By Joe Pulizzi published October 1, 2013

2014 B2B Content Marketing Research: Strategy is Key to Effectiveness

b2b content marketingWe always thought that having a documented content strategy would improve content marketing effectiveness, but we now know what a difference it makes. Business-to-business (B2B) marketers who have a documented strategy are more effective and less challenged with every aspect of content marketing. 

This is just one of the many findings revealed in the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ fourth annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, sponsored by Brightcove.

Click to tweet: B2B marketers with documented strategy are more effective and less challenged with every aspect of #contentmarketing

This year’s B2B content report compares findings with years past, looking at differences between marketers who rate themselves as most and least effective. Here are some of the key findings:

Forty-four percent of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy

A documented strategy makes a difference, as 84 percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing said they have no documented strategy. B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).

Click to tweet: Only 44 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy. @CMIcontent.

graph on documented content strategy percentages

Confidence is growing

Not only is the adoption of content marketing on the rise (93 percent of marketers use content marketing this year compared to 91 percent last year), but 42 percent of B2B marketers consider themselves effective at content marketing, up from 36 percent last year.

Click to tweet: 42% of #B2B marketers consider themselves effective at content marketing, up from 36% last year

B2B content marketers use an average of 13 tactics

Compared to last year, the average number of tactics used has risen from 12 to 13. The use of all tactics has remained fairly consistent, with one standout: Infographics have seen a considerable increase, from 38 percent last year to 51 percent this year. B2B content marketers continue to rate in-person events as the most effective tactic.

B2B-content-research-2014-usage

(click for larger view)

The use of social media has increased across-the-board

B2B marketers are using all social media platforms to distribute content more frequently than they did last year. In addition, they now use an average of six platforms, versus five last year.

The social media platforms that have experienced the biggest surges in use, year over year, are SlideShare (40 percent vs. 23 percent), Google+ (55 percent vs. 39 percent), and Instagram (22 percent vs. 7 percent).

Click to tweet: SlideShare and Google+ are channels with biggest growth for B2B #contentmarketing

graph showing use of social media

Uncertainty about effectiveness remains, especially for social media

Each year we ask marketers to rate the effectiveness of traditional tactics, but this year we also asked them to rate the effectiveness of social media platforms. Similar to what we’ve seen with traditional tactics, there is uncertainty in terms of effectiveness. LinkedIn is the only platform that the majority of B2B marketers consider to be effective.

Click to tweet: #LinkedIn is the only platform the majority of B2B marketers consider to be effective

graph showing confidence gap-social media

B2B content marketers are increasing their budgets and creating more content

Fifty-eight percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months, up from 54 percent last year.

Click to tweet: 58% of #B2B marketers plan to increase content marketing budget, up from 54% last year 

This year, we also asked about the volume of content produced. Seventy-three percent of B2B marketers said they are producing more content now compared to one year ago.

graph showing change in amount of content creation

While B2B content marketers continue to be challenged with producing enough content and producing the kind of content that engages — in addition to the ever-present challenge of “lack of time” — they are still making impressive strides.

Read the entire report to get answers to these and many more questions:

  • What are best-in-class B2B content marketers doing differently than their peers?
  • What type of functions are B2B marketers outsourcing (a new question asked this year)?
  • What are the primary goals for content marketing — and what are marketers doing to measure success?
  • How are marketers tailoring content?

You can also view Brightcove’s infographic around the key findings of this year’s B2B content marketing research.

What do you think of this year’s findings? Do you agree with them? Do you see anything surprising? Let us know in the comments!

If you are interested in research, we have many more new findings coming your way, as well as explanations of the “whys” and the “what nexts.” Subscribe to our email so you don’t miss anything.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Cara Posey

    One of the important issues in the year ahead will be improving the value of content. Balancing quantity with quality is doable, and organizations will need to 1) look at ways to integrate their subject matter experts into their content, 2) provide new perspectives and advance thought leadership on subjects instead of restating or regurgitating, and 3) aggregate all of these content assets in a way that aids discovery, as well as visibility.

    If one thing is certain, we can always do more to improve content marketing. Thankfully we are a supportive community of professionals committed to helping each other learn and grow. Certainly CMI is a critical part of this.

    • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

      I suspect companies need to develop a very structured, rational and well-thought-out framework for getting CMEs to cooperate — maybe it’s as easy as setting up phone interviews, transcribing the conversations and handing them over to the content team.

      It kills me that so many companies seem so disinclined to draw out the people who make their companies succeed. Most businesses fail — it takes real chops to succeed and that’s what makes a company interesting. It also provides a compelling business case for choosing one company over another.

