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2020 B2C Content Marketing: An Excellent Adventure [New Research]

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our research study for 2023.

Whoa dude! Thirty years ago, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was released in theaters. That’s a most excellent anniversary.

We’ve been producing our B2C Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends only about a third as long. In reviewing this year’s results, we couldn’t help but notice some, well, bodacious correlations.

The headline? B2C Marketers Begin to Get Some Serious Traction with Content Marketing.

The subhead? Many Still Struggle Moving Content Performance From Average to Excellence.

Let’s explore.

Caesar is more than a salad dressing; content is more than branding

The title characters start the movie in a bad way. Ted is about to be sent off to military school because the only thing he and Bill have learned in history class is that Caesar is a salad dressing.

Well Caesar is obviously more than a salad dressing, and B2C marketers are still discovering that content marketing can cover more than just the beginning of the customer journey.

While B2C marketers are using content marketing somewhat successfully, there is still a serious focus only on building the overall brand at the top of the funnel. The three most-cited marketing goals in the last 12 months were:

  • Creating brand awareness (84%)
  • Educating audiences (75%)
  • Building credibility/trust (65%)

However, fewer marketers have focused on some of the deeper journey or core content marketing concepts, such as:

  • Nurturing subscribers/audiences (49%)
  • Generating sales/revenue (48%)
  • Building a subscribed audience (38%)
Only 38% of B2C marketers are successfully building a subscribed audience via @cmicontent. #B2C #research Click To Tweet

Those latter three goals are usually more prevalent when moving content marketing strategies from “good” to “excellence.” They focus on leveraging a deeper relationship with audiences over a longer time.

Bill and Ted ultimately learned more about history with their journey through time, and today’s B2C content marketer may ultimately learn from comparing the average survey results against those who characterize their organizations as “sophisticated or mature” in content marketing.

Sophisticated/mature marketers are much more likely (52% vs. 29%) to be extremely/very successful with content marketing. More to the point, these sophisticated/mature content marketers always or frequently craft content based on stages of the customer journey (69% vs. 50%) and provide optimal experiences across the engagement journey (70% vs. 54%).

Strange things afoot at the Circle K; learn from our future selves

When Bill and Ted are at the Circle K store, they get a great lesson when their future selves arrive to advise them to go on their most excellent adventure.

A good number of B2C marketers are, indeed, progressing nicely using content marketing as a key piece of their strategy. But success took a small step backward. In the 2019 research, 82% rated their organization as extremely, very, or moderately successful with content marketing. This year, that figure was 75%.

75% of #B2C marketers say their #contentmarketing is successful via @cmicontent #research Click To Tweet

It’s not a huge drop, and the sample sizes were a bit different this year, but it indicates a seven-percentage-point increase in the “minimally successful” zone. (Keep in mind, some of those “minimally successful” marketers may still be in the early stages of content marketing maturity.)

Let these successful B2C marketers serve as our future selves and learn from what they’re doing now and apply those lessons in 2020.

You can dig into the full 2020 B2C research report that dives into a number of those helpful details, including:

New 2020 #research reveals how #B2C marketers are succeeding with #contentmarketing via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Be excellent with one another; pull together an effective team

In the movie, Bill and Ted assemble a team of great historic leaders – Napoleon, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Joan of Arc, and even Abraham Lincoln – to help them in their presentation to their history class.

Our 2020 research examined how B2C marketers view their team structures as they help with content marketing.

This may be the biggest challenge for content marketing in B2C organizations. The investment in a core team that matches the expectations of what content can do for the business just hasn’t materialized.

Among all respondents, only 18% say they have a centralized content marketing group that works with multiple brands/products/departments throughout the organization. As one would expect, the percentage was higher among larger organizations with more than 100 employees (24%) and even lower for smaller businesses (11%).

In fact, the most common team structure by far is still a small marketing/content marketing team that services the entire organization.

How small?

Well, our research found again that the average team size among all respondents was between two and five people. This was true across both small and larger companies. Even more interesting, 27% of all respondents say no one is fully dedicated to the role of content marketing.

It’s probably no surprise then that over half of B2C organizations (55%) outsource some content marketing activities. And of those that do, by far, the most outsourced task is content creation – 80% outsource this activity.

What’s next: It gets better

At the end of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, their guide from the future, Rufus, tells them that their dream of having a band is at hand. He gives them the guitars and they start playing. The music is, well, not awesome. As the credits roll, Rufus looks at the camera and tells us not to worry. “They do get better,” he says. (And 2020 may be the year we find out if he was right as Bill & Ted 3 hits theaters.)

While we don’t have Rufus, signs point to things getting better for content marketing.

Our research found that 78% of B2C organizations are now using metrics to measure content performance. Additionally, of the 51% measuring content marketing ROI, more than half (56%) say their ability to demonstrate ROI is excellent or very good.

In 2020, 59% of B2C marketers expect larger content marketing budgets than they had in 2019. And half of respondents say their priorities are improving the quality/conversion of audiences and focusing on content quality/quantity.

Though I’m not Rufus, I also can tell you we are working with more and more companies in the B2C space looking to develop content marketing as a core strategy. The coming data-privacy wars (GDPR and CCPA) and the ongoing evolution of paid media still point to content marketing becoming an incredibly important part of any B2C strategy.

Content marketing is alive and well in B2C – and it’s on a most excellent adventure.

#Contentmarketing is alive and well in #B2C – and it’s on a most excellent adventure, says @robert_rose via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet

For more insights, view the 2020 B2C report.

Take an excellent adventure in 2020. Join us at ContentTECH Summit in April and Content Marketing World in October. Register today! 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute