Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs recently released a report on the state of B2B content marketing in North America that declared, “B2B marketers are spending more, using more tactics, and distributing their content on more social networks than they have in years past,” but that they are also “more uncertain whether they are using various content marketing tactics effectively.”
The 2013 B2B content marketing benchmarks, budgets and trends survey was emailed to a sample of B2B marketers from among MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute members and subscribers. A total of 1,416 B2B marketers responded from North American companies in August this year, representing a full range of industries, functional areas, and company sizes. The majority of respondents were from advertising and marketing companies that have fewer than 10 employees.
The survey found that 91 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, but most are challenged with producing enough content. This is different from previous years when the top challenge was producing engaging content.
Red flag #1: Tactics used vs their effectiveness
It’s alarming that B2B marketers are increasing content production while they are also unsure if what they’re doing is working. On that point, the report stated that just six percent of B2B marketers believe they are very effective at content marketing. This data says to me that many B2B marketers are defaulting to trial-and-error mode despite our limited resources for doing so.
While the report stated that, on average, B2B marketers are spending 33 percent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, which is up from 26 percent last year (data that I find doubtful), Holger Schulze’s LinkedIn survey on 2012 B2B content marketing trends revealed that the challenge of producing enough high quality content points to a lack of resources available to them. These resources are not limited to budget, but include the human resources required to create and distribute content and engage with social media communities.
A discrepancy that supports the argument that B2B marketers are in trial-and-error mode can be uncovered by comparing the data used in the charts that display the most popular and most effective content marketing tactics.
B2B marketers rated in-person events as the most effective content marketing tactic they use, yet social media was ranked the most popular. In fact, among all tactics listed as the most used, in-person events ranked eighth behind social media, articles on your website, enewsletters, blogs, case studies, videos, and articles on other websites.
And while social media was ranked the most popular tactic used, with 87 percent of marketers using these channels for content distribution, it didn’t even make it on the list of top effective tactics, ranked behind in-person events, case studies, webinars and webcasts, blogs, videos, enewsletters, research reports, whitepapers, ebooks, articles on your website, articles on other websites and microblogs. Not to mention the disagreement about whether certain tactics are effective or not.
Red flag #2: Emphasis on goals, but no plan to support them
The CMI-MarketingProfs report also stated that B2B marketers are using content marketing to achieve organizational goals including brand awareness (79 percent), customer acquisition (74 percent) and lead generation (71 percent). They’re using mostly web traffic (80 percent), sales lead quality (51 percent) and social media sharing metrics (45 percent) to measure effectiveness. Again, though, most don’t know if what they are doing is working to support their goals. They may know what to track, and can generally link those results to goals, but it’s fuzzy.
Oddly, the report did not list “ability to align tactics with business goals,” or anything similar, as a characteristic of the “Most effective B2B content marketers,” which instead listed having a large budget, the ability to create tailored and engaging content, and the use of a larger number of platforms and tactics as the top criteria. Similarly, those who meet these criteria are more likely to get executive buy-in.
I don’t get it.
The immediate threat
A recent report from the Canadian Marketing Association said budget allocations across all revenue brands over the last six years have shifted away from marketing activities that don’t directly support demand creation and sales enablement. For example, spending on branding took a significant hit from 2006 to 2008 and its proportion of overall program dollars and headcount has continued to lose ground. If we can’t demonstrate return on investment for our content marketing efforts, our budgets (and jobs) are at risk.
Hope for the future
The report does show some promise for B2B content marketers. We are getting our feet wet in content marketing, trying different tactics, and are aware that we should be aligning our activities with business goals. It’s vital at this stage that we all use content to report on our progress and setbacks so that we can all learn from each other and avoid going down the same wrong paths.
In addition to teaching each other through content, it’s important that we work together. The good news is that the report also revealed that, when it comes to content production, B2B content marketers are still using a combination of in-house and outsourced resources. On average, 44 percent of companies outsource their B2B content creation.
This is good because many in-house B2B marketers don’t have the human resources with the skills and time required to develop large amounts of high quality content and distribute it properly. As Francis mentioned in an earlier post, hiring a marketing generalist can be a tempting option when you consider the cost of outsourcing, but it’s generally an illusion. Most companies (especially smaller, younger ones) “need rather small amounts of a rather large number of different, often incompatible skills,” he said. “Finding more than one or two of those necessary skills in a single person is unheard of, meaning that your hire will excel in a couple of areas but will waste most of what you budget elsewhere.”
To do content marketing well, you need people with the skills to create written, audio and visual materials as well as those with the social ability to be community managers. You might also require someone who knows SEO, another who knows web metrics, and more who are great at design. Like Francis, I could go on at length. If you’re increasing the number of content marketing tactics you’re using in your business, you’ve got to hire the resources necessary to drive them. By working together, we will excel.
How can we help?