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A majority of B2B content marketers in North America have increased their spending on content creation in the past 12 months, according to the latest annual study of B2B content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. The survey indicates that the vast majority of successful content marketers are putting their audiences’ needs first when it comes to their content.

Of the 771 qualified North American content marketers who responded to the survey, slightly more than one-quarter (27%) rated their organization’s overall level of content marketing success as either extremely (4%) or very (23%) successful. These “most successful” marketers were then compared to the “least successful” – those 22% who rated their organization’s content marketing success as minimally successful (20%) or not successful at all (2%).

The results indicate that fully 9 in 10 “most successful” B2B content marketers prioritize their audience’s informational needs over the sales/promotional message, compared to just 56% of the “least successful” respondents. This is an important point, as there have been admissions from B2B marketers for quite some time that their content is more company-focused than customer-centric.

The finding also seems to follow a trend noted in last year’s survey, in which B2B respondents said their content was becoming more audience-focused. That trend seems to have largely continued into this year:

  • Almost 3 in 4 (73%) of respondents overall this year prioritize their audience’s informational needs, whereas last year two-thirds (67%) focused on creating content for audiences rather than the brand;
  • Some 52% this year craft content based on specific points/stages of the buyer’s journey, up from 41% last year; although
  • Fewer than 6 in 10 (56%) this year prioritize delivering the right content to the right audience(s) at optimal times, down from 60% last year.

Meanwhile, the main techniques that respondents are using to research their target audiences this year include sales team feedback (74%), website analytics (73%), keyword research (65%) and both secondary (53%) and primary (50%) research. The biggest disparities between the most and least successful marketers relate to the use of primary research, customer conversations/panels, and database analysis.

The Most Successful Content Marketers Are Also the Most Committed

Recognizing that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, it’s nonetheless worth pointing out that 93% of the “most successful” B2B content marketers describe their organization as being either extremely (58%) or very (35%) committed to content marketing, compared to just 35% of the “least successful” marketers being able to say the same.

Commitment to content marketing leads to maturity, which also seems to correlate to success. Indeed, the vast majority (82%) of the “most successful” content marketers describe their maturity level as “sophisticated” or “mature”, versus just 1 in 10 of the “least successful” marketers. The implication being that as “an organization grows in content marketing maturity, its success is likely to increase,” as per the analysts.

Part of that maturity is likely to be reflected in the presence of a documented content marketing strategy. Fully two-thirds (65%) of the “most successful” respondents boast such a documented strategy, compared to just 14% of the “least successful.”

The benefits of having such a strategy are wide-ranging, but the most common benefits associated to one by respondent are aligning teams around a common mission/goals (81%) and making it easier to determine which types of content to develop (81%).

Which Content Types Are Gaining in Favor?

If documented strategies inform content types, then it seems as though those strategies are pushing marketers to create more video-based content.

This year 64% of respondents said they have increased their use of audio/visual content such as videos, livestreaming and webinars from last year. That’s more than have increased their use of images (infographics, photos, charts, GIFs) over the past year, though 56% have done so.

The increasing use of visuals isn’t taking the place of text-based content, at least digitally. Fully 61% have increased their use of written digital content such as articles and blogs over the past year, with long-form content (in-depth articles, guides) emerging as one of the most favored content development types.

Two-Thirds Use Paid Distribution

Content marketers aren’t relying just on email for content distribution: two-thirds have used paid distribution methods in the past year, including 71% of the “most successful” content marketers.

The main reasons for using paid methods to distribute content are to attract a new audience (80%), to generate traffic when organic search isn’t producing desired results (65%) and to reach a niche audience (52%).

As for the most common methods used for paid distribution, sponsored content on social media takes the top spot, followed by search engine marketing and banner ads promoting the content. Partner emails promoting content are a little less popular, but are used more by successful marketers.

The full study is available to view here.

About the Data: The report describes its methodology in part as follows:

“B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America was produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs and sponsored by Conductor.

The 9th Annual Content Marketing Survey, from which the results of this report were generated, was mailed electronically to a sample of marketers using lists from Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, The Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA), and WTWH Media, and UBM Technology Group.

A total of 1,947 recipients from around the globe—representing a full range of industries, functional areas, and company sizes—replied to the survey during June and July 2018. This report presents the findings from the 771 North America respondents who indicated their organization is for-profit, primarily selling products/services to businesses (B2B), and has been using content marketing for at least one year.”

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