The content marketing landscape is a continually evolving microcosm of trends, patterns, ideas and strategies that’s perpetually on the rise. The B2B industry sits at a unique crossroads when it comes to the expansion of content marketing practices in the marketplace because of the rapid pace of innovation and experimentation when it comes to content creation, and dealing with the pain points, benefits, and learning associated with a hybridized approach to communication.
In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the most important B2B content marketing statistics for 2017, and how they affect the panoramic outlook of modern content marketing efforts.
How Do B2B Companies Use Content Marketing Successfully?
To begin, it’s critically important to get a good sense of who and what kinds of brands are using content marketing practices effectively and successfully. The B2B realm is defined as a business-to-business model that focuses directly on selling products and services to other companies. These businesses typically experience very high volumes of sales because they actively contribute to a greater final product, providing raw materials and supplies to other businesses.
Entrepreneur (@Entrepreneur) tells us that up to 82% of B2B marketers employ use of content marketing in their larger marketing programs, specifically for the strategies innate ability to generate qualified leads, boost and improve a brand’s public perception, and display the company’s expertise to a wide audience. Of the B2B companies that employ the benefits of content marketing, 70% plan on creating even more content that they did in 2016, so the B2B landscape can expect to see a large increase of high-quality content as we move into the future.
As we begin to look deeper into the ways successful B2B marketers use content marketing in 2017, we’re also seeing an emerging trend of aligning content with specific stages of the buyer’s journey (@RiverbedMktg).
We already know that different buyers at different stages of their journey react differently to different types of content, but LookBookHQ goes one step further by telling us that 49% of marketers are getting better at aligning content with sales enablement, in turn boosting the ROI associated with content marketing and helping CMO’s and upper-level management see the value in allocating more and more energy and resources to more engaging campaigns.
Social Media Extends Reach
Further, social media is playing a major role in extending and broadening the reach of content marketers by increasing digital traffic with as little as 6 hours of added effort per week. The gurus at the Social Media Examiner conclude that 81% of marketers noticed a boost in traffic, and this trend is likely to continue into 2018.
Of all the social media platforms and options out there, 94% of successful content marketers are using LinkedIn as part of their established marketing strategy. Twitter and Facebook follow closely behind with 87% and 84% respectively, followed by Google+ at 62%. The Content Marketing Institute concludes that LinkedIn is the most popular platform for content distribution with B2B’s because of its connection to professional networks and daily active conversations between brands and companies. Hubspot also tells us that content consumption on Facebook has increased by 57% since 2015.
The Team Dynamic
Content marketing isn’t possible without capable content marketers managing campaigns, strategizing and tracking data, and producing content. At the core of the practice, a good team is paramount to B2B content marketing success.
55% of content marketing structures within organizations are comprised of small teams – sometimes one-person – serving entire organizations, while 24% of organizational structures see a central group that works with multiple brands and/or product lines within a larger marketing organization.
When we investigate the inter-workings of the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 North American Marketing Trends report, we can also see that 63% of all marketers would agree that their organizations are either “very committed,” or “extremely committed” to content marketing as a wider practice, while 53% reported a moderate success rate on their organization’s approach to content marketing.
Level of Sophistication
While 28% of B2B content marketers report that they feel their respective organizations are within the mature or sophisticated levels of maturity in their approach, we can also see that 71% would say they’re in a young, adolescent, or first-steps stage of content marketing maturity.
From these statistics, we can conclude that the level of perceived maturity and effectiveness will rise dramatically in the coming years as more and more content marketers develop better practices and take note of other, more advanced content marketers. This means competition in the marketplace will also rise as capabilities and skills arise.
The content marketing spectrum wouldn’t be complete without a sales team. Alignment of marketing and sales is an important part of the team dynamic, and the 2017 Hubspot State of Inbound (@HubSpot) states that organizations that has an aligned sales/marketing service level agreement (SLA) in place are three times more likely to report their strategy is effective.
Only 37% of all content marketing organizations have a documented content marketing strategy, while 41% have a strategy that is not documented.
