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2019 B2B Content Marketing Trends: The 10 Biggest Opportunities for Marketers

For content marketers, each year’s publication of the B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report should be truly exciting. Even more than the latest iPhone announcement. In fact, especially more than the latest iPhone announcement. Don’t get me wrong: I love a slightly bigger screen, creepy new camera features and a higher price tag as much as the next guy. But the annual report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs can actually make marketers better at our jobs. The 2019 edition has officially been released, and there are plenty of thought-provoking stats in just the first couple of pages; high-level attributes of top performers and clear opportunities for improvement. When I covered this report back in 2016, I focused on five habits of highly successful marketers. But now it’s time to go deeper. Here are 10 opportunities from deep in the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks — opportunities you may be overlooking.

10 Big Opportunities for B2B Content Marketers

#1: Get Sophisticated

Let’s start with an easy one: Only 11% of respondents clocked in at the “Sophisticated” level of content marketing maturity. Even among the most successful, the number is shocking low: 33%. Just a third of the people who are really rocking it with content marketing are sophisticated. What needs to change? To get from “Mature” to “Sophisticated,” marketers need to provide accurate measurement to the business, and start scaling content marketing across the organization. That means working with other departments (like Human Resources, Customer Experience, and of course Sales) to find synergies and expand your efforts. And it means getting serious about measurement (more on that later). [bctt tweet=”Just 11% of #B2B marketers say they’re at the ‘Sophisticated level’ of #contentmarketing maturity. @CMIContent @MarketingProfs” username=”toprank”]

#2: Create (The Right) Documented Content Marketing Strategy

Good news! More respondents had a documented content marketing strategy than last year. Bad news? Sixty-one percent still either don’t have a strategy, or don’t have it written down. We know that a documented content marketing strategy is one of the strongest indicators of future success. But let’s dig a little deeper. Even for those who have a documented content marketing strategy, only 52% say their strategy makes it easier to identify which metrics to focus on. If your strategy isn’t helping with measurement, it’s time to revise — even if it’s already written down. The right metrics make it possible to:

  • Experiment and improve
  • Measure conversions
  • Tie your activity to revenue
  • Report on said revenue to the C-suite
[bctt tweet=”61% of #B2B marketers either don’t have a #contentmarketing strategy, or don’t have it written down. @CMIContent @MarketingProfs” username=”toprank”]

#3: Add Paid Promotion

This stat isn’t as dire as the first couple, but it’s still jarring: Only 66% of respondents said they have used paid methods to distribute content. That means a third of marketers are relying on organic reach and existing subscribers to get their content seen. Why rely on people to choose your content? Why not go out and get the people who will most benefit from seeing it? Paid social media and paid search ads are both critical parts of comprehensive content promotion.

#4: Build Your Community

Only 23% of B2B marketers say they use community building and audience participation to nurture audiences. For a modern digital marketer, this should be a no-brainer. We have more options than ever before to communicate and build relationships with our audience. We should be participating in forums, available on social media, initiating dialog and encouraging conversation. Most importantly, we should be helping our audience form a community identity with the brand as its center. [bctt tweet=”Just 23% of #B2B content marketers say they use community building and audience participation to nurture audiences. @CMIContent @MarketingProfs” username=”toprank”]

#5: Get Customer Intel from the Source

Data is a driving force for marketers, and big data is only getting bigger over time. But let’s not throw out the small data. The majority of respondents don’t use customer conversations as a top technique for audience research. Just 42% said talking directly to customers was a priority. There’s no substitute for first-hand knowledge from real customers in real-time. Talk with Sales and Customer Service about their experiences, but also arrange for your department to collect data straight from customers, too.

#6: Match Content with the Buyer’s Journey

I’ll be brief: 52% said they craft content based on specific stages of the journey. That means nearly half don’t. They should. The buyer’s journey should inform everything from keyword and topic selection to execution. Aim for a mix of Attract, Engage and Convert-stage content, with the majority on that first stage. [bctt tweet=”The buyer’s journey should inform everything from keyword and topic selection to execution. – @NiteWrites #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

#7: Make Influencer Marketing an Integral Part

Here’s a disconnect: 64% said their organization places importance on building relationships with influencers. But only 24% said they actually partner with others on content marketing initiatives. It’s good to develop relationships with influencers who can help promote your content. However, they’re far more likely to promote when it’s their content, too. Co-create with influencers and you’ll see a boost in motivation, amplification, and excitement for the finished product.

#8: Own Your Audience

Social media sites have made it painfully clear that we don’t own our audience on their platforms. We can only rent access to them, at rates that are continually getting steeper. That’s why it’s crucial to bring your audience to your own land. Just 43% said they’re trying to build a subscribed audience with their content marketing. That’s a missed opportunity for over half of us. It’s powerful to have your audience opt into your content (and potentially into your community).

