MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute recently shared their combined study on the state of B2B content marketing heading into 2014, providing valuable insights to content marketers for the upcoming months. Sponsored by online video platform provider Brightcove, this study consisted of over 1200 B2B professionals representing a variety of industries, job functions, and company types (ranging from large multinational corporations to small firms with under 100 employees).
Successful approaches used by these highly effective marketers include having a documented content strategy (along with someone to oversee it), using an average of fifteen different techniques and seven social media platforms and spending 39% of their budget on content marketing. These successful marketers also reported that blogging was their most effective tactic. In contrast, in-person events were considered the most effective by the entire group surveyed — which, of course, is a classic B2B marketing technique, but one that may not be as productive in the digital world.
Blogging is essentially a modern form of traditional relationship marketing, after all, and naturally creating an editorial calendar along with proper oversight helps to ensure that a given content strategy is effective.
Moreover, 73% of B2B content marketers are currently producing more content than they did only one year ago. In addtion, seeking outside assistance with B2B content marketing is quite common, with writing and design being the main elements of the process being outsourced. Planning and strategy is still typically done in-house. Therefore, outside B2B consultants can focus on developing the creative work that enables the strategies created by the client team in order to maximize their value to their clients.
The marketers surveyed listed industry trends as one of their key sources of inspiration for content creation, followed by profiles of individual decision makers and company characteristics. Competing brands weren’t a major factor, so content marketers should focus on what their firm has to offer versus what their competitors are publishing.
Varied content distribution methods are important. The average B2B marketer uses thirteen different platforms, with social media being the most popular. Social media marketing is followed by articles on the company website, e-Newsletters, blogging, in-person events, case studies, videos and so on. Infographics trended the highest year over year, showing a 13% increase in usage by B2B brands, which is hardly surprisingly given their recent popularity among marketers in general and their overall shareability across social networks.
LinkedIn is the primary social network utilized, followed by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google Plus, respectively; Google Plus, SlideShare and Instagram all saw the largest year over year increases in usage. Interestingly, while LinkedIn is universally considered to be the leading B2B platform, larger companies consider YouTube to be the second most effective option, while smaller firms prefer SlideShare. This differentiation could be resource based — most B2B firms already have presentation decks, while generating videos typically requires more effort.
Perhaps more important than the specific platforms utilized are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that define success. Brand awareness, lead generation, customer acquisition, thought leadership and engagement all top the list (in that order). However, 80% of the most effective B2B content marketers reported lead generation as a key goal, as opposed to 64% of the entire group that participated. Unsurprisingly, actual qualified leads are generally more difficult to acquire than simply ensuring that potential clients are aware of a given brand or product, making this metric a more valuable KPI.
Website traffic, sales lead quality, social media shares and SEO rankings were considered leading KPIs. Note that lead quality is ranked ahead of lead quantity in nearly all aspects of this survey — after all, it is better to have a smaller amount of qualified leads than significant website traffic if it isn’t as relevant to the brand.
Common challenges include lack of time, producing enough content and developing content that engages the audience. Nearly all content marketing professionals face these challenges, whether they are B2B or B2C. Interestingly, 33% of those surveyed reported difficulty with measuring content effectiveness, proving that analytics capabilities are an increasingly valuable skill.
Content creation and promotion has always been an essential element of the business to business marketing realm; however, the internet and social media have supercharged the flow of information. As this study proves, B2B content marketing has become an important vertical in its own right. In fact, 58% of B2B marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2014, ensuring a bright (and profitable) future for those in the industry.
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