It’s that time of year again when many of the world’s leading market research companies bring out all of the statistics on the state of the market in the previous year. For marketers, this is highly useful for spotting trends across the industry and helping to further fine tune this year’s content marketing strategy.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing Report, which surveyed over 5000 marketers in 25 industries in 109 countries. The report focuses on North American users and is now in its fifth year, looking at content marketing benchmarks, budgets and trends.
In 2013, the survey asked B2B marketers for the first time whether or not they had a documented content marketing strategy and it was found that just 44% did. In 2014, the survey asked those who didn’t have a strategy document the previous year the same question. It was found that 35% of those now have a document, whilst 48% said that they have a strategy, but it’s not documented.
Of those that do have a documented strategy, 60% rate themselves highly when it comes to how effective their content marketing was, whilst of those with a verbal strategy just 32% felt that their efforts were effective. A documented strategy is seen to be important as those that do document it are thought to be more effective than those who don’t and able to better prove ROI.
70% of those asked said that they are creating more content than they did a year ago, but when it came to measuring success, only 21% said that they are successful at tracking ROI. However, a documented strategy helped as 35% that do said that they can effectively track ROI.
When it came to what kind of content marketers were creating in 2014, infographics saw the greatest usage growth, increasing from 51% in 2013 to 62% in 2014. For many of us this won’t be a huge surprise, when Google banned guest posting for SEO many businesses noticed an increase in link building activities based on sharing infographics with the backlink already coded into the image.
As you can see, the most widely used platform for content was social media, followed by email newsletters, articles and blogs. On average, B2B marketers used 13 different tactics including many that weren’t listed in the report such as eBooks, print magazines, mobile apps and digital magazines.
When asked what the metrics used to measure success were, respondents replied:
- Website traffic – 63%
- Sales leads (quality) – 29%
- Higher conversion rates – 48%
- Sales – 43%
- Sales leads (quantity) – 40%
- SEO ranking – 39%
- Time spent on site – 39%
- Inbound links – 35%
- Customer feedback – 33%
- Subscriber growth – 30%
However, when it came to the goals for the organisation overall, the biggest was to increase brand awareness with 84% and lead generation with 83%.
Social Media and Distribution
Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn was the most widely used platform last year for distributing content. It’s safe to say that since the social site began rolling out publishing to its users it’s been very popular, with many marketers now using LinkedIn to create thought leadership pieces in order to raise their company profile through the professional connections they have on the site. However, it’s also used for backlinks and with a view to getting picked up by LinkedIn Pulse. This can really extend reach and cement thought leadership and we’ve seen a huge amount of people start blogging on the platform due to this recently.
Twitter was the second most popular platform with Facebook and YouTube coming in third and fourth. Interestingly, G+ was more popular than Pinterest, Instagram and Vimeo, and I say this as the social media site was this year left out of Pew Research Center’s study of social sites in 2014. Since Pew’s research is based on the ‘key’ social media sites, this suggests that G+ is no longer considered to be a player following the news that its project head Vic Gundotra had left. This led to further speculation that the social platform was effectively dead in the water, especially since it emerged that over 1000 staff had been moved to other areas of the company.
However, it could also just be because it’s difficult to pin down G+ statistics thanks to the way that Google automatically signs users of its other products up to G+. The Content Marketing Institute research did find however that respondents found G+ to be the least effective of the social media sites used by B2B marketing.
LinkedIn is considered to be the most effective social platform for distributing content at 63%, followed by:
- Twitter – 55%
- YouTube – 48%
- SlideShare – 42%
- Vimeo – 40%
- Facebook – 32%
- Pinterest – 25%
- Instagram – 24%
- Google+ - 20%
When it came to how often B2B marketers tended to post, the majority did so multiple times a week and 16% posted daily. Fresh content does help to drive traffic and to ensure that a site is crawled by search bots more frequently. B2B marketers are obviously aware of this as for the most part, those asked said that they posted fairly frequently.
When it came to what challenges marketers faced in 2014, the majority cited the creation of engaging content to be their biggest challenge. Many also appeared to struggle with finding the time to produce content consistently, and producing a variety of content, and this was in many cases down to budget constraints. This is an area in which we see a lot of content marketers struggle as there’s either not enough time or money available. Content creation, be it written, imagery or video, is not particularly cheap and if marketers are struggling to prove ROI, then it’s unlikely that they’ll see budgets raised so that they can participate in producing more content.
It’s this that makes it incredibly important for content marketers to get together a sound strategy document as studies show that it’s vital to proving ROI. A verbal strategy can’t match a documented one, as it’s never really clear who is responsible for what and therefore it’s difficult to track anything.
There’s no real surprises in this year’s report but it’s certainly useful for determining what other B2B marketers find to be effective. Armed with this knowledge, marketers are much more likely to be able to create an effective strategy and with it, a winning content marketing campaign.