The benefit to having a content strategy stems well beyond a digital document that can be updated and consulted. Strategies help to refine and focus in on the tasks at hand, and help serve as a measurement tool to provide insight. CMI’s 2017 Content Marketing Trends (@CMIContent) in partnership with MarketingProfs (@MarketingProfs), lays down the integral elements included in existing B2B content marketing strategies:
- 73% plan to operate as an ongoing business process, not simply a campaign
- 59% include a content mission and a differentiated story/value to deliver
- 57% include a deep understanding of established buyer/audience personas
- 55% include a process to help integrate sales and marketing teams
- 54% include a set of well-defined business goals for new content
- 51% include a measurement plan to provide insight and progress towards business goals
- 35% include the ability to scale and grow with the parent organization over time.
46% of all content marketers who have a documented content strategy report that their strategies are “somewhat more effective” than they were a year ago, meaning that the benefit of a documented strategy assists in growth and perception of each campaign. 24% reported that their strategies helped them to be “much more effective.”
Content marketing is undeniably, emphatically, and intrinsically linked to incredible content. It goes without saying that a rapidly evolving ideology like content marketing without content, is, well, pointless. This is probably why 70% of B2B marketers plan on creating more content in 2017 than they did in 2016. Onward and upward.
Marketers, and content marketing specifically, are experts at not only researching and recognizing new and emerging content and communication trends, but also jumping on the bandwagon of successful patterns that generate results. In this regard, keeping an ear to the ground, and an eye on the screen is what makes content marketing the fast-paced, expanding arena it is in 2017.
We should note, however, producing good content that performs well isn’t as easy as doing your homework and sitting back to watch the traffic roll in – and good marketers know that. Content is as much about producing good content, as it is noticing what good content consists of. Luckily, there are a plethora of ways to and formats in which to produce content, each of them uniquely changing and reflecting the tastes of a particular segment of a targeted audience.
The bread and butter of content marketing, but a vastly changing taste – blogs are the top priority for content creators in 2017, says Hubspot’s State of Inbound. Seconding that notion, the Social Media Examiner found that 45% of marketers say blogging is their #1 most important content strategy.
Gone are the says when a 500 word blog post sharing a few new ideas was enough to entice readers to do business with your brand. Blogs are completely different these days, becoming increasingly more visual and longer daily. In 2014, the average blog post was about 800 words, and by 2016 has increased to 1,054 words – up 19% since 2015. Further, the percentage of posts with word counts above 2000 doubles yearly. Why?
Orbit Media Studios found (@crestodina) in a recent study that long-form blog posts resonate better with audiences because they deliver higher value. Investing the time to research and churn out a more in-depth piece that offers more of an educational aid helps your content to build a reputation as trustworthy and authoritative. Longer posts also consistently showcase stronger results from bloggers, with about 40% reporting “strong results” from posts over 2000 words long.
Curata reports (@curata) that long-form blog posts can generate as much as 9X more leads than short form blog posts – an impossible statistic to ignore, meaning 2017 is seeing more bloggers and content creators devoting more and more time (see ‘Time’ in the Resources segment of this post) to their craft.
That’s a smart move, because Google found in 2016 that among millennial’s, Youtube accounts makeup for 66% of the premium online videos watched across all devices. In 2015, the search engine giant also found that 53% of all smartphone video watchers felt more favourable towards a brand or app that provided instructional video content.
Hubspot says that 46% of marketers plan to add Facebook Video to their marketing efforts next year, and 43% of viewers want more video content from the people who market the brands they love. Perhaps the biggest convincing video stat is that in 2015, Animoto (@Animoto) found 4X as many customers would prefer to watch a video about a product or service than read about it. That’s since risen and holds true for 2017 and beyond.
The art-form of the infographic is an alarming content success. Ready for this stat? The demand for infographics jumped up by 800% from 2010-12, according to Unbounce (@unbounce), and hasn’t slowed down.
