Skip to content

5 Research Insights to Drive Your Content Marketing


Editor’s note: The 2019 version of the article is available here.

Now in its seventh year, the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs annual survey of content marketers has evolved with the times. In 2010, content marketing was little more than a buzzword. Most marketers dabbling in the approach were curious about the tactics (e.g., blogging, webinars, events) their peers were using and how well those tactics were working.

Sure, we’re still interested in tactics … but there is so much more to consider now. Content marketing has grown into a complex business discipline composed of many distinct areas — content creation, strategy, distribution, paid promotion, and measurement, to name a few. Managers have to determine the best ways to organize content marketing across the enterprise, how much budget they need, and the mix of roles required to pull it off. There’s always something new to learn.

Here are five key insights based on the responses of 1,102 B2B marketers in North America — representing a wide range of industries, company sizes, and content marketing maturity levels — as reported in B2B Content Marketing 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.

1. What drives success

Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers say their organization’s overall approach to content marketing is much more or somewhat more successful than one year ago.


When asked about the factors contributing to that success, two appear to be most influential: more effective content creation and developing/adjusting content marketing strategy. (In past years, survey respondents indicated content creation issues were among their top content marketing challenges, so it’s reassuring to see progress on this front.)

#Contentmarketing success: Higher quality, more efficient content; strategy creation/adjustment. @LisaBeets Share on X


 How this insight can help

Consider how well your organization is doing with regards to each factor cited above — in particular looking at the quality of the content you create, the efficiency of the process, and the strategy underlying all your efforts. While marketers are often told to experiment and iterate to improve results, it’s equally important to step back and take a hard look at bigger-picture issues such as process, people, and strategy. These findings offer insights to inspire those discussions.

2. Content marketing success takes time

B2B marketers who are stuck or falling behind with their content marketing indicate that the main reason is, “not enough time devoted to content marketing.”

B2B marketers who are falling behind w/ #contentmarketing say there is not enough time devoted. @LisaBeets Share on X

Of the 28% of B2B marketers who say their content marketing success is about the same as one year ago, nearly half attribute that stagnancy to not enough time devoted to content marketing (the No. 1 most frequently cited reason). This also is the main reason cited by those who say their success decreased over the last year.

How this insight can help

Pull back from the minutiae of day-to-day management and ask whether there is anything you can eliminate or do more efficiently. If you are able to devote more time to content marketing this year, which areas of focus will give you the biggest bang for your buck? The answer will be unique to your organization and its specific goals, audience, and budget, but be sure you have a documented content marketing strategy before you do anything else. It will serve as your road map and help you set the priorities.

3. Content marketers need support from upper management

Almost one out of four B2B marketers aren’t given ample time to produce content marketing results.

Fifty-two percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agree that their leadership team gives them ample time to produce content marketing results. Twenty-four percent neither agree nor disagree, and 24% disagree.

How this insight can help

Leaders who give their teams time to produce results are to be congratulated. Content marketers who enjoy this type of support often feel empowered to try different things and take risks. If you’re not giving (or receiving) ample time to generate results, consider this finding: 77% of top performers report they have ample time (see the next section for how we define top content marketing performers). Clearly, having enough time to produce results has a positive impact on overall content marketing success.

Content marketers w/ supportive leaders often feel empowered to try different things, says @LisaBeets. Share on X

4. Top content marketing performers show distinguishing characteristics

Content marketers who report the highest levels of success are further along in their content marketing maturity. Every year, we look closely at respondents who report the highest levels of content marketing success and hold them up as our best-in-class content marketers. (Our top performers are defined as those who characterize their organization’s overall content marketing approach as extremely or very successful.)


How this insight can help

Review each attribute where the most successful content marketers are more likely to do things differently. Is your organization clear on what content marketing success looks like? Are you realistic? Are you committed to content marketing? Have you documented your content marketing strategy? Do you deliver content consistently? If you can’t answer affirmatively, focus on these areas for improvement.

5. If you want optimal results, commit fully

Ninety-one percent of top B2B content marketing performers are extremely or very committed to content marketing, compared with 63% of all B2B marketers surveyed.


Not surprisingly, those who report the lowest levels of commitment are from organizations in the first steps/young phases of content marketing. The data indicate that as an organization grows in content marketing experience, it becomes more committed to the approach.

How this insight can help

Go all in with your content marketing. Don’t be sort-of committed. The need for a strong commitment is just as great in the young/early phases as it is after you achieve sustained, successful results because it can take more than one year to see content marketing results.

Take part in our next survey

We will begin fielding the next annual content marketing survey this June. We’re extremely grateful for the thousands of marketers worldwide who take the time to provide their opinions and share their content marketing experiences for the betterment and advancement of the entire industry. If you haven’t participated and would like to, please subscribe to receive our email updates.

This article originally appeared in the February issue of CCO magazine. Subscribe for your free print copy today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute