Content Marketing (& Publishing) M&A on the rise in 2016

It’s that time of the year. Marketing predictions are flowing through the Internet and Content Marketing is not an exception. Not surprisingly Content Marketing Institute includes “Content Marketing M&A” as one of the major trends for next year.

Robert (Rose) and I (Joe Pulizzi) expect the momentum of mergers and acquisitions to continue to increase in 2016 and beyond. This is the obvious part of the trend. What interests us more is the growth of brands acquiring blogs and publishing companies – to accelerate their content initiatives and transform their approach to marketing. We discuss how even small companies can benefit from this approach.

Which again is a natural consequence of 2 major trends:

  1. General M&A activity is on the rise. I wrote about this trend and the consequences for marketing in a previous post on Pulse.
  2. The attention to Marketing and specifically Content Marketing/Publishing is dramatically increasing. It doesn’t take an expert to tell that the Content Marketing software industry is exploding. Venture capital in this space is growing at an unprecedented rate. One example? The recent announcement from NewsCred.

And so Content moves to the middle: Content Marketing has clearly taken center stage for brands, entrepreneurs and investors. The Economist published recently a study on content and marketing investment. See a short summary, via CMO. From the summary:

Our own study at the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 93% of companies planned to maintain or increase their investments in content this year. The technology and the glut of talent has made that part easy. What’s harder for companies to embrace is an approach that puts their readers’ needs ahead of their own, to engage with each reader not as a consumer but as somebody who is grappling with a complex problem.

A well-researched post from NewsCred, supported by data collected from Forrester Research, reports figures and considerations:

  • There are 1876 marketing technology companies according to chiefmartec. Of these, over 80 are listed in Content Marketing;
  • 2012 to 2014 really built industry momentum. Oracle, IBM, NewsCred, Optimizely, Outbrain, Skyword, and Taboola all acquired smaller companies
  • The Content Marketing software and services industry pulled in an estimated $26.47B in revenue in 2014, with an overall growth of 13.3% according to analysts at PQ Media. This growth is estimated to continue in the double digits this year, with content marketing global spend estimated at $145B for 2015, with revenue slightly over $30B.
  • Industry budget growth overall is estimated by PQ Media‘s Global Content Marketing Forecast 2015-19 at $313B by 2019;
  • In 2013, the Custom Content Council listed content marketing as a $44B industry, meaning brands were spending that much globally on content marketing strategy and services.
  • As of September 2015, a total of $1,097,847,416 (according to recent, publicly available data from CrunchBase) has been invested from 2006 to present in the 89 companies chiefmartec defines as “Content Marketing” technology platforms.

Content Marketing budget is on the rise, too, based on a recent post from NewsCred.

“Increasingly, we are seeing some pretty sizable increases in budgets,” said Ryan Skinner, senior analyst at Forrester and author of the report mentioned by NewsCred. He said this is being driven by several factors, including the shift from traditional media to online, particularly among millennials; customers’ self-directed research during the purchasing journey; and ad blocking, which makes the need for valuable, relevant content even more important to marketers.

Summarizing, the Content Marketing software and services industry is growing mind-blowingly fast, but things will soon start to merge. There will be more acquisitions; there will be a race to raise more across the board.

How to develop a Content Marketing strategy for a B2B firm in 6 steps

B2B firms tend to be concerned that their solutions aren’t attracting enough for content marketing – but only if the approach on doing content marketing is wrong in the first place. So how to transform your marketing strategy from a traditional to a modern and successful model aligned with growth and business goals? This can be done through a proper integration of content and social media marketing and a deep transformation of its overall marketing model.

Traditional marketing has always been about getting company products and services in front of the (right) audience. Content marketing is about meeting the informational needs of customers so they become interested in you.

