social media researchAre you wondering what the best content marketers do differently?

Do you want to take your content marketing to a new level?

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs just published their latest report, B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America. The report shows two sides of content marketing.

Where Are We Headed?

On one hand, the industry is still growing and has a long way to go. On the other hand, things are looking up and confidence is growing as many marketers start to get it right!

What’s clear from the report is that the most successful B2B marketers are doing more! “More what?” you ask. Well, they’re spending more money, paying more attention to strategy, using more tactics and social media platforms and even producing more content.

Let’s dig deeper into five trends that show exactly what the most effective B2B content marketers are doing.

#1: Have Someone to Oversee Content

Seventy-three percent of all B2B organizations have someone in charge of content marketing strategy. However, the majority (86%) of the most effective or best-in-class marketers had someone to oversee content strategy, compared to only 46% of their least effective peers (Figure 1).

oversee the strategy

Figure 1: Content marketing cannot succeed unless there's someone to oversee the strategy.

Key Takeaway

Don’t kid yourself—you do need someone to manage your content marketing! To be successful in this industry, there should be at least one person in your organization designated to ‘own’ the content marketing initiative. This person is in charge of executing the content goals that you want to accomplish as an organization.

In his book Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi says that a lot of times when content marketing fails, it’s not because your organization lacks good content. It’s because execution has failed.

Even if you’re a small business and don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated person, you can get one of your managers within the company to supervise content production (UPS does this!).

#2: Have a Documented Content Strategy

Among the most effective marketers, 66% have a documented strategy compared to 11% of the least effective marketers (Figure 2). But overall, only 44% of B2B marketers have a documented strategy.

strategy is key

Figure 2: Strategy is the key to effectiveness.

Key Takeaway A: 44% is a really sad number…or maybe not.

Let’s look at it in context. In previous years, the idea of having a documented content strategy didn’t even arise (See Figures 3 and 4 below). Notice that the most effective marketers in 2011 and 2012 were judged by a different set of criteria compared to this year.

effective 2011 marketers

Figure 3: Most effective B2B marketers in 2011.

effective 2012 marketers

Figure 4: Most effective B2B marketers in 2012.

It could be that the question was not asked or maybe the industry was still too young to have such high expectations. Either way, a documented strategy was not considered until now.

This means that the bar is getting higher for those who want to call themselves content marketers. As the industry matures, new standards and best practices are going to be set. Be sure to keep up.

Increase your knowledge of the industry by reading expert blogs and books, attending educational events and sharing experiences with other B2B content marketers.

Key Takeaway B: There’s no content marketing success without a strategy.

If you’ve been operating without a documented content strategy, it’s time to stop gambling. Most likely, any success you’ve achieved up to this point has been sheer luck.

Figure out what you want content marketing to do for you. Write down your goals, your plan to achieve those goals and what indicators you’ll use to prove your success. Make sure everyone who’s involved in content production is on board with this document.

#3: Use More Tactics

The most effective B2B marketers use an average of 15 tactics compared to the least effective marketers who use only 10. Interestingly, the use of infographics has increased significantly with 38% of marketers using this tactic last year compared to 51% this year (Figure 5).

social media tactics

Figure 5: Using more social media tactics helps you reach wider audiences.

Key Takeaway

In this age of multimedia consumption, competition for customer attention is fierce. Marketers are required to create content that captures interest and engagement. As if that’s not challenging enough, they also have to figure out which tactics generate the best return.

The most effective marketers understand that they have to keep up with consumers. That’s why they cast a wider net and invest in more tactics (e.g., text, images, apps, video, audio, etc.). Of course the size of your budget also dictates what you can or can’t do.

If you have a small business, why not start out with the most cost-effective tactics such as social media, e-newsletters, articles and blogs and then gradually add other tactics as your budget allows? Always be expanding your content menu; don’t be satisfied with the handful of tactics you were using last year.

#4: Use Social Media More Frequently

B2B content marketers use an average of 6 social media platforms, up from 5 last year. In addition, they’re using all social media platforms to distribute content.

As expected, LinkedIn is the top social media site used by B2B marketers, while Facebook is 10 points behind. The social sites that have experienced the biggest increase in use are SlideShare (23% last year to 40% this year), Google+ (39% to 55%) and Instagram (7% to 22%) (Figure 6).

social drives content

Figure 6: Social drives content marketing.

