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Tech Marketers Shine But Face a Big Hurdle: Content Operations [New Research]

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our annual study of content marketing at technology companies for 2024.

Content marketers at technology companies have a good handle on content marketing, according to our latest research. They’ve got a strategy, and they know if it’s working because they measure and report results. And most expect more budget to work with this year.

Does that mean tech company marketers avoid the challenges and growing pains that keep their colleagues in other industries up at night?

Not quite.

To find out the challenges tech companies face (as well as they’re planning to invest), let’s examine the findings in CMI’s Technology Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends with Insights for 2022 sponsored by Foundry. The report reflects responses from 216 content marketers at for-profit technology companies who participated in the 12th annual Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs survey in July 2021.

Where tech content marketers excel

First, let’s explore some areas where tech marketers report success.

Most technology marketers approach content marketing strategically. According to our latest round of content marketing research, nearly all (95%) have a strategy or plan to develop one within the next 12 months.

Eighty-three percent of those surveyed rated their overall content marketing approach as extremely, very, or moderately successful in the last 12 months.

83% of #tech marketers rate their #ContentMarketing as extremely, very, or moderately successful, according to @CMIContent #research via @LisaBeets. Share on X

And they have a pretty good picture of how they’re doing because more than three quarters (79%) measure content performance. Of those who measure, 36% rate their ability to show ROI as excellent or very good. For this survey, excellent means they have measurement data showing ROI on their overall content marketing. Very good indicates they have data to show ROI for at least one content marketing initiative and insights into other areas.

Another big chunk (52%) rate their measurement ability as average, which means they have well-informed insights but lack measurement data showing ROI.

Half of tech marketers rate their ability to measure as average. They have informed insights but lack ROI measurement, according to @CMIContent #research via @LisaBeets. Share on X
How technology marketers characterize their team's ability to demonstrate content marketing roi.

The ability to measure and report on ROI might explain why they’re maintaining and even increasing their budgets. Nearly half (49%) reported their 2021 content marketing budget increased over their 2020 budget.

Budgets looked even better for this year: 68% expected their 2022 content marketing budget to be bigger than the 2021 budget.

How technology content marketing budget will change in 2022 compared with 2021.

Where tech marketers plan to invest in 2022

What do they plan to do with that 2022 budget? Many plan to spend on events. When asked how the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine would change their investments, most said they would stay the course or increase spending on digital events (50% planned to spend the same amount on digital/virtual events, and 25% planned to spend more).

But 61% said they planned to increase in-person event spending on in-person events. That’s a significant number, but keep in mind only 17% said they’d used in-person events for content marketing in the past 12 months.

How technology organizations' investment will change in following areas post-vaccine.

What’s left?

Marketers at tech companies think their programs are decently successful. They can show it with numbers, and (perhaps therefore) they’re maintaining or increasing budgets.

What’s left to worry about?

In combing through the data, the biggest challenges for technology content marketers primarily involve internal stumbling blocks. Tech content marketers indicate they’re challenged in:

Technology organizations' current content marketing challenges bar chart.
Over half of tech marketers say they are challenged to create #content that appeals to multi-level roles within the target audience, according to @CMIContent #research via @LisaBeets. Share on X

Those findings indicate a need for a content operations framework. Content operations, as Ann Gynn writes, is “the machine that turns a content marketing strategy into the product of content marketing.”

A content operations framework documents the people, process, and technology involved in producing content for the organization. Creating this framework helps organizations ensure the correct staff (internal or outsourced) are in place to produce content, that they have the guidelines they need (think personas, style guides, etc.), and that everyone involved knows the mission behind the content.

“A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys,” Cathy McKnight explains.

A documented, enforced #ContentOperations framework powers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible experiences, says @CathyMcKnight via @LisaBeets @CMIContent. Share on X

Technology sales cycles can be long and involve many people at differing levels of technical expertise and different content needs. A formal approach to content operations may be the thing to push more tech marketers from moderately successful into the top-performer tier.

See Technology Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends with Insights for 2022 to explore the complete findings, including:

  • What top-performing tech marketers do differently from the rest
  • How team structure and outsourcing approaches differ at small and large tech companies
  • Which paid and organic channels tech marketers use (and which perform best)
  • Action steps for the rest of 2022
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute