Before you take the plunge into B2B content marketing or work on updating and improving your strategy, it’s important to understand the latest trends and get a sense of the overall landscape for marketers. How many B2B marketers are doing content marketing today, and how successful are they? Are there any lessons to be learned from their experiences?
Let’s get started by reviewing some revealing findings from the Content Marketing Institute’s research report: B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends–North America.
According to the CMI’s report, 89 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing to attract and convert customers. This is a huge number, and it’s underscored by the fact that 70 percent of B2B content marketers are planning to do more content marketing in 2017 than 2016. So content marketing is not only a hugely important strategy but is also set to grow in the next year.
How successful are these efforts? An overwhelming 75 percent describe their content marketing approach as at least moderately successful, but only 22 percent say it’s extremely or very successful. Over half said they are only moderately successful.
Similarly, an overwhelming 88 percent of respondents say their content marketing strategy is effective in helping them reach their goals, but only 34 percent rate it extremely or very effective. Over half of respondents say it’s merely moderately effective. Furthermore, only 17 percent report being much more successful than they were one year ago.
The good news is their efforts and strategies are successful and effective, but it’s moderate for most and worse for the rest. These are clear signs of problems. Why aren’t B2B marketers more successful in their content marketing?
In my experience, a big factor is usually a lack of expertise, resources, and strategy. While many B2B marketers have embraced content marketing and are committed to it, many are relatively new to the game and don’t necessarily have the dedicated resources or strategic expertise to get the most out of their efforts.
The CMI’s findings back this up. Only 28 percent of content marketers say they’re in the sophisticated or mature phase of content marketing. More than one-third are either taking their first steps or undergoing growing pains and struggling to create a cohesive strategy and plan.
When you’re just starting out in the early stages of content marketing, it can be a learn-as-you-go process. This usually means trial and error and a lot of inefficiency. It’s difficult to define the right strategy, develop a plan, and execute it effectively when you don’t really know what you’re doing.
Even if you have a strategy, it may not be well-defined or optimized. As the CMI discovered, only 37 percent of B2B content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. 41 percent have a strategy, but it’s not documented.
When strategies and plans aren’t clearly documented and defined, there’s a good chance they aren’t well thought out and lack quality.
To make matters worse, 59 percent of companies doing content marketing don’t have clarity about what an effective or successful program looks like. In other words, they may be doing content marketing, but they can’t truly measure their own success. They don’t know what it would look like!
On top of this, we have the issue of resources. 55 percent of content marketers have only one person or, at best, a small team working on content marketing for the entire organization. Of course, if you’re a small or medium-sized business, you may not have a large in-house team or department to manage your content marketing. But it’s common, even in larger companies, for only one person or a small team to handle content marketing.
What does all of this mean for you and your business? To me, it points to a fundamental problem I’ve helped many businesses address. If you want to develop a proper content marketing strategy, execute it, and achieve real success, you need to have the right expertise and resources in place.
Unless you have experts on staff or you outsource to an agency or team with proven experience, you’ll be at a disadvantage. While you can learn a lot about content marketing from online resources such as blogs, webinars, eBooks, and research reports, it will always be far less efficient and effective to learn as you go. It also means you’ll have a much harder time developing your strategy and creating the volume and quality of content you need to achieve success.
For B2B marketers achieving higher levels of success and seeing major increases in their performance, content creation and strategy are the biggest keys. 85 percent of B2B marketers cited higher quality and more efficient content creation as one of the reasons for an increase in their overall content marketing success. 72 percent cited development or adjustment of their content marketing strategy as one of the primary reasons for their improved success.
The best way to achieve these keys to success is to have the right resources—right now.
With ROI a focal point and so many businesses needing to attract and convert customers in the near future, there’s no time for trial and error or modest success. It pays to equip your business with the right strategy, expertise, and content marketing execution from the outset. While it can seem cheaper in the short term to go it alone or use the resources you have, it costs more money over time and will potentially cost you a lot in missed opportunities and sales.
When you’re thinking about getting started with content marketing or trying to build on your early efforts and improve your success, consider hiring an expert or a team of experts—whether as direct employees or through an outside agency or consultant. Even if you already have internal team members working on content marketing, the additional resources and collaboration with experts can enhance their efficacy and ensure you’re executing the right strategy and creating the required output to get results for your business.
What are you seeing in your business?