By Joe Pulizzi published September 28, 2016

Content Marketing Takes a Turn for the Better: New 2017 Research

b2b-2017-research-coverIf you were able to join us at Content Marketing World — or have been following some of the coverage — you know that the tides are turning. While last year at this time we were facing the trough of disillusionment, the energy and momentum we are seeing right now are far more positive. In fact, our newest research, B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, backs this up.

Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers in North America say that compared to one year ago, their organization’s overall approach to content marketing has been much more or somewhat more successful.

This was just one of the findings in Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs’ B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America sponsored by Brightcove.


To what factors do marketers attribute this increased success? The top two factors are: doing a better job with content creation (85%) and developing or adjusting their content marketing strategy (72%).


In addition to asking marketers to identify why they are more successful, we also have research to identify what top performers are doing differently than their peers. Our study defined top performers as those who characterize their organization’s overall content marketing approach as extremely or very successful.

As we have seen in past years, successful marketers do a few things differently. They:

  • Document their content marketing strategy (Learn how.)
Top performing marketers document their #contentmarketing strategy via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet Top performing marketers have clarity of what #contentmarketing success looks like via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet Top performing marketers create differentiated #content via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet

But, this year we have even more to reveal. In fact, we have more than 75 data points that explain what top performers are doing differently, which we’ll explore in depth over the coming months. (Shameless plug: Subscribe to our newsletter to get all of our new research reports plus the whys of our research.)

Here are just a few highlights:

Top performers are “all in” with content marketing

As I explored in my opening keynote talk at Content Marketing World — and in this follow-up blog post — one of the biggest differences we see between marketers who are top performers and those who aren’t is level of commitment: 91% of top performers are extremely or very committed to content marketing, compared to 63% of the overall sample and 35% of the bottom performers (those who characterized their overall content marketing approach as minimally or not at all successful).

It’s just like being a parent or a driver: You can’t be “kind of” in and expect positive results. It simply doesn’t work that way. Make content marketing a priority or focus your efforts elsewhere.

Make #contentmarketing a priority or focus your efforts elsewhere says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

Top performers are realistic about what content marketing can achieve — and how long results will take

Is content marketing a silver bullet to solve your marketing woes? Absolutely not. As I’ve discussed, it takes a differentiated story, delivered consistently over time. If you expect results overnight, you’ll be disappointed.


Our research this year now supports this no-silver-bullet thinking — 91% of top performers indicate that their organizations are realistic about what content marketing can achieve, compared to 68% of the overall sample and 41% of bottom performers.

On top of this, 77% of top performers agree that leadership gives them ample time to succeed, compared to 52% of the overall sample and 26% of bottom performers.

Top performers deliver consistently

Just in case you missed one of the previously detailed keys: It’s critical to deliver consistently. Eight-five percent of top performers deliver content consistently, compared to 58% of the overall sample and 32% of bottom performers.

85% of top performing marketers deliver #content consistently over time via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet

TIP: Does “consistently” mean daily or weekly? Absolutely not. As Robert Rose has advised in our newsletter, you should publish “as little as you can and still have the impact you desire.” But do so consistently. (Repurposing is a great way to do this.)

Top performers focus on measurement

Not only do top performers commit, stay realistic, and deliver consistently, they also continuously check on content marketing progress (sounds like the basics of any long-term commitment such as a marriage or even a workout program). Eighty-eight percent of the top performers measure content marketing ROI, compared to 72% of the overall sample and 56% of the bottom performers.

88% of top #marketing performers measure #contentmarketing ROI via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet

Of course measurement is key because it enables you to understand what is working and focus on what is creating a return. Also, keeping your management informed of progress helps everyone stay realistic — and committed.

TIP: If you are looking for a simple way to get started checking on content marketing’s progress, look at this template that shows you how to report on key measures for your team.

These findings just scratch the surface of the insights coming out of this year’s research; thanks to all who participated.

Want to see how you compare? Take this 5-question assessment to get personalized suggestions on how you can become more successful with your content marketing efforts.

We are so excited about all of the data coming out of this research as well as our upcoming reports. If you are as well, please sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing.

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

  • Emily King

    Thank you for again publishing this trends report. These are always interesting to look through and offer such a wealth of insight.

    A few questions:

    – Why have ebooks and whitepapers been classed as the same thing?

    – What happened to case studies?

    – Any sign that those orgs with sophisticated/mature content marketing regimes have more of a focus on retention/loyalty than those with less established content marketing regimes?

    Regardless, this is fascinating data.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Emily…happy to answer.

      We decided to combine ebooks/white papers in the same category since these products are relatively close in meaning from a marketer’s perspective. One may have more design, one more text, but the goals and output is pretty similar. We’ve found many B2B marketers use them interchangeably.

      We removed case studies because the data year-over-year was exactly the same – all marketers to it, they are very important. But the CMI team has been questioning whether or not case studies are actually content marketing. We think it’s more in the product marketing camp (even though case studies can be told as stories). We will keep thinking about this one as we get more feedback.

      On the maturity – Yes, 64% of orgs who are in the sophisticated/mature phase cite customer retention/loyalty as a goal for content marketing over the next 12 months (vs. 56% of all respondents, 58% of those in the adolescent phase, and 46% in the young/first steps phase)

      Hope this has been helpful and thanks for the questions.

  • George Stenitzer

    Every year I look forward to this research. Thanks to Joe and Ann for driving it forward. Your new questions and survey data really advance the research’s usefulness this year. Can’t wait to see the B2C study!

  • Brandon Sugar

    Excellent we need more businesses to understand the importance of content marketing!

  • Felix Krueger

    Hi Joe,

    Do you know when the Australian version of this report will be released?


    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Felix…we will release those findings in three months.

      • Felix Krueger

        Thanks Joe, looking forward to it!

  • laura.woolridge

    I currently gain in the span of 6 thousand-8 thousand bucks /a month on the internet. Anyone eager to finish simple freelance tasks for some hours daily from your house and get solid income for doing it… Then this invitation is for you… FAVE.CO/2bocRGL

  • eko djanu ismoyo

    hi mr.joe and mr.felix please I still do not understand this problem, please help me … ok?

  • Rakesh Mishra

    Thats great content marketing research for B2B industries.
    What do you say about Coca-Cola’s 2020 B2B marketees content marketing strategy?


    Excellent stats. They are definitely an eye opener.