By Lisa Murton Beets published April 12, 2017

Time for B2B Enterprise Marketers to Get Focused on Their Audience vs. Their Brands [New Research]


Too many B2B enterprise marketers are focusing on their brand rather than their audience while creating content. That’s one of the key findings in our new research report, B2B Enterprise Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America sponsored by KnowledgeVision.

Let’s take a look at the actual stat: 53% of B2B enterprise marketers who responded to our annual content marketing survey say they agree that their organization is focused on creating content for their audience versus their brand. That’s a lot lower than the 69% of all B2B North American marketers we surveyed (across all industry types and company sizes) who focus on audience versus brand. In other words, B2B enterprise marketers are among the worst offenders here.

Too many B2B enterprise marketers focus on their brand, not their audience, says @LisaBeets. Click To Tweet

And it’s a turnoff. In fact, in his recent CMI blog post, 4 Content Marketing Things That Turn Off Your Audience, Neil Patel declares that making it about you, not your audience is the No. 1 turnoff.

As a brand, it can be tempting to focus on topics that you’re interested in but which aren’t necessarily of interest to your audience. For example, you may be intrigued with industry trends and decide to create blog posts, white papers, infographics, etc., about them. But if they don’t resonate with your audience, you’re going to see little to no effectiveness. In some cases, it can even drive a wedge between you and your audience.

Focus on topics of little interest to your audience can drive a wedge b/n you & your audience. @neilpatel Click To Tweet

I have to admit I’m a bit disheartened by our research finding that only half of enterprise marketers get this. I remember crafting a subhead titled, It’s Not About You, while editing Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett’s breakthrough book on content marketing, Get Content Get Customers. That was nearly a decade ago!

In all fairness, maybe more enterprise marketers do get this, but are facing internal pressures that prevent them from doing this. The sheer size of large organizations makes content marketing particularly challenging.

In any case, it’s an important shift in mindset that has to happen within your enterprise, as a focus on audience is a basic tenet of content marketing. Put simply, you won’t be able to sustain long-term content marketing success if you don’t put your audience first.

You can’t sustain long-term #contentmarketing success if you don’t put your audience first, says @LisaBeets. Click To Tweet

Top-performing B2B enterprise marketers DO get it

Now, let’s look only at the top performers in the sample: 92% say they are more focused on their audience than their brand – it’s one of the things that differentiates them from their less successful peers. See the chart below for other ways in which these top performers stand out from their peers.

Enterprise-Research-Top Performers

Examples of audience-focused B2B brands

Finding examples of B2B enterprise content marketers highly focused on their audiences is not as easy as you might think. Sure, there are those that have been doing this – and doing it well – for some time (e.g., IBM, Cisco, Intel), but I wanted some lesser-known examples, so I did a basic web search. Unfortunately, too many of the sites were focused on the About Us versus ME – and why I might be there. Atlassian and Deloitte were two exceptions.


Atlassian, an enterprise software company, greets me at its home page with, “Team up to create what’s next (watch the video).” It then asks, “Is your IT team doing enough to shape business strategy?”

At the bottom of the home page, I can easily find “Amazing Content” and “Popular Blogs,” with titles like 15 Books That Help Grow Your Careers and Can Humans Thrive in the Bot Economy?


Atlassian sends tweets like, “Three ways college grads can master the threat of automation,” and “Find out how to overcome analysis paralysis in our new step-by-step guide to project management.”

This content is created for the AUDIENCE, not the brand. In my case, the content pulled me in so quickly and effectively that it wasn’t until I was about to leave the site that I looked for the actual products that Atlassian develops (Trello, a tool I use, is among them – I had no idea!).

.@Atlassian’s content pulled me in; it wasn’t until I was about to leave that I looked for products. @LisaBeets Click To Tweet


I love this copy I found on the Deloitte website while I was searching for the About Us section.

All the facts and figures that talk to our size and diversity and years of history, as notable and important as they may be, are secondary to the truest measure of Deloitte: The impact we make in the world.

So, when people ask, ‘What’s different about Deloitte?’ the answer resides in the many specific examples of where we have helped Deloitte member firm clients, our people, and sections of society to achieve remarkable goals, solve complex problems, or make meaningful progress. Deeper still, it’s in the beliefs, behaviors, and fundamental sense of purpose that underpin all that we do.”

Deloitte is focused on its audience’s informational needs. Look at the various forms of educational content it offers on just one subject of interest (cyber risk) to executives working in manufacturing.


Other key findings

While enterprise marketers are doing some things right, there is a lot of room for improvement. For example, too few are fully committed to content marketing, too many are lacking clarity about what content marketing success means to their organization, and too few have a documented content marketing strategy to guide their efforts.

Too few enterprise marketers commit to #contentmarketing & too many lack clarity on success. @LisaBeets Click To Tweet

I encourage you to download the report today to compare how you benchmark against your peers. If you’re doing a stellar job or know of a company that is, please let us know. We’re always looking for great examples to share!

On a parting note, this is the final report we’ll be producing from the last annual survey. If you’re a CMI subscriber, please watch your email box for an invitation to participate in our next annual survey and watch for new research findings beginning in the fall. This data is so important to helping us create a stronger content marketing industry, and we really appreciate the time that everyone takes to participate.

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 Lisa Lehman/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Lisa Murton Beets

Lisa Murton Beets is Content Marketing Institute's research director. She oversees all aspects of our annual content marketing survey, as well as the reports we publish based on the findings. Lisa also works with CMI’s consulting/advisory and sales teams to develop and report on custom research surveys. Follow her @LisaBeets.

Other posts by Lisa Murton Beets

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  • Sarah Goff-Dupont

    Hi Lisa, I’m so tickled to see Atlassian’s blog called out. Our content marketing team has gulped down a whole lot of the “audience-first” KoolAid (thanks in large part to CMI’s blogs!), and we’ve been working hard over the past year to evangelize that mindset with our product marketers. I can’t wait to share your post with them :o)

    -Sarah Goff-Dupont (Principal Writer, Atlassian)

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Hi Sarah – Thanks so much for your note; it made my day! Congratulations on your outstanding work!

  • Jamey Austin

    Right on, Lisa! You made our day over here. We love CMI, delighted to be included. Thanks for validating our efforts.

    • Lisa Murton Beets

      Thanks, Jamey! Keep up the great work!

  • Brooke Harper @Tenfold

    So on point, Lisa. Audience or customers should come first when it comes to marketing. Whereas its main purpose is for the company or brand, but the content should direct to the customers and their pain points. Also, good job to the companies cited here as an example. Setting the bar higher for everyone else! Great article, Lisa!

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