Content marketing has proven its value for technology companies over the past two years, as the global pandemic disrupted workplaces and the Internet became even more of a lifeline for connecting employees, partners, customers, and prospects. With remote and hybrid work models likely here to stay, technology content marketers will need to continue to raise their game to attract and engage with IT buyers.

The good news is that tech marketers have been doing this content marketing thing long enough to have established some pretty reliable best practices. Some of those successful strategies and tactics are apparent in the 2022 Technology Content Marketing study from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, which is sponsored by Foundry.

Nearly one-third of respondents (32%) in the study said their organization was very or extremely successful at content marketing. These “top performers,” as designated by the report’s authors, distinguish themselves from the other respondents in several categories, including how they: 

  • Measure content performance (94% of top performers vs. 79% of all respondents)
  • Value creativity and craft in content creation (90% vs 76%)
  • Prioritize their target audience’s informational needs over their own organization’s promotional messaging (83% vs 66%)
  • Have a documented content marketing strategy (71% vs. 46%)
  • Are very good/excellent at demonstrating ROI for content marketing (64% vs 36%)

That list is a good blend of art and science – an approach we’ve been preaching at Foundry for some time now.

Nobody’s perfect

All tech marketers, even the top performance, face ongoing challenges. These are the top three pain points in the CMI/MarketingProfs survey:

  1. Creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within the target audience (cited by 51% of all respondents)
  2. Accessing subject matter experts to create content (49%)
  3. Internal communications between teams/silos (48%)

For the 62% of tech marketers who outsource at least one aspect of content marketing, additional challenges emerged, including:

  1. Finding partners with adequate topical expertise (a clear No. 1, at 75%)
  2. Finding partners who understand the target audience (44%)
  3. Budget (36%)

Sound familiar? Silos and budgets are ongoing issues, as are finding the right partners who have a deep understanding of IT and the people who influence and make tech buying decisions. If you’re experiencing these challenges, you’re not alone.

How to keep raising the bar

Given the progress tech marketers have made, and the challenges they still face, here are a few tips to help teams raise the content marketing bar and move from good to great.

Have a plan, based on clear objectives or desired outcomes

Your content marketing strategy should be documented and articulated across the organization. But once it’s documented, don’t let the strategy gather digital dust on a shared drive. You’ll want to update it regularly as you learn about what’s effective and what’s not. Or in response to external events, like, say, a global pandemic or rising inflation. (Three-quarters of respondents acknowledged their current content marketing strategy is different than their pre-pandemic approach.)

Invest in content creation, not just promotion

Too many people view content as a commodity, something that anyone with a cogent idea can spin up quickly. Far fewer have actually mastered the art of effective storytelling, in all of its forms. Tech marketers opting for quantity over quality have created a cluttered environment where 90% of tech buyers in our 2021 Customer Engagement Survey say it’s challenging to find high-quality, trusted information to make an informed IT purchase decision.

Building up content-creation skills, either in-house or with strategic partners, will help you create compelling narratives that attract and engage with tech buyers.

Differentiate your content

In addition to improving content quality, look for other ways to distinguish your assets from the unwashed masses of me-too blog posts and webcasts. One option is to experiment with different types of video formats. Video is the top area of content marketing investment planned for 2022, with 72% of respondents in the CMI/MarketingProfs survey planning to invest in the format. This means that to rise above the crowd, you’ll have to get creative in your approach. Try different lengths, environments, storytelling techniques, and distribution channels – and, most importantly, have some fun with it.

Podcasts may be an even better opportunity to differentiate, as just 36% of tech marketers said they produced podcasts last year and only 17% plan to invest in audio-related content in the year ahead. Foundry’s 2022 Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker survey found that 51% of IT decision-makers listen to work-related podcasts – so there’s an audience there for you.  

One more opportunity may be found in custom research. Just 41% of respondents to the CMI study said they created research reports last year, but research reports ranked No. 2 for producing the best content marketing results. It’s easy to see why. Surveying technology decision-makers can provide deep insights into your audience to inform your content development. Survey results provide a strong foundation for all kinds of content, adding credible data to support white papers, infographics, blog posts, webcasts, and the like. We view custom research as the gift that keeps on giving.

Partner with the experts

Another way to differentiate your content is through expertise. As noted earlier, half of tech marketers struggle to gain access to the right subject matter experts, and three-quarters have trouble finding partners with the right technical expertise. Just 24% have influencer partnerships for distributing content.

It’s critical to find a partner with deep knowledge of both the technology landscape and the audience. IT decision makers have told us time and again that they don’t want marketing hype or information that’s too general or not relevant to their needs. They want unbiased content from experts to help them understand how to apply technology to solve business challenges. The right partner has access to subject matter experts who can help you create content that builds trust and credibility with your audience.

Measure your performance

No deep insights to this tip – everyone at this point should understand the value of metrics in our data-driven world. But as the survey shows, measurement is still a differentiator for the most successful content marketing operations.

Analytics help to inform and ensure that you’re making progress toward strategic objectives. Monitoring KPIs in real-time helps you identify problem areas and make important course corrections to stay on track toward campaign goals. And importantly, measuring content marketing ROI helps you justify further investment in the next budget cycle.

Moving from good to great is hard. But for those looking to make the leap, the effort will pay dividends with a pipeline full of prospects and a path to repeatable revenue growth.