Key Takeaway

No content marketing initiative is complete without social media. That’s because social drives awareness of your content, which in turn impacts lead generation.

In fact, a different report from Brafton stated that 70% of consumers click through to a brand’s blog content after reading stories shared on their social networks. Once they get there, they’re more likely to download more content or fill out a form.

As a B2B marketer, you should try to repurpose your content specifically for each social channel (particularly LinkedIn) in order to capture interest and engagement. Keep in mind too that social signals (likes, retweets, +1’s, comments, shares, mentions, etc.) influence Google, thus maximizing your brand’s online exposure.

#5: Produce More Content

On average, 73% of B2B marketers are producing more content than they did last year. Of the best-in-class (most effective) marketers, 78% are creating more content compared to 57% of their least effective peers (Figure 7).

more content produced

Figure 7: Content production among B2B marketers has increased in the past year.

Key Takeaway

B2B marketers are increasing their investment in content creation. Why? Because the ultimate purpose of content is to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Your content has to answer all of your prospects’ product-related questions in order to drive those purchasing decisions. That means you have to be a content machine without sacrificing quality. If you’re not convinced that more content is better, here’s some food for thought:

At Content Marketing World 2013, a panel of experts was asked whether producing more content is better than producing less. The most compelling answers came from:

Joe Chernov: “Quantity. You can create something awesome, then it takes 3 months to create your next great thing. What happens in the meantime?”

Marcus Sheridan: “Quantity is intimidating for people who are too afraid to create content, because they think it must be epic. Let quantity lead to quality. Content marketing is not launching a rocket. Just do it.”

Over to You

What do you think about these findings? Do you agree with them? Does anything surprise you? Share your comments in the box below.

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  • Keith Tomasek

    Great post. I’ve read Epic Content Marketing and am integrating the concepts of content marketing into my lectures. I teach in a 1 year, ‘accelerated,’ MA Journalism program.

  • Michael Stricker

    A great read to correlate practices among Content Marketers – thanks for the data to compare! This ought to open some eyes and cause some sighs!

  • Lisa Radde

    Having a documented strategy in place is definitely benifical, without a strategy you’re in a way throwing content to the wind and hoping it stick to something. With your strategy you can plan out your approach to who you are trying to reach and specific ways to do that through the content you create.

    The quantity over quality statement I somewhat disagree with. Your content needs to captivate your audience, but with that being said you also need to make sure you’re sharing new content with your customers as often as possible. A great way to achieve this is to delegate topics to different people within the company. You can have multiple people working on content (i.e. blog posts), allowing them to take the necessary time to create quality content and still have the ability to produce the quantity of content you desire.

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading my post Keith!

  • predsicker

    You’re welcome Michael – I’m all about opening eyes, and this data from CMI & MarketingProfs sure does it!

  • predsicker

    Good point Lisa, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  • Patricia – Thanks for your findings in this article.

  • I think all of your advice is really great, but for number 1, what if you are a one person business with a very low budget?

  • Using more tactics definitely does seem to lend towards success. One easy way to do this without dedicating a huge chunk of time is to repurpose content into several different forms. Use the same info or data in an infographic and a blog post, as well as a white paper, just alter it to best fit the form it’s being presented in.

  • Thanks for reading the book Keith. Truly appreciate it! So glad you are putting the concepts to work.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Wonderful post!

    Small business owners need to pay attention. Having someone oversee content is a must. However, I think some owners have control and trust issues and do not want to give up control. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pay attention to what the content coordinator (or whatever his/her title is) is doing, but he/she can’t do the job with someone hovering over them.

    I too agree that have a plan/strategy is important. Remember to update your plan/strategy as your business grows. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.

  • Patricia and Michael…thanks so much for sharing this important research with your audience. Great overview here.

  • Katherine Kotaw

    Great post. No surprises here, but I’m happy to see social media get some added validation. Even small businesses, new to social media, can make fast, profitable gains when they include strategic social media efforts in their marketing efforts. But “strategic” is a lot more than tweet/repeat/ignore or blasting automated messages across all platforms. Old-fashioned communication skills drive successful efforts.

  • Elizabeth Loftus

    What an encouraging article. Thank you so much for making this easy to digest! As someone who is just starting out this has definitely pointed me in the right direction!

  • Lenzie O. Winstead

    It all about brilliant content that help the reader, thank you keep up the good work.!!!

