By Michele Linn published January 2, 2015

10 Research-Driven Insights about Content Marketers in 2015

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Each year we publish a series of core research reports that highlights the state of content marketing:

While you can read the individual findings at the links above, it’s useful to look at the trends and differences across each of these markets.

1. Content marketing adoption rate is declining (but this is a good thing)

Across every segment, the percentage of respondents who report using content marketing has declined. While this initially surprised our team, as we considered this further, we realized this is likely a positive sign as marketers are realizing that any content used to support marketing does not necessarily equate to content marketing.

2. A documented content marketing strategy is the key to effectiveness

In every segment, the presence of a documented content marketing strategy is key to effectiveness. On the high end, 37% of for-profit marketers in Australia have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to 23% of North American nonprofit marketers (the group with the lowest adoption). Across all segments, about half of marketers have a strategy, but it is not documented.

Help from the archives: If you haven’t documented your strategy, download our guide to help you get started. If you have a strategy, refine it. What should be “sticky” and what should you evaluate regularly? Check out: How to Build a Better Content Marketing Strategy.

3. Room to improve: Customer retention and evangelism

While marketers know it is less expensive to retain a customer than it is to acquire a new one, most segments are using content marketing to increase brand awareness and engagement. Of course, these are legitimate goals, but a huge opportunity remains to use content marketing for customer retention and evangelism.

Help from the archives: When it comes to customer retention and evangelism, B2C marketers are the ones to watch, as they emphasize these goals more frequently than any other segment. Learn how they do this: How to Turn Your Customers into Brand Fans: 3 Examples.

4. Few are tracking content marketing ROI successfully

Regardless of the segment, tracking ROI is a challenge. Even the highest tracking success rate is only 28% (UK marketers) and the lowest success rate is a mere 15% (nonprofit marketers in North America). Measuring content effectiveness is a challenge that has increased significantly for every segment.

Help from the archives: While there is no easy way to track ROI, marketers should strive to identify key metrics and report them in an easy-to-understand way across the organization: A Single Version of the Truth: One Key to Content Marketing Measurement Success.

5. In-person events are often found to be the most effective tactic

All groups consider in-person events to be the most effective tactic they use, with the exception of North American B2C marketers, who cite eNewsletters (with in-person events a close second). Nonprofit marketers use in-person events at a much higher rate than other segments (89% of North American nonprofit marketers, with B2B North American marketers in second at 77%).

Help from the archives: If you are investing more resources for in-person events, you want to get the most out of them: 5 Ways to Get More ROI from Your Next Conference.

6. B2Bs use LinkedIn most frequently; Facebook favored by B2Cs and nonprofits

As we have seen in previous years, LinkedIn is the platform used most often by B2B marketers, while Facebook is used most often by B2Cs and nonprofits. The good news is that the same marketer segments also say these platforms are the most effective ones for distributing their content.

Help from the archives: If you rely on Facebook, you know how often the platform changes. Check out Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose’s weekly podcast, PNR with This Old Marketing. Browse show notes and listen to episodes to stay in the know.

If LinkedIn is your focus, this summary of Todd Wheatland’s Content Marketing World presentation can help: 5 Ways Content Marketers Can Get More Value from LinkedIn.

7. Almost half of content marketers publish daily or weekly

New this year, we asked content marketers how often they publish. Across all segments, between 42% and 49% of marketers publish at least weekly. And, the marketers who consider themselves to be most effective at content marketing are publishing more frequently.

Help from the archives: How do you keep up a publishing cadence? This post from Russell Sparkman is 5-years old, but it’s one I think about often: Creating Consistent Content – A Content Marketing Plan.

8. Content marketers are using an average of three or four paid promotion methods

Another new question we asked this year was, “Which paid advertising methods do you use to promote/distribute content?” A few insights from this question:

  • While B2B marketers most often use search engine marketing, B2C and nonprofit marketers rely more heavily on print and offline promotions.
  • Regardless of what method is used most, all segments consider search engine marketing to be most effective.
  • B2B marketers are using every single method of paid advertising less often than their B2C peers – and they find every method to be less successful.

Help from the archives: Are you wondering if you should be using paid promotion? Our B2B experts weigh in: Is Paid Advertising Worth It? B2B Content Marketers Share Their Insights.

9. Finding trained content marketing professionals is a growing challenge

One of the findings that surprised me the most this year was the pain of finding trained content marketing professionals. Across every segment, this pain point increased dramatically from last year. I would have thought the increase in awareness for content marketing would make it easier to find people, but this has not been the case. As our discipline becomes more sophisticated, we need more skilled professionals.

Help from the archives: If you struggle with finding the right person for a full-time or freelance position, this roundtable from our B2C experts provides some perspective on why this is a challenge and what you can do: A Growing Challenge for 2015: How to Find Trained Content Marketing Professionals.

RELATED: You can help train your content marketing professionals with CMI’s Online Training and Certification program.

10. Content marketers are working on a lot

Every content marketer we talk to is feeling a bit overwhelmed. Marketing has evolved dramatically over the past several years, and it feels like it’s impossible to keep up. When presented with a list of 28 initiatives, marketers across all segments said they’re working on an average of 12 to 14 now, and are planning to begin an additional eight to nine in the next 12 months.

Help from the archives: On one hand, we applaud everyone’s enthusiasm, and we recognize that there is a lot organizations need to do. But, can anyone truly tackle that much successfully? If you are one of those overwhelmed marketers, consider prioritizing: 4 Content Marketing Initiatives You Need in 2015.

Looking for more research? CMI is adding more reports in 2015. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

  • http://www.BenBrausen.com/ Ben Brausen

    How long can marketers keep telling their bosses that content marketing will work but it’s just a work in progress? Seems few are doing well with it yet at some point, they can’t keep trying and trying to make it work year after year. There are lots of things they can do to increase their returns from it and make it measurable but it seems the vast majority struggle to do so. Sadly I think we’re going to start seeing more and more abandon content marketing and look to other areas where they have an easier time showing a quicker return from less investment.

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

      Hi Ben,
      The CMI team has been talking about measurement a lot this week. In the coming months, we’ll be focusing more on measurement to help people understand and communicate the results. This is a struggle, but there are way to address it. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.euxmedia.com/ Jodi Murphy

    You can track ROI if you are willing to crunch some serious numbers up front. How much does it take you to create a piece of content? Consider the cost of your writer (on an hourly basis), the cost of your designer, the cost of any social tools you use to promote it, the cost to store it…every penny you can think of. Now how much is a visitor to your site worth (also a lot of number crunching). Than it’s actually very straightforward to see just how much that content is worth.

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

      Great point, Jodi. In cases where traffic is not the goal, you can substitute the corresponding metric (e.g. the value of a subscriber). Of course, this calculation gets more complicated as the sales process gets more complex, but I think it helps to agree on — and show — any impact content marketing is making on a consistent basis.