As Fall starts this week, and thoughts begin to turn toward next year, it’s a good time to reflect on what you’ve been able to accomplish with your B2B content marketing so far this year. And part of that reflection should include seeing how you compare to other B2B marketers; in particular, how your business’s content objectives, content sharing and related leads stack up. To help you out a bit with this time of introspection, here are my top 5 takeaways, and what I see as the key implication of the recent “2014 Benchmark Report on B2B Content Marketing and Lead Generation” from Starfleet Media, a study based on a survey of more than 250 B2B marketing and sales professionals from around the world.
1. Objectives for Investing in Content
Approximately 93% of B2B companies say that their primary objective for content marketing is to raise brand visibility, with generating more leads and better leads coming in a close second (89%) and third (86%) respectively. However, more than 35% of survey respondents report that they have “not been successful” in achieving their primary objectives for content marketing.
2. Content Optimization
As you can see from the charts below, content optimization is a big area of opportunity for B2B marketers, as relatively few aren't making the effort to do so. One can assume that it’s the perceived lack of time and resources that play into not utilizing content optimization tactics. (Note: Progressive profiling means display new/different form fields based on information previously collected from prospects. A/B and multivariate testing refer to experimenting with variations of landing pages to determine which performs best).
3. Measuring the Success of Content
It’s relatively easy to count up the total number of leads your content campaigns have generated — 84% of marketers in the survey do. However, the number really only serves as a reference point. What’s more important to define and track is the quality of leads (e.g., serious potential buyers vs. researcher-only) and whether those leads convert to a sale.
4. Budget Allocation
The report indicates 63% of marketers plan to allocate a larger portion of budget to content marketing over the next year, with almost a quarter planning to double spending on content marketing. While that doesn’t come as a huge surprise, what I find interesting is that the percentage of respondents who don’t know how much of their budget is spent on content marketing is virtually equal to the percentage who stated they spent 21-30%. Perhaps they didn’t understand what all content marketing included or, even worse, they’re not tracking their spending at all.
5. Social Media Prevails
B2B marketers use social media more extensively than paid search methods to generate leads, with it accounting for 8 of the top 10 distribution methods. However, if you broaden your definition of social media slightly, you could add the top distribution method of sales and account team outreach to make it 9 out of 10. On average, the study showed B2B marketers use 3.5 social media platforms to promote their content. In addition, marketers use social media far more than paid search to help generate leads (just 38% said they use Google AdWords).
So, what's the implication?
In reviewing these 5 takeaways from the benchmark report, the primary implication I see is the importance of taking the time and effort to measure and analyze the ROI of your content. How did I arrive at this conclusion? Well, let’s look a little closer at some of the data reported:
35% of those surveyed said they have “not been successful” at achieving their goals for content and fewer than 30% of respondents report that they have been “successful” in achieving their primary content objectives. Despite these lackluster percentages, 63% of these B2B marketers said they will allocate a larger portion of their marketing budget toward content marketing over the next 12 months. Given these results, you have to wonder how someone can justify allocating more budget to something they’ve stated isn’t working well. Where is there data about the ROI that proves it?
Most B2B marketers aren’t taking the time to apply content optimization tactics; 72% don’t do SEO/landing page optimization. Applying these tactics and reviewing the resulting impact are key to not only improving lead generation, but also to being able to demonstrate improved ROI. If you can demonstrate better ROI when budget time rolls around you’ll have an easier time justifying your budget spent on content.
While 84% of marketers track the number of leads against content efforts, just 66% are tracking the quality of the leads, which is the more important, and more relevant, item to track. A large number of leads means nothing if they aren’t converting into real sales opportunities. But if they are, and you track their conversion path back to specific content, then you'll have more objective backing for your budget request.
The report indicates that B2B marketers are using a lot of social media to share content and generate leads, using 3.5 different channels. However, which of the channels is providing the best ROI? Does one outshine the others and should used more or is there one that isn’t pulling any results and should be dumpied?
So, as we end this brief time of reflection, remember that comparing where your content stands in comparison to other B2B marketers can provide a good snapshot for how you’re doing. However, as you plan ahead for the year ahead, be sure to craft a plan for measuring the ROI of your content. Afterall, if you can’t measure it, you can’t prove it’s working and you can’t realistically expect to get the budget you need to continue doing the things you know you need to do.
Posted by Tim Holdsworth Tim has vast experience executing B2B marketing plans in a number of industries, including manufacturing, health products, and business technologies. He manages the mechanics of our clients' inbound marketing programs, including marketing automation setup, email marketing, and digital content creation.