The 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report is out, and no doubt will spur a number of blog posts. As usual, this year’s findings are a mix of the obvious (lead generation is the top goal of content marketing – as it has been for the last 10,000 years or so) and the somewhat surprising. For example, having a documented strategy makes companies much more successful–but only 30% of firms have a formally documented content strategy. And content marketing ROI remains difficult to measure.
Here are more than a dozen noteworthy findings from the report.
1. Current customers may be under-valued. As noted above, lead generation is the top goal (59%) of content marketers; no surprise there. However, just 17% of survey respondents identified “Customer loyalty/retention” as a goal. Yet existing customers can be a company’s most effective and valuable advocates.
2. Content marketing is not about revenue. Just 16% of respondents said revenue generation was a top goal. Not surprising, as it’s never been easy to tie most marketing activities directly to dollars in. There are simply too many variables in the equation: price, product features, sales processes and skills, and the fact it takes multiple brand exposures (you’ve likely heard of the advertising rule of seven) before a prospect will buy.
Those seven (or eight, or 12) brand exposures can come through a variety of channels—industry news sites, social networks, blogs, online ads, analyst reports, search—which is why content development forms the base of a web presence optimization strategy.
3. Having a documented content marketing strategy is vital. Companies with a documented strategy are three times as likely as those without to describe their content marketing as “very” or “extremely” effective–and only one-third as likely to say they are “not sure” of its effectiveness.
4. Strategy means money… Nearly two-thirds (64%) of companies that have a documented content marketing strategy also have a dedicated content marketing budget. But just 14% of companies without a documented strategy have a dedicated budget for content creation and distribution.
5. …though often not enough money… Despite the importance of content marketing, 43% of companies devote less than 20% of their total marketing budget to content creation and distribution. More than a quarter spend 10% or less. Just 10% spend in the ideal range of 25-30%. On the other hand, more than three-quarters (77%) of marketers plan to increase spending on content production in the next 12 months.
6. …and strategy (often) includes automation. More than two-thirds (69%) of companies that have a documented content marketing strategy also use marketing automation. But just 42% of firms without a written strategy use such tools.
7. Content marketing starts with blogging. Blogging is the most commonly used content marketing format, with nearly two-thirds of survey respondents maintaining blogs. Rounding out the top five tactics are:
- • Social media (64%)
- • Case studies (64%)
- • White papers (55%)
- • Press releases (51%)
On the other hand, webinars/webcasts are used by less than half of b2b marketers. And less than 10% report using tactics like branded apps, podcasts, printed books, or games.
8. The C-suite is asking for metrics… Consistent with recent years, the top two content marketing challenges remain a lack of time/resources to create content, and the inability to create enough content variety and volume. However, this year’s report notes, “Measuring the effectiveness of content marketing has risen from the number six spot last year (28%) to number four (38%) reflecting increasing pressure to demonstrate results and justify investment in content marketing.”
Responding to those demands will require CMOs and marketing leaders to investigate a new class of tools designed to measure multi-channel web and competitive metrics, rather that relying on point solutions (social media monitoring, web metrics) that provide limited, siloed views.
9. …but ROI measurement remains elusive. Just 39% of marketers believe they are “at least somewhat successful at tracking content marketing ROI.” Yet as noted above, there is increasing pressure to provide such measurement. Closing this gap will require marketers to embrace a new breed of metrics to support improved marketing decision making.
10. The connections aren’t always clear. Not surprisingly, the top metrics used to measure content marketing success are website traffic (63%) and downloads / conversions (59%). More surprisingly though, just a third of marketers identify “social media sharing” or “SEO / search engine ranking” as key metrics—even though these are vital in supporting those top two metrics.
And just 19% cited “inbound links” as key metric, despite the fact that link earning through content marketing is essential to maintaining strong organic search presence in the post-Penguin world.
11. Outside talent can help. As noted above, most marketers say they are resource-constrained in producing enough volume or variety of content. Yet more than half (53%) rely on corporate marketing for content production. 36% depend on internal subject matter experts (SMEs, who have content knowledge, but not format knowledge) and just 30% on external agencies or consultants (the flipside of internal SMEs, with expertise in format but not product or service knowledge).
Connecting external resources with internal SMEs enables companies to produce more high-value content with less corporate or product marketing effort. And yet—25% of marketers don’t outsource any content creation, and less than 1-in-5 (19%) outsource half or more of all content development.
In terms of what types of content creation are outsourced, it’s not surprising that the majority of companies keeping blogging (76%) and case study writing (78%) in-house. But it is surprising that less than a quarter of marketers outsource the production of content formats requiring specialized skills, such as white papers, videos, and infographics.
12. Outside sources can help, too. 92% of companies create content internally (no surprise). But just 38% report that they “curate or syndicate third-party content.” An ideal content marketing strategy should contain a mix of internally and externally produced content, both to maximize the value of content to the company’s target audience and make the most efficient use of content development resources.
13. LinkedIn rules, Facebook…not so much. Per the report, “LinkedIn tops the list of the most effective social media platforms to deliver content and engage audiences (82%).” Just 41% of B2B marketers, however, say that Facebook is effective for content delivery. That’s nearly a mirror image of the B2C content marketing world, where 90% of marketers rely on Facebook but just 51% use LinkedIn.
14. Weekly content updates are the norm. 40% of marketers say they publish new content either “weekly” or “multiple times per month” (i.e., roughly weekly). 30% publish just once per month or less, and 30% publish more than weekly (multiple times per week or daily).
There’s much more, so check out the complete 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report to review all of the findings.
Sam Mudra says
Really good points and stats. As a professional optimizer I understand how much content is important for a business to grow their overall marketing reach but at the same time being a startup, I can really feel the pain behind this.
Content always play a really crucial part in marketing but it requires consistency, patience, time, resources and a dedicated budget and startups always face difficulties in these.
Loved your blog and shared this post with my clients and groups.
Thanks for sharing, Sam!
Kevin Carney says
Weekly content updates may be the norm, but daily updates, generates more leads.
I know this from personal experience and I’ve seen studies published on the Internet drawing the same conclusion (of course I can’t find them right now).
The trick to publishing more often is to publish posts in series, where a 1,000 word article gets published as a 4 part series.
I think you may be right, Kevin. I’m not a big fan of multi-part posts personally, but it’s hard to argue with data. Post frequency is a definitely a variable to test.