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The Demand-Gen Content Investment: Good to Great? [New Research]

“We won. Now what?”

That mind-opening observation came in a conversation I had with Velocity Partners’ Doug Kessler this year.

As he noted, we’ve gotten good at content marketing. Now, how do we become great at it?

In the seminal business book Good To Great, author Jim Collins writes, “Good is the enemy of great.” People settle for good because it is easier, he suggests, opening the door to competitors.

No one sets out to be the third in their market, but they end up there because they don’t go beyond good.

No one sets out to be the third in their market, but they end up there because they don’t go beyond good. @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #demandgen #research Click To Tweet

Good-to-great demand generation

Teams may struggle to take their content from good to great because of the increasing focus on short-term results over the last decade. This trend puts more pressure on the demand-generation marketer to improve results in shorter and shorter time frames.

According to the 2019 Lead Nurturing & Acceleration Survey Report, 41% of companies deliver weekly campaigns. Only a handful (6%) of respondents say their typical cadence is monthly, compared to 17% in the previous year.

This intense short-term pressure to iterate has led many businesses to delay longer-term investments such as developing the infrastructure and processes to scale and measure their overall content marketing efforts.

When CMI reported the results of our first Content Marketing for Demand Generation Survey last year, I wrote about the pressures of short-termism: “Most demand-generation strategies are simply demand-identification programs. Marketing teams exert tremendous effort to optimize content experiences for search terms and questions, and to be ever more different, persuasive, and faster for anyone who has raised their hand to say, ‘I’m interested.’”

In that report, we concluded that many businesses had “moved to good, but not great.”

Last year’s results showed respondents achieving some short-term success but struggling with scale and measurability – both of which require a long-term approach to strategy, planning, infrastructure, and investment.

In this year’s survey, we explored those issues further. The resulting market brief, Scaling and Measuring Content Marketing to Generate Demand, Measure Audiences sponsored by ScribbleLive, captures the changes in the landscape over the last 12 months and explores current attitudes regarding the quality of the content businesses create.

We hypothesize a desire to move from “good” to “great” and that marketers can overcome the hurdles of short-termism to invest in a longer-term strategy, infrastructure, and skills we need to evolve.

The results open up opportunities for marketers to consider:

  • Where are the gaps in our approach?
  • What changes are occurring in how content marketing is used across demand generation?
  • How do our efforts compare with those changes?

Scaling struggles in demand-generation content

Once again, the survey asked marketers to assess how much demand-generation content they create and how much value they see from that content for each stage in the buyer’s journey.

The demand-generation marketers reveal that they devote over half of their content creation efforts (51%) to the early stage, a 10% jump over last year. In contrast, they create only 17% of their content for the late stage, a 21% decline over 2018.

The results followed last year’s pattern. More than half (57% in 2019 vs. 51% in 2018) say they get the most value from the early-stage content and only 6% (vs. 8% in 2019) experience that value in the late stage of the buyer’s journey.

Segmenting by personas declines

More than half of demand-generation operations still don’t follow the best practice of segmenting their activities by personas. In fact, the number of marketers who say they do not use personas and have no plans to use them increased by about 25% (24% in 2019 vs. 19% in 2018). This finding may represent another factor in the gap between good and great.

24% of marketers say they don’t segment demand-gen activities by personas. @cmicontent #research #demandgen Click To Tweet

Content’s role in driving and nurturing demand

We also wanted to know what marketers think about the quality and quantity of their content and its ability to meet their demand-generation goals. As we did last year, respondents were asked how they view their organization’s success with content marketing for demand generation. Like last year, 58% say their organization is moderately successful.

Interestingly, 77% say their organization views content as extremely or very important to their demand-generation efforts. But most marketers surveyed (63%) say they don’t have enough content to fulfill their organization’s current demand-generation goals. And less than half (45%) rate their content as excellent or very good.

63% of marketers say they don’t have enough #content to fill their demand-gen goals via @cmicontent #research. #demandgen Click To Tweet


We also asked about the biggest challenge of using content for demand generation. More than 30% of the responses had to do with having the time, resources, budget, or team. Verbatim answers included:

  • “Being able to generate large quantities of content, given our small team and budget”
  • “Creating a large amount of content catering to our audience”
  • “Not enough time to create the content we need”
  • “Frequency of content creation and distribution”
  • “Having the time to create high-quality content”

Is the pressure to produce more content another reason why demand-gen marketers are stuck at good?

Great requires reorganizing for and investing in success

The research shows that progress is being made in demand-gen content marketing approaches, but much work remains.

If content marketing is to be a meaningful – and growing – part of a demand-generation operation, companies must invest in it the same as they would any other vital business strategy.

It must be recognized as a long-term investment that requires a documented strategy, a dedicated team, and focused, aligned goals for everything that’s done.

#ContentMarketing must be recognized as a long-term investment that requires a documented strategy, a dedicated team, and aligned goals for everything that’s done. @Robert_Rose #demandgen #research Click To Tweet

That is what is required for demand-generation marketers to move beyond good (meeting existing demand with existing content) to great (creating new types of content that will generate new demand).

Get more insight and survey results; download Scaling and Measuring Content Marketing to Generate Demand, Measure Audiences today. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute