Best practices in B2B content marketing are constantly evolving, and to achieve next-level success, companies must regularly re-evaluate tactics to ensure their activity is delivering to objectives.

In its latest report, B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, the Content Marketing Institute sheds some light on what sets top performers apart from the rest of the pack.

Research consistently shows a documented content marketing strategy is a key indicator of success and the good news is, the percentage of content marketers who document their strategy is inching up year-on-year.

A customer-centric focus is also essential to business success today, and building outstanding customer experiences has emerged as a differentiating factor.

The study found that the most successful B2B content marketing performers not only prioritize the informational needs of their audience over their own organization’s promotional message, but craft content for specific stages of the customer journey to deliver optimal experiences throughout.

Here are five more insights into the current state of B2B content marketing.

Small, centralized teams are the norm

Most companies have fewer than five full-time employees devoted to content marketing. Even at larger enterprises, content teams tend to clock in at between two to five people.

In fact, half of respondents report that their organization has a small or one-person content team serving the entire organization. And a third have no full-time staff dedicated to content marketing.

A centralized structure, where one content team works with multiple brands or departments across the business, is the most common set-up among top performers.

Content creation is the most commonly outsourced function

Half of those surveyed outsource at least one content marketing activity, usually content creation. On average, B2B marketers are creating content for four different audiences.

Large companies are the most likely to outsource content marketing efforts. The good news is, the decision to outsource (or not) has little bearing on success.

Live events are the gold standard for sourcing and closing leads

B2B marketers say blog posts and articles are the most effective formats for building brand awareness, while email newsletters work best to nurture leads.

However, in-person events are the highest performers when it comes to converting leads, followed by case studies and webinars.

Paid distribution is key for content promotion

Notably, 84% use paid channels for their content marketing—typically paid social media. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn is the top choice for both organic and paid distribution for B2B content marketers.

Of those who use paid advertising, 38% say they have shifted paid ad dollars to content marketing in the past year.

Top B2B content marketers are more likely to take advantage of extra opportunities like speaking, guest articles, and media/influencer relations.

Metrics matter, although most prioritize top-of-funnel goals

Top performers measure content marketing performance and have KPIs in place.

The top five metrics used by B2B marketers are:

  • Email engagement
  • Website traffic
  • Website engagement
  • Social media analytics
  • Conversions

Most B2B marketers are focused on goals such as building credibility and awareness; 50% of content is created for audiences in the top-of-funnel phase.

However, the survey did find notable year-on-year increases among those successfully using content marketing to nurture, build loyalty, and generate sales.

To 2020 and beyond

The future of B2B content marketing remains bright. Nearly half of B2B marketers surveyed expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2020.

There’s always room for improvement, of course. The top priorities that emerged from the report were improving audience quality/conversion, content quality/quantity, and content marketing measurement.

For more B2B content marketing insights, explore CMI’s B2B marketing research report.

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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