We recently surveyed 70 on-staff content managers to find out their biggest challenges. These were professionals at the management level or higher, at companies ranging from 2 to 270,000 employees. We did not provide a list of challenges to choose from; we left it completely open-ended to ensure we didn’t lead or constrain the respondents in any way.
After gathering the responses, we scheduled phone calls with a handful of our respondents to dig deeper into the results.
And wow…we just had no idea about the obstacles some of you have to overcome every day on the job.
Content Marketers’ Biggest Challenges
“Getting quality content” and “lack of strategy” were the top two frustrations. In fact, 32% of respondents reported both of these as their biggest challenges. Which is interesting, because a lack of content strategy can tie directly in to the inability to get quality content.
Lack of time, budget, and decision-maker/stakeholder buy-in were three more themes we saw in the responses.
It’s a vicious circle: if you don’t have time or money, you can’t plan and strategize. If you can’t plan and strategize, you won’t get effective content—no matter how good your writers are.
Want to see the full results? We compiled them into this infographic. There’s no form to fill out…just click and download!
Introducing the Bootstrapping Content Marketer
The biggest surprise from the survey: Even content managers at some of the largest companies had these problems.
We coined the term “Bootstrapping Content Marketer” to describe this phenomenon of content pros who are tasked with managing and growing content, but given little in the way of buy-in, budget, or resources. You know, the stuff you need to do your job.
You can be a Bootstrapping Content Marketer if you’re a company of two people struggling to build a brand—and you can be a Bootstrapping Content Marketer if you’re in charge of a content department within a huge, successful organization.
Some of the professionals in our survey were the company’s first content hire, and are in charge of building a content department from scratch. The powers-that-be saw enough value in content to hire them…but not enough to actually give them the resources they need to do their jobs well.
Here’s What Your Colleagues Are Saying
Here are some selected answers to the question “What are your top 3 content frustrations or challenges as a marketing or content executive?” (Scroll to the bottom for some possible solutions!)
“Getting good content. There are a lot of vendors who simply do some Googling and look at the high-level things around whatever is happening in technology at the moment, or in the past. They can regurgitate that well enough. But frankly, we could do that ourselves.”
“Lack of bandwidth to do everything we want/need to do, both strategically as a content team and as a support system to the entire marketing organization.”
“Getting a strong and versatile stable of writers: One part of this pain point comes down to finance and how stubborn they are about adding new vendors. ‘Can’t you just use xyz writer for that?’ They have no clue about this process.”
“Getting buy-in and help in content dev. from other members of the team. I have to lean on category managers for product expertise. They can often be too busy to prioritize these projects.”
“Cataloging content. Our blog goes back from years before I joined the company. Many videos and posts may be irrelevant now or they may be prime material to repurpose…but finding the time to read every word and organize it is too time-consuming to detract from ‘forward facing’ initiatives.”
“A hot mess of a measurement system: Even though we’re an analytics company we don’t yet have multitouch attribution implemented and content goes across the buyer’s journey so it’s difficult to measure true impact, which feeds both into strategy and into operations in terms of headcount, budget, etc.”
“Converting leads based on our awareness-stage content.”
“Quantifying the value and ROI of our content.”
“Stakeholder buy-in and alignment on content marketing goals and objectives.”
“When I started here, there was no content program. And so I had to take my content strategy deck to hundreds of individual and small group calls, and get buy-in like two people at a time.”
“We don’t start with a top down plan and align our content to themes. We start from the bottom and work back up. I think we try to be everything to everyone and our content ends up being diluted.”
“We are too lean and one person does the strategy, writes the content, posts the content, SEO, etc. Not enough resources.”
Some Possible Solutions to Content Marketers’ Biggest Challenges
So what can you, the Bootstrapping Content Marketer, do to plan and develop content with the resources you have? Some suggestions:
1. Create a content calendar.
We know…you don’t have time to create a content calendar, right? But the hours you spend on this task now will free up many more hours in the future…
…which you can spend on developing content that works.
If your M.O. right now is to look at each day, week, or month fresh and wonder what content you’re going to create and how the heck you’re doing to get it all done, you are wasting time. Here are even more reasons you you need to develop a content calendar right now.
(And, by the way, we’re beta testing an affordable product right now that can help you create a thorough content calendar fast. We don’t even have a landing page yet, so if you’d like more info please email email@example.com.)
2. Make it easy for stakeholders to help.
You’ve probably experienced for yourself how much easier it is to work with constraints.
When someone says “Tell me a story,” your mind comes up blank. But if they instead say, “Tell me a story about a time in your childhood when you were disappointed,” it’s much easier to think of a relevant anecdote.
So instead of asking your your sales, customer service, or product leaders for “content ideas,” give them some guidelines.
- Do you want to know the questions they hear most from customers?
- Would it help for them to send you ideas based around product X?
- Or maybe you want them to tell you about misconceptions about your business that they wish they could debunk.
Whatever it is, make your request clear and narrow and you’ll likely get a better response.
Keep an eye on this blog…we’ll have an article for you soon on more ways to make it easier to get the support you need from SMEs, category leaders, and other stakeholders.
3. Create small wins (and then say “I told you so!”).
Do what you can with what you have to create small wins that will boost your stakeholders’ and decision-makers’ confidence in your content plan. You probably aren’t developing loads of content, boosting your social posts, and creating trackable funnels on a small budget.
So what can you do on the small side that will help prove your content’s value?
For example, you might:
- Create a report around your customers’ most-asked question and promote it where those people hang out. The goal: bumping up the number of subscribers on your email list.
- Develop a content campaign around an upcoming streaming event your company is doing…even if they don’t ask for one. The goal: increase viewership. (I recently helped someone do this and they doubled their viewership.)
- Do a content audit, update your old-but-still-relevant content and reoptimize the SEO, and republish as new. The goal: increase your organic traffic.
Then measure carefully…and BRAG when the wins start coming in.
I’m going to admit it: what you’re doing here is looking for an “I told you so” moment. Like, “Hey, this report we created increased our email subscriber base by 10%. See, content is worth it” or “Guess what? That content campaign you didn’t ask us to do for the streaming event doubled your viewership.”
But of course, you would say it in a nicer way. You know how to do that, because you’re a content pro.
Did you download our infographic with the survey results yet? If not, you can do that here. And don’t forget to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the content calendar product we’re testing right now…this thing will make your job much easier, and it will be at an attractive price point for Bootstrapping Content Marketers with a limited budget.