For the past few years, Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs have put together a report that details the state of B2B content marketing for the last year. They just released their report for 2019. You can find a copy of it at this link, but we’re going to go over some of the highlights and how CONCURED can fit in with what the report is predicting.
We do have to give one warning. CMI changed their methodology this year to survey only those companies that have been doing content marketing for more than a year and only talked with people who have a direct hand in those company’s content marketing. So if you’ve read this report in previous years, you’ll need to be careful with year-to-year comparisons!
Give Audiences What They Want
90% of the most successful B2B content marketers prioritize the audiences informational needs over their sales and promotional messages. This is hugely important and it’s why we focused our product to helping content marketers discover just what those informational needs are.
When content gaps are closed between competitors and you can predict what your audience wants to read about next, your content marketing ROI will improve. There’s no question in our minds that this is the case and this study bears it out. Giving customers what they want builds trust, and 96% of the most successful content marketers agree that building trust and credibility with their audience is vital.
We’ve talked at length about the importance of building customer personas for content marketing purposes. However, there is a gap that the study identified about persona building. Only 42% of content marketers are talking to customers directly to build their personas. Currently, sales team feedback, website analytics, and keyword research are the most common ways to research a target audience.
Three areas of persona research were identified as the largest differences between the most and least successful companies surveyed. These were primary research, talking with customers directly, and database analysis.
Tools are great, but sometimes you have to get directly involved with the customer to really understand them. Have someone in your content marketing team sit through some sales calls and meetings. Getting first-hand information about customers can really help you zero in on your personas in new ways. You might even consider holding a customer panel to ask questions about how well your marketing affected their decision.
Content creation has had the most reported increase of spending over the last 12 months. So what kinds of content are the most popular? The most popular by far is long-form content. 90% of the most successful content marketers surveyed and 74% overall used long-form articles for content marketing. The next two most popular forms are video snippets and social media stories.
One type of content that saw a significant drop is written print content (e.g. magazine articles and brochures). 17% of B2B marketers decreased their spending in this area compared to last year. In contrast, over half of the marketers surveyed increased spending in audio/visual content, written digital content, and images.
There has also been some experimentation with new types of content marketing. While less than 10% of companies used these, they may be worth investigating for certain niches. These included gamification, dedicated livestreaming, VR/AR content, and Digital Out-Of-Home Placement.
For print content, which is what we specialize in analyzing, an earlier study from CMI reported the best content types for different stages of the funnel. For the early stage, blog posts and articles were the best. The middle stage was dominated by white papers and webinars. The late stage leads preferred case studies and in-person events. You can find a full breakdown of content type effectiveness per funnel stage on page 27 of the full report.
Earlier this year we wrote several pieces about developing a written content strategy. This study showed the importance of having one. 65% of the most successful content marketers had a documented strategy and 32% had one that wasn’t documented. In contrast, only 14% of the least-successful ones had a documented strategy.
The top reported benefits for having a content strategy were to align the team around a common mission and to make it easier to determine which kinds of content to develop. Additional benefits included clarity on target audiences, accountability, and metrics.
All content marketers use some kind of technology to help them. The top technologies used to assist content marketing efforts are, unsurprisingly, analytics packages for social media and websites and email marketing software.
However, content marketing platforms like CONCURED are still in early adoption. Only 12% of the respondees use these systems. Also, only 4% use artificial intelligence software like ours to improve their content marketing efforts. We’re still on the cutting edge of technology in this space, but we expect the adoption of content marketing platforms and AI to increase as their benefits become more apparent.
Spending on content marketing efforts has increased since last year and most B2B marketers expect to see increased budgets in 2019. What are they spending the money on? Over half of the companies said that they increased spending on content creation. A third of them spent more money on content marketing staff and on paid content distribution.
It’s clear that content marketing is maturing and that businesses are seeing value in pursuing it as part of their efforts. Content marketing technologies are also on the table for these budgets. 29% of the surveyed companies increased their content marketing technology spend over last year.
What issues are facing B2B content marketers as a whole? The worst fears are changes to SEO and search algorithms. Holding on to top positions in the SERPs is still a critical issue for content marketers. Next down from that are changes to social media algorithms, followed by ROI concerns.
While algorithm changes can only be dealt with after the fact, ROI is something that can be addressed now. 72% of the best content marketers stated that they do measure the ROI of their content marketing efforts. Furthermore, a quarter of those said they were extremely proficient at using the metrics their team selected to measure ROI.
There is much more that you can learn from the report and we encourage all content marketers to take a look at the full piece. Many of the reports that we’ve created at CONCURED over the last year address issues that the best content marketers grapple with. Is your company dealing with these? Take a look at our resources page!