      • Cara Posey

        Many companies have operated for so long by simply promoting the executive team. Their experts have been tapped for opportunities only when someone from the outside happens to know them. Now, companies are starting to get it that they will actually benefit from showcasing these people. It builds brand awareness while also providing depth to the organization and makes content more interesting.

        Some orgs fear that these rising stars will be recruited away, but I think that’s silly. First, by allowing experts to help create content and speak at events, you are providing them professional development which will make them happier. Second, if you have star employees who leave and go on to be stars, they will still likely promote your brand if you remain on good terms and provided them opportunities for growth. Third, the company can’t control what that employee might do, but they sure can control the benefit they will receive by engaging their employees as experts and sharing this expertise with customers and prospects. Enough said.

  • tedlsimon

    Thanks for sharing this, Joe and Ann. Nice to keep abreast of industry trends.

    I was struck that there was even a question regarding whether a company had a strategy to guide content marketing efforts. I can’t imagine anyone executing a marketing plan or set of tactics, ANY tactics, without a strategy to guide and focus the effort. To see that roughly half those surveyed did NOT have a documented strategy in place made me wonder, and worry, about the state of our profession.

    It’s an old saying among Marketers: Objectives lead Strategy, and Strategies lead Tactics. In that order. I’ve always found this makes for the most effective and efficient marketing plans and programs. Nice to see your research bears this out.

    Keep up the great work.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Agreed Ted…and honestly, I think that number of 44% is high. I think the actual number of companies that have a documented content strategy is much lower than that.

      • tedlsimon

        Joe – Based on that insight my “worry” about our profession just turned to “disappointment”…hope it doesn’t become “despair!”

        • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

          Hi Ted…most companies aren’t built to tell engaging stories consistently, so it will take some time.

          • tedlsimon

            Fair point, Joe. With that in mind, I’ll shift my outlook from “disappointment” to “hopeful” about the opportunity to improve and the associated upside!

  • Peter Odryna

    I never would have believed the statistic that < 50% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy if I hadn't seen it myself. It's amazing the void in planning. We at SocialEars are in the marketing analytics space, and we're seeing the use of analytics to measure content marketing performance and ROI to be even lower.

    Of course, if you don't have a plan why bother measuring anything, huh?

    Thanks for sharing this great information.

  • kevin jorgensen

    Joe, great post. As our team has worked with businesses in the US and Europe, we’ve also seen that the lack of a content plan is a huge issue. We’ve also discovered something that I think your readers may appreciate. If you’re objective is to use content to attract more visitors and nurture their interest to a point of sales engagement, the best way to do that it so model your sales process using marketing automation – that is calls-to-action, forms and follow-up email and power your sales “engine” with content. To model the sales process, we’ve found the best approach is to look at the top of your sales funnel as “information qualified” meaning that all your content for the top of your sales funnel (blogs, social engagement) does not talk about your company but about the general problems that your company solves. The middle of your funnel is your brand qualifying content (a company brochure, branded webinar etc). It’s designed to introduce your brand and when a prospect takes your branded offer, they are giving permission to start selling. That’s where the old Seth Godin permission marketing kicks in. Content in the bottom of your funnel should be designed to promote your value and overcome objections. The bottom of the funnel offer is about sales engagement – a free consult or demo. This method really works. Content is the fuel. The sales process is the engine (lead engine!). I actually learned about it at a site called contentmarketersblueprint.com. They advocate a content strategy as the first step in any marketing campaign. Seems that your own research bears this out! Thanks again for a great post!

    • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

      Kevin: why so shy about taking credit for the Content Marketing Blueprint? You built it, it’s OK to say so. You’re among colleagues here.

      • kevin jorgensen

        Hey Tom. Yes, I had a hand in the original work, but the Content Marketing Blueprint is much more than my work. There’s a growing community of 25 really bright marketers from different organizations all over the world who have contributed to the content, training material and templates that are in the CMB.

    • tedlsimon

      Thanks for the heads up and suggestions, Kevin. Looks like news many of us can use.

  • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

    I was struck by the fact that “creating engaging content” was considered one of the top challenges. Way, way too many business blogs seem terrified that they might actually strike up a conversation and never say anything that incites a reaction from readers — and if somebody does comment, there’s nobody around to keep the conversation going.

    The other keys, of course, are conducting original research and providing original content. Those cost much more time and energy but it’s pretty much universal that the blogs which produce a reliable stream of original, helpful, insightful and engaging content do the most good.

