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IMN-Content-Marketing-Program-Goals-2013-v-2012-Aug2013Content marketing is gaining in awareness and importance among marketers, and roughly half have established a formal strategy, according to [download page] results from IMN’s second annual Content Marketing Survey. As more marketers develop strategies and grow their maturity levels (11% describe themselves as “experts”), their content marketing programs and measures of success appear to have gravitated towards a  focus on lead generation.

This year, when asked their most important content marketing goal, a leading 44% of respondents pointed to increased leads, a huge gain from last year, when 16% cited leads, good only for the 4th-most important goal.

In fact, lead generation was such a consensus this year that the next-most important goals, awareness and customer and prospect engagement, were each cited by less than half as many respondents (19% each).

Given that lead generation took such a big step forward this year, other goals have retreated in significance, including the afore-mentioned awareness and engagement, as well as customer loyalty (7% this year versus 17% last year). No respondents this year indicated that increased revenue was their most important goal (9% last year), an interesting result given that the focus on leads implies more attention being paid to “hard” goals rather than “soft” metrics such as awareness and engagement. Also of note, there was an increase in the proportion of respondents this year saying that thought leadership was their most important goal, up to 11% from 7% in last year’s survey.

While IMN did not release many details on its respondent sample, its PR department confirmed that the survey sample is skewed towards B2B respondents, which makes sense given previous research showing lead generation to be a more important goal among B2B than B2C content marketers. The email list used for the 2012 and 2013 surveys were also largely the same, suggesting that the respondent sample has a similar B2B skew, and year-to-year comparisons can reasonably be made.

Meanwhile, as the number of leads generated by content marketing efforts becomes more important, the primary measures of success have also evolved. This year, a leading 49% of respondents said their primary content marketing program success metric is the number of incoming leads, more than double the proportion from last year (20%). By contrast, last year’s leading metric, open rates for email blasts, has retreated significantly from 24% of respondents to 6%, perhaps as marketers delve further into different distribution methods.

This year’s focus on leads (putting aside the somewhat curious neglect of revenue goals) may lead to increased budgets in the future, and the research indicates there’s plenty of room in that area. In fact, the study suggests that the focus on content marketing (90% of respondents indicating it to be a medium or high priority) hasn’t yet translated to budgets, with 46% of respondents saying that content marketing occupies less than 10% of the marketing budget.

On average, marketers are devoting 12% of their budgets to content marketing, according to survey results released early this year by Ad Age.

About the Data: Respondents to the IMN Content Marketing Survey represented marketers from organizations of all sizes, with the majority of respondents representing companies with 10-999 employees. The company polled marketers, ranging from consultants to CMOs across multiple vertical industries including automotive, insurance, financial services, direct selling and franchise. The sample size – which included marketers of different seniority – was close to 100.

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