B2B Content Marketing – It Takes A Village

This year Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published their 7th B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America study. While there are many studies that are published every year, this is one that I truly analyze and review as it is full of insights and shows a very clear picture of where B2B marketing and content marketers are on their path to maturity.

The study was a bit different this year with some new questions and sections, but overall, comparing this year to previous studies provides insight into how B2B marketing organizations are succeeding and in many cases, continuing to be challenged with the discipline of content marketing.

It Takes a Village-
It was surprising to me to see that 55% of organizations have small teams (some only one person) that are responsible for serving the entire organization with content. Less than 40% of those surveyed said they have a dedicated organization and/or people throughout the organization.

Good content that engages buyers and aligns to the buyers purchase process is not easy to create. It takes time to understand your buyer, their pain points and challenges and their buyers journey. According to CEB, in a typical B2B buying cycle there are on average 6.8 people involved in the buyers committee all of whom want specific content that is relevant to their role.

With this being the case, how is it expected that only a handful or only one person will be able to create compelling content?  In order for content to be done properly and produce value, there must be a team dedicated to it.

Measurement Must Be a Priority-
When asked, “Is it clear what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like?” only 41% responded yes. The other with 59% responded with an unsure or a no. While this may be while only 28% are mature or sophisticated, the need for measurement has never been more apparent.

According to the study the following are true:

  • 29% of a B2B marketing budget is spent on content marketing
  • 39% of organizations will increase their content marketing spend
  • 45% will spend the same amount next year as they did this year

That is quite an investment to make without an understanding of the results. While producing relevant and engaging content is crucial, it is just as, if not more important to know the impact these investments are making on an organization.

The Metrics Do Not Align to Goals-
Respondents to the study listed lead generation as the number one goal for their content marketing efforts.  Yet when asked “Which metrics does your organization use to determine how well its content marketing is producing results?” only 57% stated they were measuring  sales lead quality.

If the goal of content is to generate demand, simply measuring web traffic (78% do as the leading metric) will not give any indication on success or failure. If B2B content marketers are going to improve on measuring value, they must measure that which aligns to their goals.

  • How would you characterize the success of your organizations current overall content marketing approach? 22% stating very or extremely successful and 53% stating moderately successful (I am not sure the goal of organizations is to be marginal)
  • How does the success of your organizations current overall content marketing approach compare with one year ago? 62% saying either somewhat more or much more successful

There is Improvement, But Still a Long Way To Go
While 72% of organizations reported more effectiveness with their content marketing (with web visits are the leading metric this is questionable), the telling statistics that tell the true story of how organizations are faring with content marketing were the following:

  • Only 37% of B2B organizations have a documented content marketing strategy (sorry but if you say you have one but it is documented, YOU DO NOT HAVE A STRATEGY!!)
  • Only 22% say their organizations approach to content marketing is very or extremely successful
  • Only 28% of respondents stated their organizations are either sophisticated or mature with content marketing
  • Only 34% state their organizations are extremely or very effective at meeting their content marketing goals

With all of the attention given, money invested and time spent on content marketing, one would think we would be much further along. What is more perplexing with these low numbers is that 63% of respondents stated that their organizations were either extremely or very committed to content marketing.

I believe it is time (I have said this many times before) for marketing leaders to truly take a look at this commitment to content marketing and rather than invest in more content production, invest in understanding buyers at a deeper level so that their content can be better informed. Simultaneously, invest in better enabling and equipping content marketers with the needed skills so they can perform their roles at the highest levels.

Content marketing is not going anywhere anytime soon and is necessary to engage, nurture and convert buyers and build customer relationships, but year over year the numbers either stay flat or decline indicating we have a problem.  Hopefully 2017 (I said this about 2016) is the year marketing leaders take the time to address it.