This year, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published their 7th B2B Content Marketing Trends, Budgets and Benchmark Study – North America. While there are many studies that are published every year, this is one that I really analyze and review as it is packed with information and shows a very clear picture of where B2B marketers are on their way to maturity.
The study was a bit different this year with some new questions and sections, but overall, this year’s comparison to previous studies provides insight into how B2B marketing organizations are succeeding and in many cases continue to face challenges with the discipline of content marketing.
It takes a people-
I was surprised to see that 55% of organizations have small teams (some just one person) that are tasked with serving the entire organization with content. Less than 40% of respondents said they have an organization and / or dedicated people across the organization.
It’s not easy to create good content that engages buyers and aligns with the buyers’ buying process. It takes time to understand your buyer, their pain points and challenges, and the trajectory of your buyers. According to CEB, in a typical B2B buying cycle there are an average of 6.8 people involved in the buyer committee, all of whom want specific content that is relevant to their role.
With this being the case, how do you expect only a handful or just one person to be able to create engaging content? For content to be done right and deliver value, there needs to be a team dedicated to it.
Measurement should be a priority
When asked, “Is it clear what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like?” only 41% answered yes. The other with 59% answered with a not sure or with a no. While this can happen while only 28% are mature or sophisticated, the need for measurement has never been more apparent.
According to the study, the following is true:
- 29% of the B2B marketing budget is spent on content marketing.
- 39% of organizations will increase their investment in content marketing.
- 45% will spend the same amount next year as this year
It is a great investment without understanding the results. While producing relevant and engaging content is crucial, it is just as important, if not more, to know the impact these investments are having on an organization.
Metrics don’t align with goals
Survey respondents cited lead generation as the number one goal of their marketing efforts. However, when asked “What metrics does your organization use to determine how well your content marketing is producing results?” only 57% said they were measuring the quality of sales leads.
If the goal of the content is to generate demand, simply measuring web traffic (78% do this as the main metric) will not give any indication of success or failure. If B2B marketers are going to get better at measuring value, they must measure what aligns with their goals.
- How would you characterize the success of your organization’s current overall content marketing approach? 22% declare very or extremely successful and 53% declare moderately successful (I’m not sure the goal of organizations is to be marginal)
- How does the success of your organization’s current overall approach to content marketing compare to that of a year ago? 62% say something more or much more successful
There are improvements, but there is still a long way to go
While 72% of organizations reported more effectiveness with their content (with web visits being the top metric, this is questionable), the eye-opening statistics that tell the real story of how organizations are doing with marketing of content were the following:
- Only 37% of B2B organizations have a documented content strategy (sorry, but if you say you have one but it’s documented, YOU DON’T HAVE A STRATEGY !!)
- Only 22% say their organization’s approach to content marketing is very or extremely successful.
- Only 28% of respondents said that their organizations are sophisticated or mature with content marketing.
- Only 34% say their organizations are extremely or very effective in meeting their content marketing goals.
With all the attention given, the money invested, and the time spent on content, you’d think we’d be much further along. What is most puzzling with these low numbers is that 63% of respondents stated that their organizations were extremely or highly engaged in content marketing.
I think the time has come (I’ve said it many times before) for marketers to really look at this engagement with content and instead of investing in more content production, invest in understanding buyers at a deeper level. so that its content can be better informed. Simultaneously, invest in better empowering and equipping content marketers with the skills necessary to perform their roles at the highest levels.
Content marketing is going nowhere anytime soon and is necessary to engage, nurture, and convert buyers and build customer relationships, but year-over-year numbers are flat or dropping, indicating that we have a problem. Hopefully, 2017 (I said this about 2016) is the year marketers take the time to address it.