8 Content Marketing Trends for B2B

social media researchAre you wondering if content marketing can help your business?

If so, look no further.

In this article, I examine a recent study involving 1,416 B2B marketers from North America from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

You’ll discover how B2B marketers were leveraging content marketing in 2012 and where their focus will be next year.

#1: Producing Enough Content Is Top Challenge

In years past, the biggest challenge for content marketers has been creating engaging content. But this trend changed in 2012 with 64% of marketers saying that producing enough content was their number-one challenge.

challenge content marketers

Producing enough content is now the top challenge for content marketers.

It is quite conceivable that this challenge will help to create more business and employment opportunities for content developers. In a related conversation, Nate Riggs, director of social business at the Karcher Group, put it this way:

“This is great news for displaced journalists and (content) producers looking to reinvent.”

Key Takeaway: If your plan is to produce more content next year, think of ways to recycle what you already have.

  • Spread existing content across different formats; for example, create an FAQ for quick tips or turn popular blog posts into a podcast, infographic or ebook.
  • Curate awesome customer letters, testimonials and positive feedback into a relevant, real-world information packet about “Why customers love our brand.”
  • Go back and see what was popular once-upon-a-time that is now buried in your online archives. Focus on evergreen content and republish as posts that speak to current problems in your industry.

#2: Marketers Using Average of 12 Content Marketing Tactics

The study revealed that large organizations (with 10,000+ employees) used 18 content marketing tactics on average, while small companies used 11. Companies of all sizes used an average of 12 content marketing tactics.

average number of tactics

Study found that the larger the company, the more the tactics used.

While it’s clear that resources dictate the number of content marketing tactics employed, it’s a good idea for you to evaluate your budget and figure out how many tactics you can commit to next year. Keep in mind that the more tactics you use, the greater your chances of amplifying your voice and extending audience reach.

Key Takeaway: As you brainstorm your content delivery strategy, become a “real publisher” and try to move away from web-only tactics. Figure out how you can distribute content through various devices and platforms including print. For example, use printed white papers – and yes, even books – as free giveaways after client meetings, workshops or conferences.

#3: Social Media – Most Popular Promotion Tactic

The study revealed that 87% of marketers used social media to distribute content – more than they used articles, email newsletters, blogs and other tactics.

This makes sense because their audiences (existing and potential customers) typically use social media for personal reasons – a typical case of “fishing where the fish are.”

use by tactics

Social media climbed into first place as the most popular content marketing tactic.

Key Takeaway: As you think about the most effective tactic(s) to use for your content distribution, think about where your audience hangs out and focus on those social channels. If Facebook and Pinterest are major distribution channels for your brand, remember too that images are eye candy and the time to sharpen your image-based content campaigns is now.

#4: LinkedIn – Most Popular Social Media Channel

This was a surprising find. It turns out that LinkedIn was the most popular social media channel for content distribution. More marketers (83%) are using it compared to Twitter (80%), Facebook (80%) and YouTube (61%). Even if the difference in usage between Twitter and LinkedIn is very slim, it still says a lot about a platform that is not considered as sexy as the others.

linkedin

LinkedIn is now the most popular social media channel for content distribution. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Key Takeaway: Marketers should learn how to leverage LinkedIn because key decision-makers are more likely to hang out there than on other platforms. One of the best ways to do this is to become more active on LinkedIn groups.

Find discussions that you can contribute to by adding something helpful and valuable. Then once in a while, modestly mention in an “oh-and-by-the-way” fashion that your business solves this or that problem and attach some relevant content to back it up.

#5: Brand Awareness – Top Content Marketing Goal

Another surprise was that increased website traffic was not the top goal for B2B content marketers. The study found that brand awareness was the number-one priority for 79% of content marketers, followed by customer acquisition (74%) and lead generation (71%).

content marketing goals

As far as content marketing goals, brand awareness trumped website traffic by 19 points.

Nevertheless, website traffic was found to be the most important measure for content marketing success. This presents an interesting juxtaposition, as content marketing success is typically linked to organizational goals. When it comes to brand awareness, website traffic was seen as the measure of success.

website traffic

Website traffic was still the most important measure of content marketing success.

