Is it really worth investing your marketing dollars in B2B content marketing? Or is content marketing just a fancy scam bloggers are running to make money? To answer this question, there’s no better place to turn than your peers: other B2B companies.

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs recently released the results of their 9th annual Content Marketing Survey, which asked nearly 2,000 marketers from B2B companies from various industries in North America about how they were using content marketing — and whether they thought it was worth the investment. Here’s what they had to say:

Top-Performing Businesses Use Content Marketing

According to the survey, compared to other B2B companies, the most successful companies are much more committed to content marketing and are more likely to have a documented content marketing strategy that they’re measuring. Top-performing B2B companies are also putting more money toward their content marketing budgets and are far more likely to invest in technologies that enhance their content marketing campaigns.

This Year's B2B Content Marketing Top=Performers At A Glance
Source: Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs

But just like any new strategy, it takes time to succeed with content marketing. The companies that are the most successful with content marketing, according to the survey, have also been doing content marketing for a long time, while the companies that are the least successful with content marketing are just starting to take their first steps with this strategy. So if you’ve just started to test the waters with articles, case studies, or white papers and haven’t started seeing results yet, know that these companies keep seeing greater success year over year as they fine-tune their content marketing programs.

Top-Performing Companies Use Technology

About one out of three (67 percent) of the most successful B2B content marketers say they’re really proficient with content marketing technologies. That’s compared to only 1 percent of the least successful companies, who say they’re just started to dabble in content marketing technologies. So what kind of technologies are they using? The most popular is social media publishing and analytics (84 percent), followed by email marketing software (81 percent), analytics tools (77 percent), marketing automation systems (54 percent), and project management systems/editorial calendars (53 percent).

They’re investing in technology mainly because they really want to delve into how their content is performing (75 percent), but certain technologies also help them gain better insights into how their audiences are engaging their their content (56 percent), and it also allows them to more easily re-purpose their content  to get more life out of it(46 percent).

Benefits B2B Markters' Derive From Using Content Marketing Technologies

Top-Performing Companies Listen to Their Audiences

Old-school marketing used to be all about your company: what your product is, why people should buy it, why it’s better than the competition. Content marketing is the opposite; it’s all about the consumer and whatever value you can create for them. That’s why 77 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers use personas compared to 36 percent of the least successful B2B content marketers.

To build those personas, the top three techniques B2B content marketers are using to do audience research is to get feedback from their sales teams (74 percent), website analytics (73 percent), and keyword research (65 percent). So if you’re one of those companies that has marketing and sales teams that don’t talk to each other, change that. Fast. Marketing and sales teams should be super-powered allies that help each department, not reach, but exceed your respective business goals.

The big thing to note here is that successful content marketers don’t sell to those personas. They find out what those personas want, and they create content that fills those needs. According to the survey, the most successful B2B content marketers prioritize their audiences’ informational needs over sales/promotional messages (90 percent) and they made sure to deliver that content at the best times for their audiences (81 percent).Techniques B2B Marketers Use to Research Their Target Audiences for Content Marketing

Top-Performing Companies Use Long-form Content and Storytelling

Companies continue to see the value in storytelling — or telling engaging stories to humanize a brand — with 69 percent of the most successful content marketers using storytelling as a frequent concept they use when developing content for their organization compared to only 33 percent of the least successful content marketers. And 74 percent of B2B content marketers say they’ve created long-form content in the past 12 months.

But B2B marketers say specific types of content shouldn’t be used at just any point in the buyers’ journey. Blog posts and articles are the most effective during the early stage of the buyers’ journey when they’re first showing interest in your company. White papers are the most effective during the middle stage of the buyers’ journey when they’re considering going with your company, while case studies are the most effective during the middle and late stages, when they’re thinking about making that purchase.

Stage of Buyers' Journey Content Marketing is Most Effective

Top-Performing Companies Pay-to-Play

Unfortunately, getting any content to perform organically is exceptionally difficult given the way social media platforms and search engines have set up their algorithms and how much competition companies are up against. That’s why the top-performing companies understand they need to pay to distribute their content. In fact, 71 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers use paid methods to distribute their content in the last 12 months compared to 55 percent of the least successful.

The main reason they’re paying for distribution is to attract new audiences (80 percent), but they also want to generate traffic when organic results aren’t what they were hoping for (65 percent). The top types of paid distribution channels B2B content marketers are using is sponsored social media content (70 percent), search engine marketing/paid-per-click (64 percent), and banner ads (53 percent).

B2B Marketers Who Have Used Paid Distribution

So what are the key takeaways from this report? If your company isn’t investing in content marketing, it’s time to take the leap. Thousands of your peers across North America are using content marketing to engage with their audiences, and it’s paying off for them. Moreover, they’re investing in technology and human resources to help them build content that creates value for well-researched personas. It’s a time-consuming process, but the end-result is a customer-base that is loyal and is fully engaged with those brands.

View the full report to see all of insights and findings.

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