By Joe Pulizzi published September 30, 2015

What Effective B2B Content Marketing Looks Like [New Research]


It’s that time of year again when we release the findings of our annual content marketing survey. Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about effectiveness. But this year, while our team was discussing new questions for the survey, we stepped back and wondered – how many companies even know what effectiveness looks like?

The answer may (or may not) surprise you. Get this: 55% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers said that it is unclear within their organization what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like.

Regardless, what’s great about the research is that we can examine how the most-effective marketers are going about their business so we can learn from them.

Let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the report, B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and TrendsNorth America, produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, and sponsored by Brightcove.

Effectiveness increases when the team understands what success looks like


Last year, 38% of B2B marketers said they were effective at content marketing vs. 30% this year. While perhaps the industry is approaching a trough of disillusionment (which isn’t necessarily a surprising or bad thing – and was something I mentioned in my opening address at Content Marketing World 2015), companies that report being clear on what success or effectiveness looks like also show a higher effectiveness rate (55%).

32% of B2B marketers are sophisticated/mature with content marketing


Learn more about what success looks like in today’s organizations in our B2B research roundtable discussion on the topic.

Effectiveness also increases as the organization’s content marketing grows in maturity. Sixty-four percent in the sophisticated/mature phase say they are effective at content marketing, 23% in the adolescent phase say they are effective at content marketing, and 6% in the young/first-steps phase say they are effective at content marketing. Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts so you can understand what more-experienced content marketers are doing.

Communication is key


Obviously, knowing what content marketing success looks like to the organization is beneficial, but the most-effective marketers do even more. (Note: Most-effective marketers are defined as those who rate their organization’s content marketing effectiveness with a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.)

The most-effective marketers are more likely than less-effective marketers to document their content marketing strategy, have a documented editorial mission statement, and hold regular meetings. In fact, 61% of the most-effective B2B marketers meet daily or weekly with their content marketing team either virtually or in person. Furthermore, those who meet daily or weekly find the meetings to be more valuable (70%) than those who meet biweekly or monthly (49%).

Work still needs to be done on documenting strategies and missions


For the last two years we’ve shown the positive impact that documenting the content marketing strategy has on a marketer’s overall effectiveness. But B2B marketers have made less progress in this area over the last year. As our fifth annual study (B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America) revealed, 35% of B2B marketers had a documented content marketing strategy, compared with 32% this year.

Download our 16-page guide to learn how to document your content marketing strategy.

New this year, we asked if content marketers are documenting their editorial missions: 28% are, but that percentage increases with effectiveness — 48% of the most-effective have a documented editorial mission statement. (For more insights about creating your editorial mission statement, check out our B2B research roundtable discussion on the topic.)

Read the entire report for more details on these and many more findings, including:

  • Which tactics, social media platforms, and paid methods of content promotion are marketers using? Which are the most effective?
  • What is the most important metric for measuring content marketing success?
  • How much budget do they allocate to content marketing?
  • Which content offers are they asking people to subscribe to?
  • Which goals will they be focusing on over the next 12 months?
  • What the top priorities are for B2B content creators in the coming year — and which ones are falling out of favor?

What do you think of the findings? What does effective or successful content marketing look like in your organization? Let us know in the comments.

Over the coming weeks, CMI will be discussing these findings in more depth. To keep up to date, subscribe to our blog posts.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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

  • Paul Mattioli

    Fantastic data Joe and a testimony to how fractured the B2B space really is when it comes to harnessing content and truly understanding what effectiveness really is and/or means to them. Will be sharing abundantly with internal and external clients. Great work as always from the CMI…

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Paul!

      • James Wann

        Hi Joe,

        I’d like to use one of the images here in a post I am writing. Can you confirm if, with proper credit, that is okay?



        • Joe Pulizzi

          Hi James…yes, with attribution, of course. Share away.

          • James Wann

            Thanks for the response, it’ll be a great help.

  • Melissa Weir

    Hey Joe. Nice job. These metrics really help us little guys indoctrinate (heh) smaller companies into the world of content marketing.

    I’m a little surprised at the number of marketers that don’t have their strategy written down in a plan. I thought I was one in a small group of holdouts that still go by the plan in my head — dangerous at my age.

    I’m looking forward to sharing and discussing amongst my home town cohorts. Thanks for the information — today and every day!

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  • Michael I

    Some excellent information Joe! Thank you!

    Interestingly, as some have now mentioned the integration of a press release within their content marketing strategy, we have seen a similar correlation in numbers in the press release service industry (we are with 24-7 Press Release Newswire) with what you had mentioned above.

    We thought the numbers we had originally seen were ‘off’, however after seeing what you had posted, it was a relief to see similar numbers in the frequency of posting (weekly being the highest) and age groups.

    Thank you again Joe,

    24-7 Press Release Newswire

  • Michael Semer

    Great post, as always, and and I’ll pass it along to my own clients as I keep striving to help them understand how to approach content marketing from a publisher’s mindset, not as marketers leashed to a project-to-project mentality. To this day, some of them still seem to think content should be some kind of direct response mechanism.

  • Vinay Johar

    Interesting In the past year, content marketing has obtained incredible momentum. However, while marketers are investing budget and time to adopt the concepts and methods of content marketing, it’s clearly a strategy they are getting usual to using. This post helps to benchmark your B2B content marketing efforts and inspires you to pump up your content marketing strategy!

  • Steve Peck

    Love this time of year as I know every where I turn I’ll be hit in the face with another new, original research point from someone unexpected quoting this report ; )

    Very curious to learn if you have a breakdown of the 50% of respondents who represent “small” and “micro” sized businesses. VERY curious to see how trends among this group differs from the big boys.

    Does this separated data exist?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Steve. Thanks. Yes, we will be providing a small business report in a month or so. If you get the enewsletter, you’ll get the notification when it’s out. Thanks so much!

  • Heba Hosny

    The report is excellent. Thank you for your effort. What struck me the most is the unjustifiable regression in some no-brainer areas such as having a documented content marketing strategy! I wonder have you surveyed a different set of B2Bs this year or some of them were interviewed last year as well? Roughly speaking, what’s the percentage of B2Bs that were interviewed in both years?

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Hi Heba. Thank you for your note! Could be several different factors at play (e.g.,organization just starting out with content marketing, internal changes took place, etc.). We went to the same lists of marketers this year. In terms of
      numbers, 1,521 B2B North American marketers completed the survey this year, and 1,820 completed the survey last year. Glad you like the report!

  • Kim Gabriel Manzano Marfil

    Great post Joe! If you have the time, you can also check this article that shows how high-quality content can increase your sales and leads.

  • Indio John

    There is a big ratio who doing B2B content marketing and I guess with the time content marketing is becoming necessary for online business.

  • Cori MacCallum

    From a goals/metrics perspective, I am interested in making the connection for business leaders as to why the shift from collateral strategy to content strategy will impact the bottom line. I realize this is the age old question of tying marketing to sales, but seeing that the most important success measures are quality leads, sales and higher conversion rates, why is content marketing relevant/important to meeting those goals?