  • Gabriel

    Great article. Thanks for the post.

  • Hi Patricia! Wow, I strongly agree with you on every habit you’ve mentioned here,
    especially the first one about the need for a content manager. I think
    this is the most important because he/she will be the one to execute on
    all other habits you mentioned. Great post!

  • This is a good one! For points #2 and #3 on having a documented strategy and using more tactics, it’s very important to constantly try out new angles and seeing which one works best. It can be very convenient to simply come up with one strategy and just following it without bothering if it’s truly super-effective or not.

    #5 provides the long-debated quality vs quantity content. This involves treading the fine balance between the two, and not being too extreme on either end. While the data shows that more B2B marketers are producing more content, it is difficult to ascertain if their content is of a higher quality or not.

    Great post! Thanks

  • predsicker

    You’re welcome Mike – it was a great study!

  • predsicker

    Well that’s a tough situation but you’d have to do it all yourself – certainly not ideal but hopefully it won’t always be that way.

  • predsicker

    Great point Sarah – thanks for sharing!

  • predsicker

    My pleasure Joe – always happy to share the latest trends in content marketing.

  • predsicker

    Thank you for reading Katherine. And yes I agree with you – being strategic (in social media AND content marketing) is the key to success.

  • predsicker

    Glad you found this helpful Elizabeth – thank you for reading!

  • predsicker

    Thank YOU Lenzie!

  • predsicker

    Thanks John – and yes having an overseer of content is really important even for small businesses. I know there are solopreneurs on tight budgets who are doing it all alone, and are wondering about the content manager. What are your thoughts on that John?

  • Vanda

    Thank you Patricia very insightful article. I am surprised that Quantity is as almost important as Quality.

  • Katherine Kotaw

    Absolutely, Patricia. A holistic approach works best.

  • Dawn Damico

    Creating effective content is definitely part science and part art! I always say to create content with a purpose because that leaves room for spontaneity – the best of both worlds!

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  • Oma Beate

    Very informative and useful for small business owner. Learned a lot. Best of all: It’s all practical and obtainable. Most statistics reports are useless, because you can’t get THERE from here. You laid out a concept with your statistics. Great job! Also, let me see Slide share from a totally new angle. However I STILL will not go back to LinkedIn, regardless how popular they are, because of their habit to e-mail my clients to death with me wanting to link up with them.

  • Oma Beate

    If you are a sole proprietor link up with a knowledgable friend to give you an honest critique on a constant basis. Run your business plan and your annual/ monthly goals .. whatever outline for your business… by them and let them on board with decision you plan to make. Let them proof read your blogs. Have some lunch with them as your treat. Can’t get better than that! Most of all have fun!
    I am fortunate I have a intelligent daughter, who thinks all my ideas are “stupid “. She is a great asset to me, because her “rejection” inspire me to show off the best I can be, just to prove her wrong. It is an asset to have honest input, competitive drive and dedication in a friend. Doesn’t cost a thing and is more effective than any paid employee.

  • Missy Schmidt

    Thanks for thoughtful, concise steps so we small business marketers can be “strategically tactical” within our smaller budgets. We are planning to hire someone to focus on content and to develop an analyst relationship with a serious content plan.

  • I just wrapped up an interview with Mike Allton and the topic was “Content Creation for Non-Bloggers”

    The goal is to help businesses develop a content strategy even if you do not have a Chris Brogan on staff.

    The Marcus Sheridan quote is key. And the comment on this thread about the one man band. There are many great ideas about how you can start to create content, not get bogged down in perfection, and how to do it on limited resources time and funding.

    Great article here.

  • Arron George

    Interesting stats and a great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wearing all the hats AND coming up with a clear, consistent content marketing strategy was overwhelming for me, so I partnered with three friends in the same situation. We meet weekly to discuss the strategy and then go out and DO IT.

  • Producing content and using social media have been my main focus over the past few months and it’s been working great! Nice article 🙂

  • What a helpful article! And useful for businesses of all sizes. I’m a big believer in having a content marketing strategy – glad to know it’s effective!

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  • Gregory Brannan

    Your graphics are too small. I want to be able to see them at full size BEFORE I “pin it”

    Thank you for the info, though. Very helpful and informative.

  • I think SocialMediaExaminer is going to be a huge, massive, authority site in years to come. Thanks guys! I don’t think there’s a single post on this site that is boring.

  • thanks you