By Joe Pulizzi published February 26, 2014

B2B Content Marketing Success on the Rise for Small Businesses

b2bsmb-cover imageIn last week’s post about the Content Marketing Awards, Mike Sawyer of Tier 1 Writing asked a question I hear often: “How can small-type guys compete [against larger brands] to gain some glory?”

My response: “There were a number of small companies that won Content Marketing Awards — they were not all big brands. In my opinion, the battlefield is equal, depending on the niche and the type of content.”

Yes, this is my opinion, but our newest B2B content marketing research report also confirms that small businesses are doing many things really well when it comes to content marketing — things that can certainly give them a competitive advantage and put them on equal footing with the “big guys.” 

The report, B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America, sponsored by New Rainmaker, shows how marketers at small businesses (10–99 employees) have changed over the last year in terms of how they approach content marketing. It also shows how they compare with enterprise marketers in several key areas.

A few things struck me while looking at this year’s data:

Small business marketers are setting themselves up to be successful

Across B2B organizations of all sizes, marketers working at small businesses are the most likely to have a documented content strategy (for example, 48 percent of small business marketers have a documented strategy, compared with 41 percent of enterprise marketers). In addition, 78 percent of small businesses have someone in place to oversee that strategy (compared with 58 percent of enterprise companies).

Having these key pieces in place may help explain why small business marketers are feeling much more confident this year — in our 2013 study, just 34 percent said they were effective at content marketing; this year, that number has grown to 45 percent (click to tweet).

(Want to learn how to document a content marketing strategy? Download our guide on the 36 essential questions to answer.)

pie chart-marketers-documented content strategy 

Small business marketers are using more content marketing tactics today, when compared with one year ago (click to tweet)

Just as they did last year, small business marketers rate social media content (other than blogs), articles on their website, and eNewsletters as the content marketing tactics they use most frequently. Most percentages shown here are fairly similar to last year’s findings, with the notable exceptions being infographics — which have risen from 39 percent last year to 48 percent this year — and mobile content — which has risen from 27 percent to 35 percent.

graph-content marketing usage

Their use of Google+, SlideShare, Instagram, and YouTube has risen substantially 

Small business marketers are using all social media platforms more frequently this year. Compared with last year, the biggest jumps in usage have been with Google+ (40 percent to 61 percent), SlideShare (24 percent to 40 percent), Instagram (9 percent to 23 percent), and YouTube (62 percent to 75 percent) (click to tweet).

graph-percentage b2b sb marketers

Over the next 12 months, 60 percent plan to increase their content marketing budget

More small business marketers are planning to increase spending when compared with their enterprise peers (52 percent) (click to tweet). In addition, this 60 percent figure is up from the 57 percent of small business marketers who said last year that they would increase spending.

pie chart-content marketing spending

They are gaining some control over content production issues

While small business marketers are still challenged with content production issues, the degree to which they are challenged has gone down over the last year. When compared with last year, the key challenges are less prevalent:

  • Producing enough content has decreased from 64 percent to 58 percent. (click to tweet)
  • Producing engaging content has decreased from 54 percent to 45 percent.
  • Producing a variety of content has decreased from 43 percent to 40 percent. 

bar chart-b2b marketer challenges

To learn more, download the full report for further insights and answers to questions like:

  • How do small business marketers measure content marketing success?
  • How much content creation do they outsource?
  • How do the most effective small business marketers do things differently when compared with their less effective peers?

Do you agree with the findings? Are they consistent with what you see in your own organization? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Joe Large

    I’d love to meet some businesses that want to do solid content marketing. Most pose and say they will but at the least hiccup, it’s back to cold calls and smile/dial. Makes me sick.

    • Blue Pax

      Same here. It has been mostly an uphill battle trying to convince businesses to adopt content marketing as most are comfortable with traditional online marketing. But in the past year things have improved much, especially when they realized that their current tactics are no longer ranking them well on search engines. I think that soon most would adopt CM now that more and more professionals in the online marketing space are recommending it. 🙂

      • Joe Large

        I really really hope you’re right Blue Pax. I think my industry (mech. & construction) probably lag. The nice thing about it if you can convince one of these businesses to do CM they could dominate the niche quickly and completely.

        • Mark A. Evertz

          Hey Joe Large … have Joe P. share his Pool manufacturer content story if you haven’t heard it. That guy committed to helping customers and prospects deal with the challenges of being a pool owner in a blog and other pieces (I think) and just crushed it. I’m sure Joe as more. I just know if you help people solve a problem — your industry has ’em too — people will pay attention. Good luck!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hey Joe…we are still at the very beginning of this process. Think of this as inning 1 of 9. We need to take baby steps and education is key. But agree, it’s frustrating sometimes.

  • Blue Pax

    I have been a copywriter for over 8 years now but it has only been in
    the past year that I’ve come to appreciate the role of quality content
    in online marketing (thanks in part to Google’s effort to reward
    businesses who consistently provide real and valuable information to

    That said, the shift to content marketing has been
    both a blessing and curse to me. A blessing because finally quality
    content gets the attention it deserves; a curse because I had to unlearn
    most of what I’ve learned (I was neck-deep into brand marketing, not
    content marketing). Though it took me some time to get the hang of CM,
    the eventual rewards, both personally as a writer and professionally for
    my clients, were definitely worth it.

    This report made me more
    confident that I’m on the right track. I was becoming concerned when my
    clients wanted tangible reports on ROI but, unlike traditional
    practices, the effectiveness of content marketing is not that easy to
    measure. Now at least I can show to my clients this report to help them
    understand more why they should be investing on CM.

    Thanks for this, looking forward to more reports. 🙂

  • Anupam Bonanthaya

    the most interesting thing is that –
    1. the success measure of content marketing is seen as more traffic and leads.
    2. case-studies (includes customer stories, testimonials, etc) are seen as the most effective (69% effective)
    my big question would be – are we effectively utilizing our customer stories ? if yes, how do we know ? are we connecting 2 with 1 ?

  • Dr. Anthony C. Edwards

    Joe, I agree with your list of the challenges small business marketers face (time, engagement, etc.).

  • Hashim Warren

    Joe, I do not find that many of our B2B clients have embraced content marketing when I speak to them. However, those that do find it very difficult to keep a program going.

  • Barbara Mckinney

    Many companies are beginning to realize the exponential power of professional networking sites like LinkedIn, and I predict it will have a breakout year this year.

  • Softwares Marketing

    Parabéns pelo trabalho.