Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs recently released their B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America research. The seventh annual report is packed with findings collected from B2B marketers representing a full range of industries, functional areas and company sizes.
The 45-page report provides a snapshot of the current state of B2B content marketing while providing insight into how the most effective content marketers do things differently. The survey featured many changes and saw the addition of new questions that better reflect the maturation of the content marketing discipline.
Without a doubt, content marketing is an evolving discipline and one that both marketers and companies continue to work out, which the findings underscore. The good news? This year’s report indicates that content marketing is thriving (89% of B2B marketers are using content marketing), and marketers have made significant progress over the last year. The bad news? In spite of progress, ongoing challenges persist. Here are some of the key insights that stood out:
When asked how the success of their organization’s current overall content marketing approach compares with one year ago, 62% reported that their organizations are much more (17%) or somewhat more (45%) successful. Some of the factors that marketers attributed to the increased success included content creation (85%), strategy (72%), making content marketing a greater priority (53%), and spending more time on content marketing (53%). Not surprisingly, marketers who said their organizations were less successful than a year ago listed “not enough time devoted to content marketing” as the top reason for the decrease in success.
Another question of this year’s new survey had the aim of assessing how committed the participating organizations were to content marketing. 63% of marketers said their organizations were either extremely committed (22%) or very committed (41%) to content marketing. Furthermore, 88% of marketers said that content marketing is an important component of their organization’s marketing program. This further underscores that content marketing is no longer simply a trend or a “shiny new object” but rather it’s become a necessary core competency of B2B marketing teams.
One question asked was “How would you describe your organization’s content marketing maturity level?” Only 28% defined their content marketing as mature or sophisticated (down from 32% in 2016). While the majority considers their content marketing maturity level “immature,” only 10% are in the “first steps” category. But as it turns out, content marketing—while fairly simple and straightforward in theory—is quite challenging to actually execute. As more companies become more sophisticated and seasoned in their content marketing efforts, this statistic will certainly shift.
This year only 41% of marketers said their organizations had clarity on what an effective or successful B2B content marketing program looks like (down from 41% in 2016). 30% said their organizations did not have clarity, while another 28% said they were unsure. This highlights the temptation for many organizations to create content independent of a strategic content marketing program.
In this year’s survey, 78% of marketers said their companies had a content marketing strategy, however only 37% said their strategy was documented (up from 32% in 2016). There is a direct correlation between not having a strategy and ineffectiveness, as 61% of the most successful marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. 73% of marketers with a content marketing strategy said that their strategy included a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process, not simply a campaign.
Of those who said their company had a content marketing strategy, 54% said their strategy was only moderately effective. While only 11% said there strategy was either minimally effective (10%) or not effective at all (1%), 29% of marketers said their strategy was very effective and 5% said their strategy was extremely effective. While the good news is that 88% consider their strategy moderately effective or better, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Compared to 2016, 70% of B2B marketers—regardless of company size or their level of effectiveness—plan to create more content in 2017. This year’s results are consistent with last year’s, showing that B2B marketers, regardless of their effectiveness, continue an upward trend of creating more content. While most B2B marketers plan to produce more content, 76% say they always or frequently prioritize delivering content quality over content quantity.
Email marketing remains a marketing juggernaut in spite of all the attention given to social channels in recent years. B2B marketers (93%) cite LinkedIn as their most used channel to distribute content, followed by LinkedIn (89%), Twitter (77%), Facebook (76%) and YouTube (59%). In addition to being the most used distribution channel, email was also cited by 91% of B2B marketers as the most effective channel for content marketing, followed by LinkedIn (71%). Interestingly, while print was the third highest-rated distribution channel (58%), only 30% of marketers use it to distribute content.
While social promotion is the most-used paid method of content promotion (84%), B2B marketers actually cite search engine marketing as the most effective method (54%) with social promotion a close second (50%). Other paid methods to promote content included native advertising (35%), traditional online banner ads (27%), content discovery tools (24%), and print or other offline promotions (24%).
When asked which content marketing goals your organization will focus on over the next 12 months, 80% of B2B marketers cited lead generation. Along those lines, 72% of marketers believe that their teams can demonstrate how content marketing has increased the number of leads and 57% said that they can demonstrate how content marketing has increased their company’s sales.
The findings from this year’s report underscore the fact that without the right strategy and approach in place, and a high commitment and priority placed on a company’s content marketing program, it will not be successful. It’s first and foremost a strategic exercise, requiring a documented strategy and meticulous execution.
The annual report from CMI and Marketing Profs allows B2B marketers to check the pulse of content marketing and gain insight into its ongoing growth, maturity and evolution. There are a lot more insights contained in the report, but these are the ones that stood out to us. Download the complete report here: B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.