  • http://www.referralcandy.com/ Zach @ ReferralCandy

    Thanks for sharing the stats.

    It’s interesting to see that 62% of B2B marketers believe that Linkedin is effective. Was this question posed in relation to paid advertising on Linkedin (sponsored updates) or in relation to marketing efforts focused on organic sharing/engagement?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Zach…the survey is specific to how non-paid content performs on LinkedIn, and sharing related to that!

  • Sarah Jocson

    Good discussion! It is time to get really specific as possible and identify the network you want to focus.Great job!

  • Joe Pack

    Really great insights Joe. I’m not surprised to see that Facebook is ineffective in a large percentage of B2B business. I just can’t think of many B2B’s that people will want to shout about when communicating with their friends.

    I think the problem is that businesses know they need social media and then just jump straight into Facebook because it has the most users, forgetting that the audience may not be receptive to their offering. I think LinkedIn will continue to grow as businesses prove the return they are getting from the platform.

  • peterdroeshout

    Tx Joe.

  • PieterVereertbrugghen

    Tx Joe

  • Julie Corpora SRA-Toft Group

    Great stats, shows me we are on the right track.

  • Dominic Hiatt

    I suggest anyone who has read this survey by the CMI reads this one by Passle – it offers an interesting, and completely different, take on the findings – https://home.passle.net/index.php/why-content-marketing-institute-data-reveals-nothing-about-content/#comment-244

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Hi Dominic,

      I am going to cross-post this reply to the post above as well.

      As the post mentions, the samples of our surveys are different, which is a key reason we are seeing variances. As is fully disclosed, the key respondents from our surveys come from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, as well as other distribution partners.

      Even within our own data, we see variances based on segment we are analyzing, including geographies, company size and industry.

      One of the key things our research looks at is trends year-over-year. As the groups we have surveyed have remained consistent, it is interesting how our key audience’s usage of content marketing has been changing (this is the 4th year for the B2B survey).

      From a wider perspective, we use the research findings to inform our editorial. Where is our audience finding success — and where are they challenged? What can we do to help? In essence, it’s a jumping out point so we can further our mission of advancing the practice of content marketing.

      In short, I never think any stat should be taken at face value, but I prefer to look at trends across multiple surveys, with a consideration to the demographics of respondents and sample size.

      • Dominic Hiatt

        I’m not sure I understand a word of that, Michelle! I’m going to share both surveys with some experienced journalists I know and see what they think. Might make an interesting article. Will share it with you once up. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Dominic…please check out my comments in that post. Hopefully that clears things up a bit.

  • Ruth JACK

    Hi Joe, very interesting article, especially the chart on how confidence in social media for B2B compares to actual results. Facebook is a big bone of contention with myself and customers and it is interesting to see the survey reflects my experience. Is it ok if I use some of your findings on my new website link friends as I think it will be really useful for my members to see some of it. I will of course reference you.

    Kind regards

    Ruth

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Ruth…of course, please spread it around.

  • Shelby Britton

    Regarding tactics, Online Presentations showed up on the 2014 report but not the 2013 report (and quite high on the 2014 report). How are they different than webinars/webcasts and videos? Why was it added? Ideas on why it’s so high all of a sudden?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Hi Shelby. We added online presentations as a tactic this year we this was something suggested by several people. Online presentations are the types of presentations that you would see on Slideshare. Often, there is not audio (but there could be). So, this is different than both webinars and videos.

      This was not a tactic we had not asked about in the past, so it’s the first time we were able to see how many people are using these. So, it’s not that the number jumped but rather it’s our first look into adoption. It will be interesting to see the trend next year!

  • Georgwithoute

    Thanks. Great report. Very helpfull

  • prashant jain

    Thanks for sharing this information. Will be really helpful to plan content strategy for B2B brands. Need one help can you be bit more specific that what kind of platforms can work well for a big brand in banking industry.

  • nassarshahzad

    this information is very well designed and organized

  • http://www.7webwunder.de/ 7webwunder

    Thank you Joe! Still one of the best and most comprehensive articles in sight. While you are talking about present and future of digital marketing, German companies are still struggeling in the past.

  • Carlos Hidalgo

    Always a great study and one I reference quite a bit during my blogging and speaking. Hoping the trend begins to turn and organizations begin investing more in strategy than in creation – this is where the real payoff will be.

  • http://patriciagiuria.weebly.com/ patriciagiuria

    Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.krishtechnolabs.com/ Krish TechnoLabs

    Companies must see their clients and create user segments that target their most highly esteemed clients and chances. By personalizing the interaction, the opportunities of conversion improve exponentially.

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