2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends

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by Ann Handley
In what ways do the most effective B2B marketers among us differ from our less effective peers? How do B2B marketers measure content marketing success? Which metric do we say is most important? Which tactics do we use? What increases content effectiveness? And what could we be focusing on more specifically?

The answers to those questions—and many more—are in this year’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, and sponsored by Brightcove.

This is the sixth year that MarketingProfs has teamed with Content Marketing Institute to produce this report, which feels like a lifetime in content marketing years.

We’ll be interpreting the data over the next few months. But, for now, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest findings.

Content Marketing Effectiveness

Only 44% of B2B marketers say their organization is clear about what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like. Some 55% of us say our organization is either unclear or we’re unsure whether our organization is clear…

Not surprisingly, then, just 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing (down from 38% last year).

Goals, Metrics, and Priorities

Over the past six years, B2B marketers have consistently cited website traffic as their most often used metric. Still, we say the most important metrics are sales lead quality (87%), sales (84%), and higher conversion rates (82%).

Lead generation (cited by 85%) and sales (cited by 84%) will be the most important goals for B2B content marketers over the next 12 months.

And we continue to heavily focus on creating engaging content (72%), citing it as the top priority for our internal content creators over the next year.

But that finding confounds me: While 72% want to focus on creating engaging content, just 41% of us are looking to hone our storytelling chops and a mere 19% are focused on becoming stronger writers.

I almost wrote a “tragic” 19%, but that seemed like I might be overstating it.

Or am I? The best content marketers need strong writing skills, because the foundation of content marketing is writing (no matter what form that content ultimately takes).

You might argue that because the survey forced B2B marketers to choose their five biggest priorities, the respondents lumped writing skills in with the “creating engaging content” choice. But I’m not so sure (and I say this with an informed love in my heart): My sense is that many of us vastly undervalue writing in the content process, which is why we have a tough time creating “engaging content”—and why that has consistently been a top challenge in the past six years.

Content Effectiveness and…

Documentation: B2B content marketers who document their strategy are more effective in nearly all areas of content marketing, the research consistently shows. Yet, smaller proportions among us have a documented content marketing strategy this year than last (32% vs. 35%).

Meetings: The more effective an organization is at content marketing, the more often it holds meetings: 61% of the most effective B2B marketers meet daily or weekly. Some 44% of us meet daily or weekly—either in person or virtually—to discuss the progress of our content marketing program.

Experience: In general, marketers become more effective as they gain experience. Respondents’ content marketing maturity levels were roughly equally apportioned: Approximately one-third of us were in the early stages; one-third, in the adolescent stage; and one-third, in the sophisticated/mature stage.

Budget: The most effective B2B marketers among us allocate 42% of their total marketing budget, on average, to content marketing, and the most sophisticated/mature allocate 46%. The average for all B2B marketers is 28% (same as last year).

Other Findings

Check out the full B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report for much more:

  • Section 1: Usage & Effectiveness
  • Section 2: Strategy & Organization
  • Section 3: Content Creation & Distribution
  • Section 4: Goals & Metrics
  • Section 5: Budgets & Spending
  • Section 6: Challenges & Priorities
  • Comparison Chart: Profile of a Best-in-Class B2B Content Marketer
  • Comparison Chart: Differences Between B2B and B2C Content Marketers
  • Demographics

2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report from MarketingProfs