Key Takeaway: Businesses looking to increase brand awareness will benefit if they track specific website indicators such as number of unique visitors, page views, amount of traffic that’s referred to their sites from search engines and even how much time visitors are spending on their site. Google Analytics gives you lot of data to analyze trends and new insights on your website.

#6: Most Content Made In-House

The study showed that 56% of companies are creating content in-house, while only 1% are relying exclusively on outsourced content. But there’s a nice balance of 43% who are developing both in-house and outsourced content.

outsourcing

A good number of businesses are relying on both in-house and outsourced content production. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Key Takeaway: This trend reflects the reality that outsourcing vs. hiring decisions are tough when it comes to content marketing. Content marketing is something that has to be nurtured on a regular basis. If your organization has the resources to produce enough content in-house, then outsourcing may not be needed unless a particular skill set is lacking internally.

#7: Content Marketing Budgets to Increase in 2013

More than half of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets for 2013.

budget increase

Notice that only 2% of B2B marketers will decrease their content marketing budget in 2013.

While the report was not specific about in what areas of content marketing budgets would increase, we learned that currently, the average amount of budget spent on content marketing is 33%, which is up from 26% in 2011. This is yet another indicator that the future of B2B content marketing is bright.

#8: Most and Least Effective B2B Content Marketers Compared

The study also found that the most effective B2B marketers spend a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing than the least effective B2B marketers.

comparison chart

There is a direct correlation between content marketing spend and efficiency. However, least effective marketers plan to increase their budgets almost as much as most effective marketers.

Most effective content marketers also:

  • Use more tactics
  • Tailor content to specific customer profiles (or personas)
  • Are far less challenged in terms of producing engaging content
  • Are less challenged by lack of buy-in from top management

Key Takeaway: This is an eye-opener for those who are still on the fence about content marketing. Just as “practice makes perfect” says, we see here that the most successful marketers are those who invested the most resources on trying new tactics to produce compelling content.

Final Wrap-Up

The state of content marketing is bright and B2B marketers are looking forward to doing more with content in the coming year. Content budgets are also set to increase and B2B organizations will be using both in-house and external sources to increase content production.

Over to you. What are your content marketing plans for next year? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Images from iStockPhoto.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Patricia Redsicker

Patricia Redsicker writes research reviews for Social Media Examiner. She is the Social Media Manager at US Pharmacopeia, a public standards setting organization. Follow her on Twitter at @predsicker. Other posts by »




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  • Mayur Vyas

    Nice post. Our seo strategy always revolve around content

  • http://www.facebook.com/wanna.be.with.you.forever Devesh Verma

    @Patricia Redsicker – Wonderful post. You summarize the
    whole post in such an interesting way.

    All eight points are beautifully written.

    Interesting fact is that Brand awareness is more important
    for companies as compare to lead generation. Yes we should increase the budget
    of Content marketing for the next upcoming year. Without having a strategy
    about content marketing no one can win the game of social media, or SEO.

  • predsicker

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Devesh. You’re right – it’s important to make the connection between content strategy and social media/SEO. Content drives social :)

  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Great stuff Patricia. It is very interesting to note that social media is the third one on your list. I especially took note of content marketing on LinkedIn. I just want to know which is better, creating your own group or joining several LinkedIn groups?

    Have a great day SME peeps! Let’s keep rockin and rollin!

  • http://www.kaushalam.com/ Kaushalam

    Interesting facts of B2B marketing. The areas of getting lead generation were email marketing, subscribing newsletter, blog, website traffic and conversion from referral and search engines are the most essential one.

  • predsicker

    Hi John. Hope you had a great holiday! 

    By the way the items on the list were not in order of priority. As far as LinkedIn goes, it makes sense to join groups where potential customers already belong and then sharing your content when it’s appropriate. After all, there’s already an in-built target audience in those groups including some heavy-weight decision makers. If you see that people are really looking to you as an authority in your space, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start your own group as well.

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  • http://www.noggindigital.com/ Zach Kasperski

    Number 6 is of particular value to SMBs who don’t have the need to find a writer, and instead, writing content for their own company may be easier than they expect. As a small business owner, you are most likely an expert at what you do, whether it’s chimney sweeping or brick laying. Use you knowledge to your advantage and start writing as if you’re having a conversation with a potential client. The more you have to say about each item you sell, the better.

