental and 56% of banners are never seen by a human eye. With click-through rates hovering around .1%, the message is clear: consumers are smarter than advertisers often give them credit for. Smart and busy. The typical Internet user is served 1,707 banner ads a month… who has time for over 50 interruptions a day? It’s 2016, we’ve trained our eyes to look away.
Today’s consumers are connected and empowered in ways David Ogilvy couldn’t have dreamed of. These savvy buyers want content. Modern consumers feel entitled to learn everything they can about a product and industry from the comfort of their own home.
Ad-tech startup StackAdapt, in partnership with Leger Marketing addressed these sentiments head on and found that 68% of Canadians prefer to learn about brands through online content over traditional advertising techniques. For 43% of Canadians, this branded content breeds trust, a stat that jumps to 51% for those aged 18-44.
The average consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase, that’s 5x more dependent on content than they were 5 years ago. In short, people increasingly need to know they can trust the companies they hand their hard earned money to.
With all of this empowerment comes a vastly altered buyer’s journey. It’s well known that 70-90% of that journey is complete prior to engaging a vendor. But how do brands cut through the noise and ensure they don’t lose before they’ve begun?
It’s all about laser precision: brands influence buyer decisions by serving up the right content to the right user at the right moment. StackAdapt found that 55% of Canadians have made a purchase decision based on the type of relevant content available to them. As it turns out, these opinions are largely generational. Younger Canadians (18-44), for example, are more likely to enjoy entertaining brand content than their older counterparts. Older generations, on the other hand, appreciate useful, up-front information. A survey done by Kentico Software found that 74% of the general public trusts educational content from businesses on a certain topic.
It’s also incredibly important to keep the buyer’s journey top of mind. Effective content targets one of three stages: awareness, consideration or decision. From problem solving, to vendor hunting to cracking open their wallets, consumers are looking for specific content at particular times. A consumer in the awareness stage is looking for general information and will be put off by a sales pitch. On the other hand, someone in the decision stage will be annoyed by information they already know. HubSpot gives examples of content types for each stage here.
With the wealth of information available, why are so many content strategies falling flat? According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 30% of B2B marketers feel they are effective at content marketing.
A common barrier is lack of communication. 61% of the most effective organizations communicate daily or weekly, yet more than half of all content marketers still communicate bi-weekly or less.
A second stubborn hurdle has an easy fix: lack of a documented content strategy. Despite overwhelming evidence that documentation leads to more effective and targeted marketing, only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, down three percent from 2015.
A third limitation is due to the fact that many content strategies are in their infancy. At this point, not many organizations feel ready to invest hard cash in their programs. The average B2B marketing budget allocates 28% to content, but sophisticated content programs allocate almost double that proportion at 46%.
The last (and most integral) piece of the content puzzle is the most often overlooked: distribution. Content distribution has challenges all on its own, even the most established strategies can fall short of marketers’ goals. For example, only 55% of B2B marketers feel that SEO is effective. This isn’t to say SEO doesn’t work, but it often takes more time and money than anticipated. On social media, news feed competition is fierce. On Facebook, for instance, there can be up to 15,000 potential stories available to a given user each time they log in. As organic views become harder to come by, paid advertising presents itself as the logical solution, however, it is up to marketers to know their options and ensure their distribution channels guarantee content is served to contextually, geographically and behaviourally relevant audiences.
Verdict: Canadian consumers kindly ask that brands stop interrupting them in favour of quality content that educates, informs and entertains. But content marketers have rigorous work ahead of them to ensure their carefully calculated content gets in front of the audience it deserves.