…you need good content.
Last week, back from Content Marketing World 2014, Jay Baer noted that over the last 12 months, the number of content marketing software vendors had exploded, forcing the vendor and expo area to massively expand. How many exactly were participating? Too many according to him. And because these companies were not sustainable yet but spending their VC’s money, he predicted a big shakeout will happen.
Why are they too many vendors according to him? The case of content marketing software for SMBs is not compelling yet, he says.
Yes, he admits, large companies can leverage software to help them manage their content marketing but his point is that SMBs probably don’t – limiting the market to Fortune 1,000 companies.
This is an interesting observation for us because ever since we started getting traction with professionals and businesses, we’ve been asking ourselves the “depth vs breadth” question: would our users and customers – which include large enterprise clients but which are mostly SMB’s or even very small businesses – want a broader suite of features or just better and better content curation? Should we add features to expand beyond content curation to include editorial calendars, assisted content creation, etc….? Or should we stay focused on our niche and make our content curation platform better and better? When does all-in-one stop being good and becomes “more is less”?
So what do SMBs really need to be successful with content marketing?
Of course, opinions may differ but we base ours on having attracted close to 5,000 paying SMB customers to Scoop.it which gives us plenty of opportunity to not only observe what they do but also discuss with them or collect survey results to understand their needs. Based on this, it’s clear to us that SMBs willing to develop content marketing face a serious time / budget obstacle. In this study for instance, 72% of respondents said they were challenged with finding the time to publish content – a factor that also came as #1 for 69% of respondents in this other study by the Content Marketing Institute.
The case for Content Marketing ROI has been pretty much this way: while advertising costs increase with success, content marketing costs don’t. This is summarized in the chart below from an Eloqua study that you can access with my comments here.
But this chart precisely means that before it gets better, content marketing is actually worse: it’s an investment. And while large companies can make trade-offs between existing large budgets quite easily to fund new investments in general and new content marketing campaigns in particular, SMBs typically find it more difficult. To SMBs, investing in content marketing typically means stepping up their expenses in a non-marginal way, eg recruiting somebody new. A leap of faith which is harder to make.
So what do you need the most as an SMB to succeed with Content Marketing?
The answer we hear from discussing with thousands of SMBs is clear: “we need to walk before we can run” they say which means a way to get started that’s more a marginal effort than a significant, quantum leap investment. In other words, SMBs need their content marketing to be lean.
This means a number of things when it comes to content marketing software for SMBs:
I will agree with Jay Bear that content marketing software for SMBs does not need all the bells and whistles that large companies do: for instance SMBs probably don’t feel the need for sophisticated content calendars and – as he noted – can use Excel or ToDo list software for that.
It needs to be super easy to adopt and designed for non-marketers: I more often than not come across SMBs who don’t even know what an editorial calendar is or they might not have well-polished brand assets to upload to a software cloud, etc… Needless to say, “not having a content calendar” never comes up as a challenge that deprives SMBs from reaching Content Marketing Nirvana.
It needs to work with social media: also a point Jay Baer makes as he notes that social media impacts every business and that SMBs already started to invest in that space. Yet, as I said many times, tweeting links is not enough and SMBs perhaps more than any others need content hubs so that their social media publishing ends up generating conversions and leads. SMBs can’t afford strategies which do not pay off and the question of ROI is essential to them.
It needs to be freemium: distributing to SMBs is hard and the best way to encourage adoption is by delivering some value for free.
And of course, it won’t surprise you if we add that content curation is critical to SMBs content marketing success: not only because it’s more effective to get started with from a cost and time standpoint, but also because it informs content creation and it starts with what most professionals already do – read content on their industry. This is the time-saving low hanging fruit in content marketing for SMBs.
So it might be that there is no market for content marketing software for SMBs OR it might rather be that content marketing software for SMBs is really content curation software with social media capabilities at this point in time.
Which is exciting for us and how we’re seeing our roadmap since, as Robert Rose from the CMI noted in reply to Jay Baer’s post: “the places where I’ve personally seen wide moats of differentiating technology is in the curation space.”