How? They make it incredibly easy and entertaining to pull relevant and research-driven info from visual stimuli, helping viewers easily digest information. Infographics are also 3X more likely to be shared on social media than any other type of content, as reported by MassPlanner (@MassPlannerTipz)
The radio was king of the airwaves, and in 2017, the podcast is emerging as king of the digital airwaves. Podcast listening grew 23% from 2015 to 2016 according to Edison Research, prompting Hubspot to learn that 11% of marketers plan to add podcasting to their marketing efforts within the next year.
Why? Podcast growth is steady, not skyrocketing – according to Convince & Convert (@convince). Podcasts are listened to by 42 million in the US alone every week – 5X more than the number of people who attend the movies. The findings further state that about 67 million Americans listen to podcasts each month, compared to the 21% that follow the Catholic faith. Thus, in the last year, a 14% increase in podcast listening means that podcast listening is more popular in the US than Catholicism.
Finally, podcasts are mobile-friendly, a huge motivator for marketers to embrace the content format. In 2017, 66% of all podcast listeners were mobile. To put that into perspective, eMarketer (@eMarketer ) tells us that mobile will account for 72% of US digital ad spend by 2019. Mobile searches outpace desktop searches, so it makes sense to see that more and more B2B marketers place emphasis on digital ads and content like podcasts.
High Quality Photography
The CMO Council (@CMO_Council) tells us that 46% of B2B content marketers conclude that high quality photography is critically important to the success of their current marketing and storytelling strategies.
As marketing becomes more and more visual, the need for high resolution, and talented photography skills becomes an aspect of the equation that can’t be neglected. Photography helps to tell the story of your company’s brand and/or product – so it’s a good idea to make sure that visual story is an engaging and good-looking one.
Outsourcing Content Creators & Writers
Churning out more long-form blogs and articles each week requires a massive amount of time, so in 2017 we’re seeing more and more marketers outsource some of their writing to qualified, professional freelancers to help meet demand and quality standards. Writing is a fulltime job, and TopRankBlog (@TopRankBlog) notes that 64% of B2B marketers outsource writing, helping them to meet their marketing goals, rather than piling more work onto an already small internal team.
Re-purposing Existing Content
Good marketers and content producers know that content creation challenges are inevitable, and can relate back to insufficient time, dedicated staff, or resources. That’s why so many reputable content marketers aren’t afraid of re-purposing existing content to fill an editorial calendar. In fact, 49% of B2B content marketers experiences trouble producing the content needed to maximize their efforts, leading 29% of marketers re-use old content, maximizing their investment in production times and honing their voice.
Justifying resource allocation to a content marketing strategy is often one of the most prevalent issues that marketers face when trying to adopt or perfect a content marketing approach. B2B marketers have a responsibility to their company’s and their clients to ensure that they have the resources they need to complete a high-standard of work in an agreeable amount of time; this means working directly with management personnel to uncover, track, and justify increases and reallocations of funds, energy, expertise and manpower to the right areas of marketing in 2017.
Time & Money
One of the more prevalent issues with the trends in blogging content arena is that we know good content takes time to build; but this is a good problem. Consider the increased amount of time content marketers spend on writing and perfecting blog posts, for example, because as we know, bigger, longer blog posts generate more traffic – and generating traffic is by far the #1 goal of 85% of professional B2B content marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
So, how much time do B2B content marketers need to create blogs that drive serious traffic? Orbit Media Studios found that twice as many bloggers are spending over 6 hours on their average posts – with an average blog taking 3 hours and 16 minutes to write – an increase of 26% from 2015.
Does it pay off? In a word, yes; because patience is a virtue, and effort goes a long way. 33% of those bloggers who spend over 6 hours on a great post report “strong results,” whereas only 23% of bloggers who spend less than 6 hours report the same results.
Time is money – and money directly correlates to how well your team is able to spend its time. The CMI’s 2017 B2B Content Marketing Trends report tells us that the average organization spends 29% of its total budget on content marketing efforts, and a whopping 84% expect that budget to either remain the same or increase within the next 12 months.
Content marketing works, and it’s evident in how many brands and marketing professionals are placing emphasis on its abilities. The trends don’t lie, and neither does cold, hard data. It’s nearly impossible to confidently declare that B2B Content Marketing won’t continue to grow in use and practicality into 2018 and beyond.