Content Marketing Institute’s Survey
The Content Marketing Institute is one of the top research and reference sources serving up ideas, stats and perspectives on content marketing today.
They’ve just released their 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report. I thought I would cover the key findings from this year’s survey and follow up on key issues for your marketing strategy in 2021.
From the study we can get insights into demand for digital marketing consultants, content creation outsourcing, expert SEO, ppc spending, and intent to improve the content marketing funnel and analytics insight.
Success is in Strategic Mastery
CMI tends to focus on the process and the general mix of content marketing for businesses of various sizes and industries. However, there’s a lot of room for opportunities for companies within specialized business niches. It’s important to review general reports and trends, but real success is how companies use strategy, tools, talent and budgets.
Previous studies revealed similar attitudes and practices and it seems marketers are unable to escape the rat wheel. They’re outsourcing some content marketing functions but are unable to relinquish control to consultants who can make a difference.
Reach, Quality Content and Funnel Conversion are Keys in 2021
It’s equally important to note that real success in content marketing is in quality and reach. The role of quality content in the conversion funnel is important, yet companies report divorcing content from lead generation and sales conversion.
That could be because they’re developing quality content or using it effectively. Let’s keep this in mind as we hear the results of this 2020 content marketing report.
The first part of the CMI study reveals marketers have made adjustments because of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Despite their adjustments, they reported low success in dealing with the Covid shutdown results. Very few reported that they were really unsuccessful. So, we’d wonder whether these respondents are in the entertainment, sports, hotels, restaurants and personal services industries.
This is the key data we need to focus on.
4 top factors that do drive results:
- value their content provided
- website change they made
- strategy improvements
- Google SEO improvements
And B2B marketers expressed frustration with content creation, strategy and distribution issues. And analytics was cited as the 4th biggest drawback to success.
Although the pandemic hit small business the hardest, it seems big companies jettisoned staff more. Most reported they don’t have a dedicated content marketing person, which can be a marketing budget issue. Large companies with 1,000+ employees (71% last year vs. 61% this year).
Respondents who do outsource said their top challenges are finding partners with adequate topic expertise (69%), budget issues (51%), and finding partners who understand their target customers (43%).
Respondents to the CMI Survey for the most part outsource content creation and distribution which are actually the most vital function. However, they report that they themselves control content strategy and planning.
Budgets and Consultant Topic Expertise are Top Issues
CMI reports budget levels and topic expertise, and those who understand their audience are the big issues. This corelates exactly to what I’ve been blogging about for years. Expertise is the key deliverable. Yet consultants haven’t been able to sell their value strongly enough to justify client’s spending more.
However, if a consultant is producing strongly then the brand, budget, targeting and content quality have to come into question.
Respondents companies have been responding during 2020, with keyword research tools (78%) and editorial calendars (70%) to deal with problems. But the problem with that is that those 2 factors don’t really help solve their content marketing problems.
Of course, given Covid 19, B2B companies have reduced in person events and transitioned to virtual events. Today, they distribute content organically are social media platforms (89%), email (87%), and their organization’s website/blog (86%).
There has been a big switch to the Linkedin paid and organic channel due to affordability challenges.
The key tools B2B companies are using to aid content marketing performance are SEO and social media analytics tools. There’s no mention about which ones they’re using.
Blog posts, email newsletters, and case studies are the top content types used although videos and virtual events have grown strongly. Infographics, chart and photos are still important to content engagement.
Social Media Platforms Used
B2B marketers seem to find Linkedin is a preferable medium. Linkedin is highly targeted to the business audience.
Paid Content Distribution
To get content distributed widely, B2B marketers are unfortunately getting squeezed hard by Facebook and Google. That shows you the power of market monopoly. PPC and promoted posts have been the route for many years now. Nothing new really and the monopolies will squeeze harder until the DOJ ends it. Linked and Facebook are the dominate platforms.
For yet another year, B2B marketers are struggling to achieve sales goals.
“One of our challenges is determining what content is most likely to lead to actual business,” said one respondent. “We get a lot of interest in reading our content, but we’re working to determine what to focus on to gain qualified/ready buyers.”
Content Goals Achieved
How do B2B businesses measure performance? Well, it’s not as sophisticated as you might think. They’re still using website traffic, email response, website engagement (dwell time), conversions (subscribers, sales) and social media analytics. It looks like tracking is a big weakness.
B2B marketing budgets are not what they need to be. Consider that marketing determines your future, it would seem many B2B marketers are taking care of that future.
Forecast for 2021
Content creation (70%) and website enhancements (66%) topped the list of improvements respondents said they are going to emphasize in 2021. They speak of hiring and expanding efforts, yet these tell us nothing about whether they’re really on the track to building solid market leadership.
Respondents offer no dollar numbers in their commitment to content marketing, but cite these as their priority:
Conclusion from the CMI Survey
The stats show it’s status quo for B2B marketing, with a few forced adjustments for the Covid pandemic. Perhaps if we all treat the 2021 market as an emergency, we’ll begin to allocate resources to marketing, and to optimize content powered conversion is the way to go.
The survey doesn’t cover what marketers are actually doing to make their content more effective. Performance does come down to quality and they’ve indicated they’re looking for more industry expertise, audience empathy, and social media prowest to make it all work.
AI Marketers provides digital marketing services (content, SEO, social media, PPC) for software companies, manufacturers, hotels, recruiters, moving companies, publishers, sports equipment retailers, building supplies companies, window and door companies, Realtors, investment companies, IT companies, clean energy, consumer products, branding consultants and many more.
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