#9: Get Serious About Attribution

Marketers are excelling at top-of-funnel measurement. Fully 81% said they had successfully created brand awareness through content marketing in the past year. However, we’re still having immense difficulty proving success at the bottom of the funnel. Only 45% said they have successfully used content to generate sales. We know content marketing can contribute to sales. The challenges are to create content across the funnel, then correctly attribute content-assisted conversion. We need to move away from last-click models and into more sophisticated weighted attribution. Which ties directly into…

#10: Plan to Measure ROI

Overall, 49% of respondents said they can measure the ROI of their content marketing. But the gulf between most successful and least successful is huge on this one: 72% of the most successful can measure ROI, while only 22% of the least successful can say the same. The ability to prove the value of your work in straight return on investment is crucial for a number of reasons. First, it makes it easier to secure budget and expand programs. Second, it helps shift the perception of marketing from cost center to revenue center. Perhaps most importantly, the ability to prove positive ROI requires a higher level of sophistication. It requires becoming both more effective and better at measurement and reporting. As such, proving ROI should be the goal for any organization looking to level up their marketing. [bctt tweet=”49% of #B2B marketers say they can measure the #ROI of their #contentmarketing efforts. @CMIContent @MarketingProfs” username=”toprank”]

Keep Pursing Content Marketing Maturity

Content marketing has proven its value as a modern marketing tactic. We’re well past the trial stage, past the hype stage, and now we can settle into the refinement and sophistication stage. Use these 10 tips to start leveling up your content marketing now. After all, we only have 12 months until the next benchmarks report. Wouldn’t you like to be in the “most successful” section? At TopRank Marketing, we believe content marketing success is rooted in becoming the best answer for your audience, wherever and whenever they’re searching. Your buyers have questions and you have the answers. But how detailed do you have to go? Check out Lee Odden’s post on long-form versus short-form content.

The post 2019 B2B Content Marketing Trends: The 10 Biggest Opportunities for Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

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Lovestruck: Why We’ve Fallen in Love with B2B Content Marketing

Falling in Love with B2B Content Marketing

Once upon a time, in a land of rainbows, butterflies, and evil content overload, a gripping love story is unfolding.

But this love affair isn’t what you’d expect — it’s no “Romeo and Juliet” or “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Rather, it’s an unlikely courtship with a bond sealed by three little words: Business-to-Business.

That’s right. We’ve said. The secret’s out. For the last decade, we’ve been head-over-heels in love with B2B content marketing.

We know what you’re thinking. B2B can’t hold a candle to B2C. B2B is boring. B2B lacks sex appeal. But you don’t know B2B like we do—she’s a knockout and a showstopper.

via GIPHY

What’s so darn attractive about B2B content marketing? Let us remind you of all there is to fall in love with.

We’ve Fallen in Love With B2B Content Marketing Because ...

… It Forms Genuine (Love) Connections

Audiences are made up of people with specific needs and interests. Part of the challenge — and the thrill — is creating a B2B content marketing strategy that addresses those needs and interests to make our audience fall in love.

via GIPHY

“I love the ever-present challenge of speaking to our audience on topics they genuinely care about and in a way that really connects with them. Seeing big results really pays off all of the audience research and thought behind the content,” Elizabeth Williams, a longtime account managers, says.

And speaking of the real people we’re trying to woo with our content, those people are why Influencer Marketing Strategist Jack Fitzpatrick is enamored B2B content marketing.

“I love B2B content marketing because it is a constant reminder that businesses are made up of actual people,” he says. “When crafting an influencer marketing or social media campaign, we are creating content for people. Small businesses, large corporations, and every business in between, started with people having a vision and striving to reach it. That’s a powerful concept to me.”

[bctt tweet="I love B2B content marketing because it is a constant reminder that businesses are made up of actual people. - @fitzJackrick" username="toprank"]

… It Nurtures Buyers

Nothing is more rewarding than hearing those three little words from prospects and turning them into loyal companions thanks to our data-informed content strategies. Just take it from our Associate Director of Search & Analytics Tiffani Allen.

“What I love most about B2B content marketing is the journey,” she says. “It’s rarely transactional, but instead focuses on providing the right information at the right time. It’s almost like solving a puzzle. You have to analyze the prospect’s journey – not only through your own properties but in the digital sphere at large.”

[bctt tweet="What I love most about #B2B #contentmarketing is the journey ... It's like solving a puzzle. - @Tiffani_Allen" username="toprank"]

… It Combines Analysis With Creativity

Fresh out of graduating high school, I was confronted with the same question most graduates face: “What do you want to do with your life?” After courting professions like biology, psychology, economics, and several others, I struggled to find exactly what I was looking for. No occupation seemed to fulfill my need for a creative outlet and exercise my analytical mind. Until I found marketing.