It’s no longer about brand-first. It’s about giving consumers content that adds value to their lives, and in return adds value to us . David Beebe, Marriott, in an interview for Contently

Now, I am not a content marketing expert. But I have been working on a strategy that will change the approach of my Business Unit (BU) on it, moving from an advanced but traditional marketing model to a new, modern, content-based one. I have documented myself reading books and blogs. I have attended summits and conferences. I have been in contact with experts like NewsCred and Contently to understand how to improve the process. The new strategy will introduce elements of uniqueness, like the BU editorial board and the BU editorial calendar. It will integrate content, social media and PR. It will link dashboards and analytic. What I am trying to say is: you don’t need to be an expert content marketer to put together a content marketing strategy. You have to be a smart, well-documented, “hybrid” marketer. And you have to support what you are building with the right research.

First of all – why do we need a content marketing strategy? Based on a definition from Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action“.

Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.

A content marketing strategy has to be documented and a plan has to be defined. Based on research from Content Marketing Institute, firms with a properly documented marketing strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing and are able to justify spending a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing.

A well prepared content marketing plan should include six steps. Specifically:

  1. The business case for change/innovation
  2. The content marketing pla
  3. Audience persona and content map
  4. Brand history
  5. Channel plan, including distribution and amplification strate
  6. Measurement and KPIs

The business case for change/innovation

You need to assess the situation “as is” today and start thinking about a “to be” model, based on objectives and medium-long term vision. You have to communicate reasons for innovating and moving away from (or integrating) a traditional model, the risks involved, and the vision of what success will look like. This is more likely to gain executive and functional support for your strategy.

 The content marketing plan

This covers the goals you have for your content program, the unique value you are looking to provide through your content, and details of your business model. It also should outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you execute your plan.

Editorial Process & Procedures

The business plan has to go side by side with an internal transformation. Today’s marketing organizations are not designed to properly support a content marketing strategy.  The content editorial board is the core of your transformation. The board has to handle all content-related requests and issues, has to define internal communication and distribution plan and channel strategy. In large organization like the one I work for, the editorial board has also the key role of alignment and coordination of several division and sources of contents.

Also, you can’t have a long-term content strategy without the tools to manage it. And one of the most effective tools you can use is the editorial calendar. The editorial calendar is much more than just a calendar with content assigned to dates. A good editorial calendar maps content production to the audience persona. Ultimately, your editorial calendar is your most powerful tool as a content marketer.

Without a plan, an editorial board and editorial calendar, nothing will happen (or, at least, things will happen slowly and with several difficulties).

Content Marketing Strategy

The new content and social marketing strategy is ready. It ill change the face of one of the four business units of the company I work for. We are transforming a traditional marketing model to a new, modern, content-focused model.

Social, content and PR will be integrated. Jason Miller wrote on his book:

The most innovative, forward-thinking companies have merged social, content and PR. By doing so, they can capitalize on the synergies between these three

I am in Boston to present the new plan. It will simplify the current process. It will introduce elements of uniqueness, like the BU editorial board and the BU editorial calendar. It will integrate content, social media and PR. It will link dashboards and analytic. I am in contact with experts like NewsCred and Contently to understand how to improve the process.

At the same time, I am received new invitations as a speaker of Global Marketing Conferences. The last one is the Energy Branding Conference. It will take place in Iceland at the end of 2016. It’s the first world conference focused on marketing for the Energy sector. And it’s a wonderful location. I am pleased to be part of the speaker pool.

So, ready to spend an inspiring weekend. Preparing the workshops and all presentations for next week. And writing posts documenting the content marketing project.

Writing is the best medicine.

Digital Marketing 2016 Europe

I have just accepted to be part of the speaker pool at the Digital Marketing 2016 Europe Conference from Frost & Sullivan in Portugal on 25-27 January 2016!

Specifically, I will attend one panel session (Ask the Experts! Panel Discussion – Modelling a Modern Marketing Organisation ) and I will lead one formal speaking session (Fresh Perspective – Social Media: Best Practices for B2B Lead Generation).

Thinking about contents for the full session. I think that my content marketing-social project will be a good fit.