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

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our annual B2B research study for 2024.

If 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