The Content Marketing Institute has just released its annual “B2B Content Marketing: 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America” report. As usual, it’s chock-full of statistics that, together, give us insight into the state of our industry.
A few data points were especially eye-catching. We’ve highlighted them below, along with perspective from Lisa Murton Beets, the Content Marketing Institute’s Research Director who oversees the annual survey.
Content marketing success levels are holding steady.
Like last year, 65 percent of respondents said that their overall content marketing success has increased (“much more” or “somewhat more”) from a year ago.
Even though that figure is about the same as one year ago, Beets sees it as an encouraging sign.
“You have to look at the big picture,” she says. “Back in 2010, when we first did this survey, it was like caveman days – anything anyone was doing seemed exciting and innovative. Now, content marketing is no longer a shiny, new object. We’re an industry that has standards and practices. I see overall success in the industry holding steady, though I’m truly hoping to see success increase. But I don’t see a trend of content marketing going backward or being a novelty.”
Most B2B organizations invest in content marketing – to some degree.
Ninety-one percent of survey respondents are doing content marketing.
However, teams are lean, indicating that many companies are still in the early stages of content marketing. Fifty-three percent of respondents have small or one-person content teams serving their entire organizations. These tiny team sizes could be indicative of why just 36 percent say their organizations are “very committed” to content marketing, and why the majority (53 percent) of content marketers rate their content marketing as “moderately successful.”
Beets notes that larger organizations tend to have more people on content teams. For small and mid-sized companies just starting with content marketing, lean teams might make sense.
“However, these people (or person) can’t be spread too thin,” Beets says. “They need to be laser-focused on the organization’s most important content marketing objectives. If the company has bigger goals for content marketing than a small team can meet, they’ll need to add resources.”
Similarly (and not surprisingly), the survey found a correlation between program budget and effectiveness. The most successful content marketers have access to 40 percent of the total marketing budget; the least successful have just 14 percent of the marketing budget.
Content marketers do, however, receive more funding as their programs mature. Early stage content marketers have about 19 percent of the marketing budget, while mid-stage content marketers receive 25 percent. Mature content marketing programs spend 33 percent.
The big takeaway: Document your content marketing goals, strategy, and successes so you can make a business case for more budget and resources.
It pays to have a documented content marketing strategy.
Year after year, the Content Marketing Institute finds that marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are more likely to succeed than those without one. This year was no exception.
This data point seems to have seeped into content marketers’ consciousness. The survey found that approximately 75 percent of people without a documented content marketing strategy plan to create one in the next 12 months. (If you’re among them, get started using our content marketing strategy template.)
Email is the most effective distribution channel for B2B content marketers.
At NewsCred, we’re always expounding on the value of email marketing. (Email is a channel you fully own and control, subscribers have opted in to engage with you more frequently, you can re-engage users who have been dormant for a while, newsletter subscribers often convert at a higher rate than non-subscribers.)
Beets and her colleagues also suspected that email is the most effective channel for B2B content marketers. Now, they have the data to prove it: 74 percent of survey respondents (and 79 percent of the most successful content marketers) said that email is their most effective distribution format.
Measuring ROI remains the biggest challenge for B2B marketers.
Only 35 percent of content marketers can measure ROI.
Forty-seven percent admit that they can’t measure ROI. And 18 percent aren’t sure.
When asked why they weren’t measuring ROI, 38 percent said that their companies don’t require formal justification. Another 38 percent said that they need an easier way to measure ROI, and 27 percent said that they don’t know how. Twenty-one percent said that ROI measurement is too time-consuming.
“This is an area where we all need to do work,” says Beets. “We have to prioritize measurement and find ways to make it easier.”
She suggests that marketers start by aligning their goals and metrics: “Get a handle on what you want to focus on this year and how you’ll measure progress toward that goal.”
Developing processes should be top-of-mind for content marketers in 2018.
In addition to improving ROI measurement, content marketers should also focus on establishing processes.
Beets noted that the most successful content marketers rate their project management as excellent or very good.
And it makes sense. Content marketing success relies on an interconnected web of processes around creating strategies; driving traffic, engagement, and conversions; and measuring and optimizing, based on learnings. If there’s a gap in any of those areas, it’ll compromise your program’s effectiveness.
“We’re hoping that more marketers will focus on process,” Beets says.
Heather Eng is NewsCred’s Executive Editor.