If the B2B community feels overwhelmed by the volume of content, then B2B marketing might feel overwhelmed by the volume of content marketing studies. Yet it’s still important to pause from time-to-time and review the data and trends.
The trends suggest to me that content is still very much a form of currency bartered in exchange for attention. However, marketers, especially B2B marketers are beginning to realize that, in an economy of trust, not all currencies are equal. High-quality content may well be more than a floating currency – it is the precious metal of the trust economy.
This post provides summaries to four recent content marketing studies – as part of the cliff note series – which routinely provide quick reviews of surveys and studies. In addition, the weekly roundups – Unscripted Marketing – often includes (but not exclusively) summaries of relevant reports.
Here are the cliff notes to four recent content marketing studies.
1) Content Requirements at Every Stage of the Sale
The survey of more than 6,000 respondents involved in B2B purchasing decisions found the following factors have the most influence on buyer’s willingness to engage:
- 26% understands my company’s business model
- 25% is a subject matter expert or thought leader
- 25% provides valuable consultation, education or tools
- 25% know my company’s products or service
The mid-journey also remains a neglected area of focus in content marketing, but the study underscores its importance. The report says there are between 3.1 and 4.6 additional groups that influence the B2B purchasing process including IT, HR and finance.
IT by far (56%) has the most influence on B2B tech buying decisions according to respondents.
What sort of sales content helps close deals?
Buyers say product information like feature and functions, demos and best practices have the most value. These outranked social proof signals such as case studies, peer testimonials and expert opinions.
This should not be a surprise because market research indicates “buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor.”
The buyer at this stage in the deal wants the facts – not a bullet point about invented benefits marketing made up or customer testimonials – they’ve already seen that or wouldn’t be there.
Once a deal has been inked, how do you strengthen the customer relationship? The majority, 56% said, build trust. It’s a reminder that content marketing doesn’t end after a sale closes.
- Study: Why B2B Marketers Waste 19% of Their Budgets
- How to Get the B2B Marketing Persona Right [UML]
Don’t miss these useful posts:
11 Simple Ways for PR to Score Content Marketing Points
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The Advantages of Working with a Boutique PR Firm in B2B
2) Goals and Barriers in B2B Content Marketing
Most B2B marketing organizations (66%) believe their content marketing is successful – and it’s trending up according to the 2016 State of Content Marketing report by Ascend2. The study also found an overwhelming majority (89%) believe the effectiveness of content marketing is improving.
“One reason for the uptick in B2B content marketing is a growing consensus among marketers that the discipline can be used to drive business results,” said eMarketer in an analysis of the study (link below).
According to the study, top goals are:
- 58% said increase lead generation
- 55% said improve customer engagement
- 46% said increase brand awareness
If marketing thinks content marketing is going to drive lead generation, then I hope it has already nailed the awareness and engagement. This is because awareness, engagement and trust are stages of a sales cycle that precede the transformation into leads.
The data suggests some organizations may have overlooked this consideration given the “lack of an effective strategy” was the top barrier to effective content marketing. To that end, the study also found the top barriers include:
- 48% said lack of an effective strategy
- 48% lack of content creation resources
- 47% budget constraints
Outsourcing content marketing (72%) is a key way for B2B to overcome the top barriers – especially with the lack of resources, knowledge, or the budget to staff content marketing role with top tier talent.
- Survey Finds Improving Optimism in Content Marketing
- B2B Marketers Struggle to Create Effective Content Marketing Materials
3) B2B Needs to Re-think Thought Leadership
Most consumers (96%) “like to encounter thoughts and ideas that go beyond current thinking.” That’s a solid working definite of the term “thought leadership” but it seems many organizations are regurgitating existing thinking and attempting to pass it off as thought leading.
That’s my take after perusing the study “Thought Leadership Disrupted” by The Economist Group and communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton (summary; key findings; perspectives). The study, which surveyed 1,644 executives around the world, makes a compelling assertion that brands are not “truly focused on the audience” but are rather focused on more content for content’s sake.
The summary notes rather profoundly, “the very idea of what it means to be a thought leader – once limited to an elite group of businesses that truly developed proprietary knowledge – has broadened and become devalued, and is increasingly is seen as becoming an overused and self-serving tactic, one that is contributing to the noise rather than cutting through it with original insights and innovative distribution.”
Some of the key statistics that stood out for me:
- 33% of executives consume thought leadership daily;
- 56% think content has become more intrusive intrusiveness;
- 3 in 5 executives sometimes feel overwhelmed by the volume of content;
- 75% of executives have become more selective about the content they’ll consume;
- ~25% of though leadership earns engagement;
- 80% plan to increase the amount they produce in the coming 12 months.
What the findings didn’t resolve is whether or not marketers are able to kick the addiction to clicks and shares and focus instead on meeting the needs of more selective senior audiences.
Disclosure: It’s been a while, but H&K is a former employer.
- Economist Study: B2B Leaders Conflicted about Content Marketing
- What Makes Thought Leadership Content Effective?
- B2B Customers Want Thought Leadership
4) What Success in Content Marketing Looks Like
There are four key elements in effective content marketing: 1) commitment 2) consistent 3) documented strategy and 4) devotion of time and resources to produce quality content.
That’s a one-sentence summary of the 45-page 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Trends. Among the top performers – those finding success with content marketing:
- 91% say the organization is committed to content marketing
- 85% deliver content marketing consistently
- 39% of the total marketing budget is allocated to content marketing
* * *
The trends are fairly clear according to these studies – and the findings have been generally consistent over time. Those brands looking for a cheap shortcut in content marketing will continue to be disappointed. The brands that build the team, the partners, the systems and processes will find success in this approach in the trust economy.
Other related studies covered you might enjoy include:
- Paid Social: Cliff Notes to 3 Social Media Studies
- PR Briefing: Summarizing 3 Recent Public Relations Studies
- Marketing Curiosity: The Cliff Notes to 5 Recent Surveys
- The CMO Survey with Social & Mobile Marketing Takeaways