With the release of The Content Marketing Institute’s “B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” report for 2015, our Charlotte marketing agency gained a tremendous amount of actionable insights that validate both our own content marketing strategy and the content marketing work we do for our clients.
We always anticipate the release of this annual report because the CMI consistently manages to survey a large and disparate group of marketers who represent both middle-market companies as well as Fortune 500s.
All the respondents who take the survey are asked to look honestly at their own current situation and where they hope to be going forward. And since it’s completely anonymous, it provides an unvarnished look at what challenges B2B content marketers face and what tactics seem to be working for them.
Here are 3 key insights from this year’s report:
When it comes to social media content, make LinkedIn a priority.
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment LinkedIn began its evolution from a schmoozy cocktail party for HR recruiters and job applicants to the premier social network for consuming and sharing professional content.
Maybe it was back in 2012 when it acquired SlideShare, but last year (when LinkedIn launched its Influencer Program which features posts from the likes of Richard Branson, Jack Welch, and Bill Gates)
it was clear that what has long been considered the stodgiest social media channel has become a place where companies of all sizes can find new customers, demonstrate thought leadership, and market their businesses better.
For B2B marketers, LinkedIn has always been the leading social media network. And that hasn’t changed. 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, making it the social media platform used most often (they also say it’s the most effective social media platform).
Overall, B2B marketers use an average of 13 content marketing tactics — same as what was reported last year. Of these tactics, 92 percent cite social media content (other than blogs) as the most used, followed by eNewsletters (83 percent), and articles on their website (81 percent).
It’s also worth noting that Google+ saw a 9% increase in usage while remaining at the very bottom of effectiveness ratings. In other words, 64% of marketers use G+ but only 20% think it’s worth the time. So why do we use it? It supposedly generates more than its fair share of Google juice.
Segment key target audiences and build unique content personas.
For any piece of content to be successful, it has to be personalized and speak to a specific person (e.g., a potential buyer), with a specific need, at a specific point in his or her buyer journey. Put another way, you have to have targeted content that reflects a deep understanding of who your audience is and where they are along the path to purchase.
How many different audiences does your organization target with separate content marketing strategies? The average number is 4, but obviously the number of audiences that B2B marketers target is often related to how large the B2B marketer’s organization is. For example, smaller companies (1-9 employees) target an average of three audiences, whereas enterprise companies (1,000+ employees) target an average of six.
To really understand the buyers you’re targeting, it’s critical to take the time to construct corresponding personas, i.e., detailed profiles of those buyers made up of a combination of demographic and behavioral information.
The main requirements of the buyer persona are that it is accurate and believable by those using it. This means that the definition should not only include a simple visual summary of the persona, but also list the research used. For a B2B buyer persona, our Charlotte marketing agency uses this structure: persona summary, job details, goals, challenges and pain points, preferred content medium, and preferred content type.
Producing content is an increasing challenge.
While content marketing can be complex, the premise behind it is quite simple: create incredible onsite content, amplify that onsite content through offsite channels and convert the traffic that views the onsite content into customers. Unfortunately, as the potential of content marketing continues to grow, B2B marketers increasingly find themselves unable to effectively or affordably produce engaging content.
There seems to be a correlation between those marketers who have a formal, written content strategy, and how effective those marketers are. A full 60% of those who stated they had a written strategy also rated their content marketing as “highly effective,” as opposed to 32% of those without a documented strategy.
Another interesting point is that 62% of the most effective marketers in the report stated they stuck closely to their formal strategy. So, while some companies may have seen the need to formalize their strategies, that document may not be getting the respect it deserves and effectiveness is being sacrificed as a result. The lesson is clear here: you need to document your strategy and follow it closely.
With 54% and 50% of respondents complaining, respectively, about having a hard time producing engaging content and on a consistent basis, the question companies face is whether to hire in-house content writers or outsource content marketing to an outside agency. In this report, 47% said their organization has a dedicated content marketing group, but for smaller companies without the internal resources to hire and support a complete team of content writers and content marketers, working with an outside agency makes a lot of sense. Here’s why:
- You can access the best talent in the field: This is one of the biggest benefits of hiring a content marketing agency rather than having your own in-house team. You don’t need to settle with what you have. You are not totally dependent upon the people you have hired. Aren’t satisfied with the performance of your current agency? It’s just a matter of moving on to someone else
- You pay for what you get: Since people involved with content writing, content production, and content marketing aren’t your employees, you don’t need to spend money on salary, infrastructure and benefits.
- You save time: You can save a ton of time when you outsource your content marketing needs to another agency because then you can focus on your own work without worrying about how many blog posts have been published, what sort of updates are going to social networking websites and whether your content is reaching the right people or not.
- You work with the professionals: At our Charlotte marketing agency, we know our stuff. We have carried out successful content marketing campaigns for other companies, and we have solved even the most complex problems – which lets us share all this experience with you on a cost-effective, as needed basis.