  • Dara Khajavi

    Content marketing should be the foundation of every single brand’s marketing plan. A marketing plan can not succeed without strong content. I enjoyed reading this content marketing trends. I will definitely use what I learned here.

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  • Mike

    I would add that personalizing and targeting content is a major trend rising quickly. Getting the right content I front of the right prospect using real-time b2b personalization increases the rio of the efforts mentioned in the post and help content achieve its goal.

    Mike

    Insightera

  • http://waltgoshert.com/free-lead-generation-report/ Walt Goshert

    What are your content marketing plans for next year?
    Deeper focus on content strategy that connects the dots for my clients, rather than stand alone tactics.

    Social media plays a role to create awareness and amplify content, but without a strategic path to move these eyeballs to qualified leads and sales, more tactics simply creates more noise.

    2103: Beyond the “Like”, “Share”, and “Tweet”. Real connections with profitable clients.

  • James

    I couldn’t agree more Walt. Connecting the dots between each of your campaign tactics is often overlooked in social and online content strategy. 

  • James Glover

    Patricia, thanks for recaping this study and helping to validate what our social media marketing “gut” tells us. At Once a Day Marketing this year we’ve strived to create content as our #1 goal (250 branding video blogs in 2012) and to generate market awareness with our target audience (small businesses and entrepreneus). We, too, have discovered that LinkedIn has been the most valuable tool for us by far. Looking forward to another exciting year in the social media trenches in 2013.

  • Eric Sutherland

    More stories, videos and focus content to Users. Also working on LinkedIn Groups and Google+1 Circles and Communities, Facebook pages and adverts. Still most be doing something right ! profile strength on LinkedIn is All-Star.  

  • http://strategy-keys.com/ David Willden

    Very helpful.  Thank you. 

  • predsicker

    Hi Zach thanks for your comment. 

    It’s true that most small businesses write their own content. But sometimes subject-matter experts don’t always have the writing skills to create and share content. Knowledge doesn’t always translate into writing skills and many companies – large and small – should consider hiring a content writer if the skill is lacking.

  • predsicker

    Thank you Dara :)

  • predsicker

    Great point Mike, thanks for adding. Developing content topics from your personas is an important strategy that doesn’t get the air time it deserves. Cheers!

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading James. Glad to hear of your success with LinkedIn :)

  • predsicker

    Thank you for reading David :)

  • http://www.noggindigital.com/ Zach Kasperski

    You’re right. Thanks for your feedback!

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  • Alan Johnston

    Stuff Ive been harping on about all year to my UK clients. Interesting that I did some keyword research lately and in the UK:  5 million searches were done for ‘How to blog’ yet only 2,800 people were searching blog training seems here in the UK were all want to go to heaven but no one wants to die!

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  • Iwa

    that’s exactly what B2B means!

  • iwa

    content alway is the key no matter for social media or for graphic design…

  • Sanathkumar

    This is absolutely true and a fantastic article.

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

    Hi Patricia…thanks so much for the wonderful overview of our research.  Really well done!

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much Joe! Cheers :)

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading Sanathkumar :)

  • Lora Crestan

    Excellent research & great support for the direction in which I would like to lead my own business as well as that of my clients – time to ensure that we are focused on the ‘personas’ in our markets as well as continuing to develop (and find to share) quality content.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    LinkedIn is an excellent channel for posting content, especially if it is B2B specific content. LinkedIn users can join LinkedIn groups and submit their content to the entire group as well as post company and status updates. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn is strictly business oriented which is why it is such a great opportunity for B2B content sharing. 

  • Diane

    Hi Patricia

    Thank you for sharing this information and ideas with us.  I’ve just shared this with other bloggers on a Gift Forum that I am part of.  I hope that you don’t mind.  I think that your information will benefit them too. 
    We are just getting our discussions going in this area of blogging, so I know that others will be looking to widen their source of information too.  

  • http://twitter.com/dianego Diane Golshan

    A great, timely article for me. My plans for the year include continuing to encourage my subject-matter experts to blog and create videos that bring together a story for our audiences. I will also be teaching co-workers to use social to promote themselves as experts and expand the reach of their efforts.

