Content marketing has been a mainstay of online marketing for some time now but has been rising in popularity in recent years, especially since social media took off and we now have more effective outlets to distribute content. Each year sees Spiceworks carry out a survey to determine which trends in B2B content marketing are on the rise and to look at the current state of the market, as well as to identify key challengers marketers face.
This year’s report saw lead generation being the number one goal of content marketers, followed by thought leadership and market education. The third most mentioned goal in this year’s report was brand awareness, which has taken the place of customer acquisition.
It was also found that companies that use a documented strategy when it comes to their content marketing perform better than those that don’t. Despite this, only 30% of those surveyed said that they used a strategy document. The biggest challenge mentioned was finding the time to create enough content to satisfy market needs and to gain enough engagement.
When it came to strategy 72% of marketers said that they have a content strategy in place, even if only 30% did have it documented. So the key takeaway here is to get that strategy formalized by documenting it clearly.
Types of Content Used
When it came to the kind of content that’s being put out there, blogging was the most popular with 65% of marketers citing it as the most routinely used. Hot on its heels was the use of social media with 64%, case studies with the same percentage and white papers with 55%. Press releases and customer testimonials are also commonly used, as are newsletters but it’s surprising that video came as low as it did given that it’s a fast-growing and highly effective form of marketing. However, it’s worth pointing out that the B2B sector does differ from the consumer sector when it comes to the type of content that the audience will find useful. After all, it’s unlikely that a consumer would download a white paper to better inform them on a product that they’re thinking about purchasing.
The biggest challenge for marketers is having enough time to create content followed by producing enough content volume and getting the audience to engage. This should come as no particular surprise to many as content creation is of course time consuming. With this in mind, in the coming year marketers should consider if their budgets allow for outsourcing content creation to writers and designers in order to make full use of their content marketing efforts.
Of course, this isn’t always possible and depends completely on how large the budget is. In order to convince CEOs and finance departments of the need for more content, marketers must be able to prove ROI which according to the research, only 39% of content marketers believe that they can do.
Strategy and Development
When it comes to who is responsible for creating a content strategy, for the most part this was the domain of the marketer, with 54% stating that corporate marketing is their responsibility. Likewise, 53% of these were also the people within an organisation that actually created the content with 92% of all content being produced in house. Of those that did outsource content, the most common kind of content that was produced outside of the company was analyst reports at 27% and blogging with 24%.
It does seem to me that if a company relies on content marketing to any degree, and they are finding it difficult to produce content at volume, then outsourcing is something of a no-brainer. Of course, in order to do this it’s highly desirable that ROI can be calculated if it’s to be justified to the finance department. There is of course lots of value in content, not least that it lasts a long time (in most cases, journalism aside) and can often be repurposed.
Social Media Effectiveness
When it came to social media and content marketing, the report found that LinkedIn topped the list as the most effective social site to distribute content at 82% effective.
Other social media sites:
- YouTube – 64%
- Facebook – 41%
- Twitter – 66%
- SlideShare – 38%
- Google+ – 29%
This shouldn’t come as any major surprise either, since LinkedIn publishing was rolled out in 2014, there’s been an influx of businesses using it for marketing purposes, often with the hope of getting picked up by Pulse. This of course extends the reach significantly which is why it’s an aim of those using the site as a publishing platform. For B2B LinkedIn also is the social site of choice when it comes to marketing and identifying leads, as sites such as Facebook is seen as more of a consumer based site.
Looking to the Future
When it came to what marketers expect to be doing in 2015, a huge 77% of them said that they intend to increase content production over the course of the next 12 months. Of those, 29% said they intend to increase it significantly and none at all said that they expect to decrease its usage.
This is all highly encouraging for those in content marketing but it has to be said that marketers need to get a firm grip on proving ROI if their content marketing budgets are to be justified and increased to a level where more content can be produced either inhouse or by somebody outside of the company.
Content marketing is a highly effective form of marketing that not only encourages purchases, but also increases brand recognition and trust. For it to be effective in 2015, marketers must look to producing more quality content and distributing it through social media and other channels. Whilst email marketing wasn’t mentioned much in the report, this remains one of the most effective forms of content marketing and as such, shouldn’t be dismissed.