Last month, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) released the latest findings from their annual B2B content marketing survey.
The CMI have been reporting on content marketing trends for almost a decade and have become a go-to source for B2B marketers wanting to see how their marketing activity stacks up against other businesses.
This year’s report presents the findings gathered from research conducted with 679 organisations who primarily sell products or services to businesses.
Here’s a round up of the key findings, with the hope it might inspire your own content marketing strategy in 2020.
1. More than 8 in 10 B2B marketers use paid distribution channels for content marketing purposes
84% of B2B marketers surveyed said they have used paid distribution channels for content marketing purposes in the last 12 months.
Paid social is the top paid channel B2B marketers use for content marketing, followed by sponsorships and search engine marketing (SEM)/Pay-Per-Click.
Of all paid content distribution methods, paid social is often considered to be the most effective. However, it’s not always the easiest approach. With a variety of advertising options available it’s hard to know where to allocate budget. Yet whichever platform you use, the end goal is the same - to drive visitors to your site, content or blog and to ultimately convert them into leads.
To get a return on your investment, you need a deep understanding of your audience and what you want to achieve with your content. Start by amplifying the content that is already performing well organically. This way you can be confident that the content resonates with your target audience.
2. LinkedIn is the top choice social media platform for B2B marketers
Nearly all of those surveyed use LinkedIn for organic content marketing. LinkedIn was also the top choice among those who use paid social media platforms.
B2B marketers also selected LinkedIn as the social media platform that generates the best content marketing results for their organisation - both for organic and paid social.
If you’re not sure you’re getting the most from LinkedIn for content marketing purposes, you might find this blog post from earlier this year useful: 3 effective ways to use LinkedIn for B2B marketing.
3. Half of B2B marketers outsource at least one content marketing activity, with content creation being the most likely
50% of those surveyed said they outsource at least one content marketing activity. Of that group, 84% said they outsource content creation. Content distribution (31%) and content technology (22%) were the next most likely activities being outsourced by B2B marketers.
It makes sense for companies to outsource some of their content marketing activities. Particularly amongst larger companies with more available budget, as the report shows to be the case.
But why content?
Creating great content on a regular basis is arguably the most difficult and time-consuming element of a content marketing strategy. And the stakes are higher than ever. With content saturation a reality, and more organisations diversifying the kind of content they create, from video content and visual storytelling to podcasts, B2B marketers need to be focused on creating content that will stand out and make a real impact with prospects.
If you’re a small team, outsourcing content creation can be a great option. Whether you turn to a freelance content writer or an agency specialising in content creation, you can find a solution that works for you.
4. 25% of B2B marketers said in-person events are the highest performing content type for converting leads
The survey asked respondents which content types are the highest performing for their organisation for building brand awareness, securing leads, nurturing leads, and converting leads. Take a look at the table below for the top 3 responses in each category.
Among the content types used, in-person events are the highest performing for both securing and converting leads. Blogs are highest performing for building brand awareness, and email newsletters are rated highest performing for nurturing leads.
So what is it about events that help us to secure and convert leads?
In the B2B world, people buy from people. A prospect’s decision to do business with you ultimately comes down to not just you having the right product or service to suit their needs, but also them feeling that they connect with you on a human level. That gut feeling of whether you’re the right fit for their business is important.
Events can play an important part of your B2B content marketing strategy. But events can be daunting if you’ve never run one before. Perhaps you or a member of your team could present at an industry event? Or if your budget is low, perhaps you could run a workshop at your premises.
5. Goals for content marketing are largely focused on the top of the funnel
Most B2B marketers use content marketing successfully to achieve top of the funnel goals, such as creating brand awareness, educating audiences and building trust and credibility. Fewer report they use it successfully on activities that deepen relationships, such as nurturing leads and building loyalty. However, there has been a notable increase in these activities since last year.
It makes sense for companies to focus on creating brand awareness and generating leads; without those efforts there would be no leads to nurture or relationships to strengthen in the first place. But the fact that people are putting more emphasis on bottom of the funnel activity is important. Especially given the research also found that the top performing organisations are more likely to provide an optimal experience across the whole customer journey.
Looking ahead to 2020
These are just a handful of content marketing trends, and as the industry continues to evolve in 2020, B2B marketers wanting to expand their customer base will need to evolve with it.
Whether your focus for the year ahead is on paid social, events, creating innovative content, nurturing leads, or other activities, it pays to keep an ear to the ground on new movements within the industry. For the latest trends and marketing advice, subscribe to our blog by entering your email in the box at the top of this page.
Note: All images taken from B2B Content Marketing 2020. Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends - North America.