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading Diance – glad you found this review helpful and all the best with your on-going training!

  • predsicker

    Sure thing Diane, thanks for sharing :)

  • predsicker

    You’re absolutely right Nick. And what’s more, on LinkedIn people expect others to share their content and even welcome the idea so definitely an excellent content sharing platform. Cheers! 

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much for reading Lora – I’m glad this review is a valuable resource for your business. All the best in the new year :)

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  • Sivaranjan

    Hi Patricia,
    Thanks for such a detailed post. The scenario in India may be a little different from what can be inferred from these stats, primarily because the percolation of LinkedIn is way behind Facebook in India. I guess its only a matter of time before LinkedIn is perceived as a mainstream marketing medium like in rest of the world.

    Would you be able to tell me, how do you gather statistics for LinkedIn for any country ?  Can you recommend some tools or whitepapers ?

  • http://www.endgamebusiness.com/blog Steve Borek

    Interesting stats.

    The challenge for me is coming up with fresh content. I tried to write one blog post a week then distribute to every social medial avenue.

    I love your stuff!

  • Arthur T Williams IV

    I continue to be intrigued and gratified to see so many signs pointing to the many opportunities for independent content creators…..e.g. bloggers.  I think that people who are the most effective at packaging their content in new and attractive ways…..i.e. curation…..will have a decided advantage.

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  • predsicker

    Hi there Sivaranjan! Great to hear from you. Yes, I suppose Linkedin usage is different in other countries. Just as Weibo is more popular in China than Facebook. That said here is a great report for social media usage in general:
    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2012.pdf

    Also here are some LinkedIn specific reports (worlwide usage):
    http://www.slideshare.net/amover/linkedin-demographics-statistics-jan-2012
    http://www.slideshare.net/antseyeview/a-strategic-linkedin-approach-for-the-enterprise

    All the best and happy new year Sivaranjan!

  • predsicker

    Thanks for your comment Steve. Coming up with fresh content is a challenge for many people. Here’s an idea that I’m trying out myself:

    Go to the google adwords key word tool and enter a word or phrase that you would like to rank for. Then click on keyword ideas and sort by competition (focus on low competition ideas). So if you entered a word such as ‘SEO expert’, the tool might suggest keyword ideas with low competition and high demand such as ‘SEO help’. So the next time you write an article, instead of writing about ’5 secrets SEO experts aren’t telling you’ instead write about ’5 SEO tips to help increase content visibility’ (SEO help will be your key phrase!) Use these tips to plan your content calendar and you’ll have ideas for a long time. All the best!

  • predsicker

    Couldn’t agree with you more Arthur…Two thumbs up all the way!!

  • Ahmed Saif

    The most interesting thing is that the content marketing serves SEO, Social Media and dramatically increase the efficiency of performance marketing, its the most valuable marketing channel nowadays  

  • http://www.shortcutblogging.com/ Dave Young

    Terrific post. I’m sharing this with my clients. “Producing Enough Content” is the #1 problem. It has always been the #1 problem. On the consulting side of my business, I had trouble getting my retail and service clients to write blog content. Once we figured out an authentic and credible way to do this for them, their production efforts were solved. We don’t ghost-write and we don’t “outsource” the writing. We get the experts from inside the business to produce the content and it only takes them a single-setting hour per month to generate weekly blog posts. 

  • http://www.sahilparikh.com/ Sahil Parikh

    Content is key today. If it is good people will share it and this will create goodwill and trust. 

  • http://www.TonyasDynamicDesigns.com/ Tonya Becker-Haddadeen

    ~ AWESOME TIPS Patricia! You have touched base on so many important marketing trends for B2B!

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  • Linda

    Excellent post, content is surely king!
    It can not be said enough times, but don’t forget about the context.
    “Content + Context = Results”

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  • http://www.zenspill.com/ways-to-get-traffic/ Mark Trueman

    Wow, I agree with the chart completely. Producing enough content is definitely on the top of my list.

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  • http://twitter.com/Bintehassan Mariam Bint-e-Hassan

    Very well written Patricia…It is impressive. You will know my thoughts about content marketing, I am currently writing about it. I will give you a shout when I roll out my lates blogpost :) Until then keep writing …(Y)









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