Content marketing is powerful. It’s also relatively young. Many firms are still struggling to find and implement the right strategy.
What do successful firms’ strategies look like? What kind of results are they seeing? Are other firms experiencing the same challenges?
The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs recently published their year-in review of the B2B content marketing landscape. The study surveyed a range of firms about their content marketing strategies and success – then compared effective and ineffective firms. (In this case, the efficacy of the firms was determined based on self-evaluation.)
Several of their findings really stood out. While this overview isn’t as industry-specific as our research, the study includes a substantial sample of professional services, and I think it offers some relevant context, strong data points, and solid guidance on making content marketing more effective in 2014.
I found six key takeaways to the study:
1) Successful firms have a documented content marketing strategy
Overall, the study found that 44% of the surveyed B2B marketers had a documented content strategy. But here’s the kicker – 66% of the firms who considered themselves effective had that documented strategy, compared to only 11% of those who found their efforts ineffective. That’s a stark difference, and it’s not surprising.
When you have a formalized strategy documented and in place, you have a universally accessible reference point for evaluating your own success. Has each step been implemented appropriately? Which elements of the strategy are effective, which aren’t, and which may need some tweaking? It’s hard to ask or answer these questions without a documented strategy. Perhaps more importantly, it’s difficult for a team to share a consistent understanding and approach to the strategy if it’s not locked down in print. Different team members may have very different ideas about what the strategy actually is, and this problem will only be compounded when new team members leave or come onboard.
2) Most B2B marketers have someone overseeing content marketing strategy
There’s a similar divide between effective and ineffective firms on this point: a tremendous 86% of effective firms have put someone in place to oversee the content marketing strategy, while only 46% of the least effective firms have done so. But even the overall numbers here speak to a clear trend and a recognized need: 73% of all the firms surveyed had someone dedicated to this task.
The reasoning for this is quite similar to the reasoning behind a strategy document – clearly delineating strategy and responsibility, rather than allowing many different versions of a loose strategy to sit in many different heads, uncoordinated. More firms may have taken this step because it is simply easier to assign a role than to develop a full-fledged content strategy.
3) Content marketing strategies use an average of 13 distinct tactics
The study identified a wide variety of specific tactics and asked marketers to list the ones they utilized. The results showed that effective firms used an average of 15 tactics and ineffective firms used 10, while the overall average was 13. So what were those 13 tactics? Starting with the ones most commonly used:
- Social media (other than blogs)
- Articles on your website
- In-person events
- Case studies
- Articles on other websites
- Online presentations
- Research reports
There may be some redundancy or blurred lines between some of these categories, but they provide a pretty detailed portrait of the content tools firms are employing to share their knowledge.
4) Marketers are using more social media more often
Overall, the study found firms using an average of six social media platforms, noting that this was an increase of one platform from last year’s numbers. The most effective firms maintained a presence on an average of seven social media sites. In order of most common usage, the top seven sites were:
This order is about what we’d expect, though I was a little surprised to find so many firms reporting Facebook usage – 81% of those surveyed. The trend in this data is clearly toward more…more platforms, more types of interaction and media, and more adoption across the industry.
5) Content marketing budgets are increasing
According to the study, 58% of B2B marketers are planning to allocate more of their budget to content marketing in the next 12 months, a modest jump from last year’s rate of 54%. The trend here didn’t differ according to efficacy, but instead demonstrated a pretty steady, consistent trend across the industry. One interesting distinction emerged, however: more small companies (with teams of around 10 to 99 people) planned to increase budgets than companies with 1000+ employees, at a rate of 60% compared to 52%.
6) More successful content marketers allocate more of the budget to content
Perhaps this seems like a no-brainer, but the numbers suggest a good deal about the state of content marketing today. On average, firms allocate 30% of their marketing budgets to content marketing. The most effective firms allocate 39%, while the least effective allocate only 16%.
Taken together, all of these numbers tell a story about what a successful content marketing strategy looks like today. Successful firms generally have a documented, formalized strategy in place, with someone in place to oversee its direction and implementation. This means evaluating tools and tactics, including the effectiveness of those currently in use and the opportunity in emerging platforms or types of content.
Behind these efforts, marketers need dedicated investment. This will mean different things for different firms, but it will always take a significant allocation of the budget and a commitment to seeing the strategy through to success. With these elements in place, firms tend to see fewer challenges – and find themselves much more able to move forward with confidence.