B2B content marketing allows you to be both analytical and creative. Through analysis, you can uncover powerful content opportunities that produce desired results. And through creativity, you can make sure those content opportunities are executed in a way that excites and entertains audiences.

via GIPHY

This targeted, thoughtful approach is what helps keep the job interesting and drive such substantial results. Debbie Friez, Influencer Marketing Strategist, agrees.

“B2B marketing is targeted, so you can really look at how to move specific audiences to awareness of our client and buy from our client,” she says. “With my job specifically, I am able to work with influencers who may not have millions of followers, but are highly-regarded in their industry.”

[bctt tweet="#B2Bmarketing is targeted, so you can really look at how to move specific audiences to awareness of our client and buy from our client. - @dfriez" username="toprank"]

… It Presents Constant Learning Opportunities

Some of the best dates are where you and your partner experience new things together. And in B2B content marketing, every day can be a new experience, writing about fresh, emerging topics with varying levels of complexity. That is especially true for those of us that do content marketing for large enterprises or a content marketing agency

Our own creative content genius and Senior Content Marketing Manager Joshua Nite says: “I love the opportunity to learn new things. We have clients in finance, cloud-based software, IoT, healthcare... when we work on content with them, I get to learn about it all. It's endlessly fascinating.”

[bctt tweet="We have clients in finance, cloud-based software, IoT, healthcare... when we work on content with them, I get to learn about it all. It's endlessly fascinating. - @NiteWrites on what he loves about B2B #contentmarketing." username="toprank"]

… It Solves Problems

(Great) B2B content marketing isn’t just putting a message out there for the sake of it. It’s about solving a real, tangible problem for your ideal customers. That’s why Account Manager Jane Bartel is so enchanted.

“One of my favorite things about (good) B2B content marketing is that it's so focused on adding value for the audience,” she says. “More than in the B2C space, B2B content marketers are asking themselves, ‘is the content I'm producing going to help the person consuming it solve a problem?’”

3 B2B Content Marketing Programs We Fell In Love With

TopRank and B2B content marketing is a match made in heaven, and the evidence of our love is in the work we create. The below campaigns gave our team plenty of reasons to fall madly in love with B2B content marketing and we believe they’ll provide plenty of inspiration for you as well.

Prophix: AI in Finance

Interactive. Multimedia. Triple-digit increases. What’s not to love?

Several of our team members, including Josh and Elizabeth, are quite fond of our recent content campaigns for Prophix (including our AI in Finance interactive eBook) the most for the reasons listed above and more.

AI Finance Influencer Content Campaign

“We created something absolutely unique, with the audio plus the interactive interface plus our computer personality, Penny. I love that it's so original and, quite frankly, cool, and I'm proud of the results it's getting, too!” Josh said.

Elizabeth adds, “I have just LOVED working on our last few campaigns with Prophix. I love the partnership we have developed where we can bounce ideas off each other, get super creative with our concepts, and test multimedia formats and interactive content.”

Read the full case study to get a look behind the scenes at how our interactive content drove triple-digit results for Prophix.

SAP Purpose: Helping the World Run Better

Today, business is more about doing “good” than being “good.” In fact, purpose-driven businesses that strive to leave the world in a better state than they found it in have more loyal customers and also feel a stronger emotional connection to the brand.

Our team fell in love with sharing inspirational stories from purpose-driven businesses, NGO’s, nonprofits, and thought leaders for SAP this year through their SAP Purpose campaign.

Interactive Influencer Content Program Focused on Purpose

“Sharing the stories of these Forward Thinkers making a difference in our world inspired our team along with the members of SAP’s audience. Seeing these leaders converge on one project sharing their passions and pursuits was so powerful!” says Jack.

Hyper-Targeted Content Strategies

With continued opportunities to refine and make improvements, Jane Bartel loves our ongoing B2B content strategy programs for clients like DivvyHQ, LinkedIn, and more.

“The project I'm most in love with at the moment: Planning and building a collection of resources for one particular segment of a client's audience. It's targeted, valuable, and makes great use of new and existing content,” Jane points out.

A specific favorite among the team is the seo-driven B2B content program we’ve been working on in partnership with Antea Group USA, a leading EHS and sustainability consulting firm, for the past three years. We’ve made a consistent commitment to each other, and results we love are in the air. From 2017 to 2018, total blog traffic has grown a whopping 149%, and organic blog traffic has grown 183%.

One of the pieces we're absolutely gaga over is this piece featuring hot EHS tips from a Demogorgon.

EHS Tips from a Demogorgon

Plenty of Love to Go Around

B2B content marketing is the perfect partner. Our relationship has a solid foundation and we continue to grow together, instead of apart. It affords us the opportunity to learn. It nurtures our buyers. It helps us connect with target audiences. It solves important problems. What’s not to love?

We aren’t the only ones who love everything B2B marketing. For more inspiration, make sure to follow these B2B marketing influencers.

The post Lovestruck: Why We’ve Fallen in Love with B2B Content Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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