86% of B2B Marketers Have A Content Marketing Strategy, But How Many Believe It’s Effective?
Content marketing may be one of the most overused buzzwords this year, but there’s no doubt that it has taken the elusive concept of thought leadership and transformed it into a process that can be carefully planned and executed; enablingthe provision of information and value-addsto prospects,and gaining quality, high-value inbound leads as a result.
However, for a content marketing strategy to be effective, there are a number of variables organisations must consider –audience segments, channels, tactics, budgets, metrics – the list goes on!
For the fifth year in a row, Content Marketing Institute, in collaboration with MarketingProfs and BrightCove, surveyed over 1,800 B2B marketers on a wide range of content marketing topics in order to better understand their content creation and distribution efforts, their expectations and challenges, and the initiatives they plan to implement over the coming year. The completeB2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trendsreport can be found at the bottom of this blog post.
From their analysis, one key theme that shone through was the importance of documentation in taking a good content marketing strategy and making it great.
Of the 86% that confirmed having a strategic approach to their content marketing efforts, more than half stated their strategy was not documented, and their responses to the survey revealed lower scores in content marketing effectiveness.
Surprisingly, despite the high percentage of B2B marketers responding with a ‘yes’ to using content marketing, only 38% of all participants rated it as effective. The majority struggled with tracking ROI and a third of them foundit a challenge tohire trained marketing professionals in the past year.
The study also revealed that the top 3 metrics B2B marketers associated with content marketing success were website traffic, sales lead quality, and higher conversion rates. Regardless of organisation size and content marketing approach, web user analytics was the go-to metric for most.
Multi-Channel Content Creation Growing Strong
As expected, content creation is on the rise, with 70% of marketers confirming they produced more content than the year before,regardless of having a strategy. Across the participants, a quarter of marketing budgets were spent on content marketing, and majority of the group expect this figure to rise orat least remain the same.
On average, organisations used social media content (other than blog posts) the most, with 92% leveraging social media as part of their content marketing strategy. Email marketing, articles, and blogs followed closely; and while most tactics mirrored their usage figures from the previous year, infographics stood out withan 11% growth in adoption.
Responses to the effectiveness of tactics painted a slight contrast, seeing in-person events, and interactive visual content such as webinars, webcasts and videos take the lead, marking the fifth consecutive year that in-person events was at the top of the list. Case studies also proved to be a good investment, with a rise in 7% from last year, while all other tactics’potencyremained unchanged in comparison to the previous year.
The Influence Of Social Media
LinkedIn was the social platform of choice, used most by B2B marketers and considered to be most effective. My personal experience with LinkedIn holds a similar viewpoint, having found it easier to reach out to targeted individuals through the social platform, invite them to connect, and build my network through value-adds and established trust – what I refer to as earned outbound.
Twitter wasn’t too far behindin both use and effectiveness, but an interesting discovery was that of Facebook, whichdespite being the third-most used social network, was only half as effective as LinkedIn. The social media giant was also considered less successful than YouTube, SlideShare, and Vimeo – all three prominent in visual content for videos, webinars and webcasts, which were noted as more effective tactics.
Google+ has undergone many changes in the previous yearto allow marketers to influence their organic search rankings via the platform, and this may have led to the continued growth in usage, however only 20% of marketers considered it effective.
Paid Search Engine Marketing On Top
When asked about paid methods, B2B marketers confirmed Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as the most used and most effective. The more established methods such as ‘print or other offline promotion’ and ‘traditional online banner ads’, while showing high usage, didn’t have marketers convinced of the value they provided. On the other hand, marketers showed higher confidence in newer methods such as native advertising and content discovery tools despite theirlimited uptake.
The Real Challenges
With 42% of respondents keeping up with content production multiple times a week if not daily, delivering engaging content appears to remain an ongoing challenge. The remaining group faced a struggle with maintaining consistency in content creation. Measuring content effectiveness was also found to be more difficult than in previous years.
From a number of proposed initiatives in the survey, B2B Marketers confirmed ten as their main focus now and over the next 12 months in order to tackle the challenges observed:
- Creating more engaging/higher-quality content
- Better converting visitors to website
- Better understanding of what content is effective – and what isn’t
- Finding more/better ways to repurpose content
- Creating visual content
- Better understanding of audience
- Optimising content
- Optimising content on website
- Measuring content marketing ROI
- Creating a greater variety of content