Content gap analysis continues to gain traction among B2B companies, with leading organizations turning to competitive analysis to enhance content production and quality.
Research from the Content Marketing Institute identified "creating engaging content" as a persistent challenge for B2B marketers. Also, Demand Gen Report's 2015 Content Preferences Survey shows that 83% of B2B buyers want more interactive, engaging content from vendors.
Competitive insight can help highlight gaps within a B2B marketer's content strategy and point out opportunities to fill content voids on hot topics that buyers are researching.
"Marketers have to gain a sense of the types of content their competitors are providing their audience," said Jessie Coan, Senior Director of Content at Aberdeen Group. "Third-party research is how you're able to analyze what they are doing, then adjust your messaging on an ongoing basis to maximize the content's impact."
B2B marketers can gain valuable insight into trends and preferences by analyzing competitors’ content, according to Aya Fawzy, Marketing Specialist at Captora."Competitive intelligence is critical to understanding the buyer landscape. If you're not aware of what your competitors are doing, you will be at a loss."
Many observers advise focusing on the early stage of the buying cycle when performing competitive content analysis. The goal is to find ways to get your foot in the door and give your company the early advantage, according to Jerry Rackley, Chief Analyst at Demand Metric.
"Gaps need to be plugged in the early stages first," Rackley noted in an interview with Demand Gen Report. "If not, you're diminishing your chances of gaining the buyer's trust as a thought leader on the topic in question."
Sources noted that there are tools available designed to help content marketers analyze and find prospective buying intent through identifying keywords used by target audiences. Content marketers can then take inventory of their content, identify competitors' offerings and determine which digital channels work best for reaching target audiences.
"You're no longer guessing, now you're creating content and campaigns that can be built off of and optimized for future results," Fawzy noted.
A competitive content analysis helps B2B marketers understand what content is moving buyers through the funnel, according to Tushar Patel, VP of Marketing at Innotas, a project portfolio management company.
"Marketers need to be constantly looking at company wins and analyzing their path to purchase," Patel said. "Marketers need to understand the content journey, and there are solutions out there that help you do that. However, it's oftentimes easier to do it manually by sitting down and talking to recent buyers that converted."
Innotas has seen an increase in web traffic and leads generated thanks to its content gap analysis efforts. The company focused on the early stage of the buyer's journey to validate that the right conversations were created from early-stage content. "We started analyzing top-funnel content and to understand how we can increase our reach. It helps identify topics we should be discussing."
While competitive analysis can shine light on key areas where the competition has the upper hand, observers caution that B2B marketers don’t need to emulate every piece of content from competitors.
"My caveat would be that this can't be a 'monkey-see, monkey-do' process," said Matt McKenzie, Chief Content Officer at Content4Demand."It's an important part of understanding where you are in the landscape, but don't let it turn into tunnel vision. You have to stand out from the crowd. If you know what competitors are doing, you know what they are also not doing."
Automation Enables Consistent Gap Analysis
Content gap analysis requires a significant commitment of resources. Sources noted that software is available to automate tasks within the process to gain a deep understanding of where the gaps are within their content strategy.
"B2B marketers still struggle with automating content gap analysis and with the understanding of how to best leverage their content differently across every interaction with each individual visitor online," said Asaf Rothem, VP of Marketing at BrightInfo. "This automatic analysis offers insights about what the prospects find interesting. These insights can then be used to fine-tune the topics work best so you can further expand on them."
Continuum, a managed IT services provider, had a limited gap analysis process in place prior to partnering with BrightInfo. "There was minimal understanding about what content was doing well," said Ben Austin, Content Marketing Manager at Continuum. "These types of tools help analyze particular data points that help identify where content is being effective and where the gaps are."
For the month of April, BrightInfo recommendations helped Continuum drive roughly 100 content downloads per week. Continuum also attributed 10% of the traffic to its top-performing piece of content to BrightInfo.
The company was able to increase web traffic — and ultimately overall conversion rates — by incorporating content consumption data into the gap analysis process. "It was a pretty time consuming and manual process before," Austin noted. "At some point, you need to automate some of the tasks to expedite the process."