Using the Present to See the Future: B2B Content Marketing in 2019
Part I: Where are we?
How do we identify trends? Observations and anecdotal intuition can give us ideas about where things are headed. But perspective is often highly individual. A more empirical way to recognize trends is through research, such as benchmarking reports.
The folks at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), MarketingProfs and Conductor have teamed up again this year to provide us with the annual study, “B2B CONTENT MARKETING 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America.” It’s a pragmatic survey of B2B-specific marketers that spans a range of topics and gives us insight into how a wide spectrum of marketing professionals feel about where things are presently.
While not necessarily a roadmap for guaranteed success, the information provides some understanding of how your organization relates to other B2B marketers, and how those results might forecast trends in the industry. A PDF of the full report can be viewed here, but in this series of posts, we’ll extrapolate, explain and expand on some of the notable highlights from the survey.
B2B content marketing – Where we stand
For some time now, content marketing (CM) has been an important weapon in the B2B marketer’s arsenal. Back in 2014, CMI fielded a survey that found 86 percent of B2B marketers used content marketing, but only 38 percent considered themselves effective at it. It was a fluorescent red flag signaling that marketers needed to vastly improve their content marketing acumen.
Four years later, according to results of this year’s report, 78 percent now consider themselves at least “moderately” successful at content marketing. There still remains room for improvement, though, with only 4 percent calling themselves “extremely” successful and another 23 percent saying “very” successful (these two groups make up the “most successful” performers mentioned throughout the study).
Businesses feel they are still getting better at content marketing. Seventy percent said their organization’s CM was much or somewhat more successful than a year ago. Importantly, 77 percent of businesses said they have buy-in from the highest levels of the organization, indicating it’s getting respect and opportunity from business leaders.
Half of respondents expect to increase their budgets for CM in 2019, while only 4 percent plan to reduce it. Sixteen percent said they would grow the CM budget by 10 percent or more.
“We’re certainly seeing more and more interest in content marketing from our clients,” Ronnie Richard, Director of Content Marketing at MultiView said. “From social media management to email newsletters, from blog posts to infographics and much more, they’re seeing the long-term success that a great content marketing program can create.”
Sixty-seven percent of B2B marketers say their organizations are either extremely or very committed to content marketing. Of those marketers considered to be the “most successful” in the study, 93 percent are extremely or very committed. Only 5 percent overall said they were not very or not at all committed.
Unsurprisingly, organizations that consider themselves the most successful are in the maturity phase of CM implementation, while those in first steps and the “young” phase struggle more. The report defined the maturity phase as when CM is “providing accurate measurement to the business and scaling across the organization.”
“People are very skeptical today when it comes to marketing because they’re getting hit from all sides with messaging,” Richard added. “It takes time to really build up trust by showcasing that you really do know what you’re talking about when it comes to this particular industry or field.”
Logically, those with more content marketing experience are having more success. Those with less experience primarily struggle to form a cohesive strategy and management plan. According to the statistics, the most successful marketers (65%) are far more likely to utilize a documented CM strategy than less successful organizations (14%).
It makes sense that marketers with defined strategies would fare better than those without, and the figures bear that out. But what kinds of success come from having that strategy? According to respondents, the top benefit of a documented CM strategy is that it aligns the team around a common mission or goal. Following that are making it easier to determine what type of content to develop and keeping the team focused on documented priorities.
It’s worth pointing out that in a different CMI study from October 2017, a full three-quarters of companies with high sales/marketing alignment maintain a documented CM strategy, whereas only four-in-ten of those with low alignment have a documented strategy. In other words, there’s a strong correlation between CM strategy and quality sales/marketing alignment, which is a common objective of most modern B2B org structures.
“Our most successful campaigns are the ones in which our clients work closely with us to develop a clear plan of attack,” Richard pointed out. “It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it approach; content marketing takes a lot of effort, but the payoff can be huge.”
Technology has become a significant factor in all of marketing, and CM is no exception. Advances in technology are enhancing marketers’ abilities to target and reach their audiences. Again unsurprising is that the report found a gap in the most and least successful content marketers based on their use of technology, with the least successful in the beginning phases of learning how to take advantage of it.
Despite its relationship with success, only 7 percent of marketers called themselves “expert” at the use of technology in CM. (Expert was defined as “content marketing technology is integrated across the organization, experiencing the benefits.”) Just under a quarter labelled themselves “advanced.” The majority, at 40 percent, consider themselves intermediate.
Of the technology options at their disposal, B2B marketers most use social media publishing/analytics, followed by email marketing software and analytics tools. All three of those are used by more than three-quarters of respondents. Half use a content management system.
“The sheer amount of data and analytics available today can be overwhelming at times, but it really gives you a wealth of information to use as you plan out your strategy,” Richard said.
Artificial Intelligence is one of the buzziest buzzwords in marketing these days, but at this point only 4 percent of B2B content marketers said they are incorporating AI. It will be interesting to see how that number changes a year from now.
Given that analytics are two of the top three tech tools utilized, it makes sense that the top benefit of using CM technology mentioned by marketers in the study was to provide better insight into how their content is performing (75%). The next closest response, at 56 percent, was to gain better insight into audience behavior and preferences.
In Part II of our analysis of the state of B2B Content Marketing in 2019, we’ll dive into researching the audience and creating content aimed at that audience, as well as conclude the analysis with marketers’ greatest concerns. We’ll also reveal the seven characteristics that identify the most successful B2B content marketers.
Need help with your content marketing strategy? MultiView can help. Contact us at 972.402.7070 or firstname.lastname@example.org.