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The Enduring Characteristics of Winning B2B Content Marketing Programs

Effective B2B content marketing programs have a documented strategy, build a subscription audience and use metrics to inform decisions

What separates successful B2B content marketing programs from those that underperform?

Some of the answers are found on page four of the newest B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends (opens in PDF) report by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs.

Every year the survey asks respondents to rate the success of their content marketing programs – and then compares and contrasts the answers provided throughout the survey. Here’s what the survey found among the most successful content marketers this year:

  • 60% have a documented content marketing strategy
  • 80% use an editorial calendar
  • 60% build a subscription audience
  • 73% use content marketing to nurture subscribers and leads
  • 94% use metrics to measure content performance
  • 77% have a mature content marketing organization

The survey is in its 11th year and while the questions can vary some, the underlying conclusions are always the same. For example, here’s a post on the page four findings from 2016.

There’s a one-page recipe to success every year on the same page. Below are some ideas for putting the findings into action.

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1. If you don’t have a content marketing strategy – make one.

A good way to get started on a content strategy is to start listing the primary interests of your target audience. Next, identify what you will and will not cover – and list “why?” This is the start of a strategy.

Importantly, it doesn’t start with your product or product category – it starts with the audience. A content strategy doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be perfect. You should continue to refine it over time.

A client of I worked with recognized that a talent shortage in cybersecurity was problem among their prospects. It’s hard to sell a product to a prospect that doesn’t have the human resources in place to use it. We evolved the content strategy to include solutions to that problem. That approach endeared the company to potential buyers, opened doors to new influencers and the results showed up in the analytics.

2. Focus on building subscribers.

If you don’t a mechanism in place to convert subscribers, I argue that you’re doing content marketing. You might have good content – and it may even be effective – but without subscribers, it’s not any different than what marketing has always done.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see because you have to put the same effort into pushing content out every single time you publish. But if you have subscribers, and it goes out automatically it gets easier – and compounds over time as you grow your subscribers.

Successful content marketing programs are built with subscribers. That subscriber base is a valuable asset. It provides distribution. It’s a place to experiment with ideas. Is complements other areas of marketing from research to re-marketing.

3. Metrics are for more than measurement.

A while back I noticed an uptick in the analytics to content about law firm profitability for a legal technology client. It had been a while since we had done anything new in that area, so I put the chart on the screen in our next meeting and the data-informed changes to our editorial calendar.

This was an opportunity. The audience the client had attracted was telling them they needed new ideas about law firm profitability.

Metrics are certainly important for measuring the success of your program – but spending some time sorting through the data will bring forward ideas you hadn’t thought about. In other words, your audience will signal to you what they need and that, in turn, drives your strategy.

* * *

The B2B report is based on the survey responses of 740 content marketers in North America. The survey this year also ask questions about the effect of the pandemic. The full report is ungated and freely available for download. Here are some of the other highlights: 2021 B2B Content Marketing: What Now? [New Research].

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Image credit: Photo by Ariel on Unsplash and the respective study

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