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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

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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How to Intertwine Online & Offline Tactics to Cultivate B2B Influencer Relationships

Effective B2B influencer marketing is rooted in brands developing and nurturing relationships—relationships with individuals who have the relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance to align with the goals of the brand.

Of course, those relationships are often cultivated in the digital realm via social media, email, and audio or video conferencing. And that's OK. We've all gone digital.

But there’s simply no replacement for face-to-face communication—and B2B marketers may have more chances than they know to proactively facilitate interactions or take advantage of in-person opportunities as they arise.

It’s time to bridge the digital divide. How? When? Where? Let’s dive in.

#1 - Highlight influencers and/or their brands with live event coverage.

B2B industry conferences and events are marketing gold mines. Not only do events give you an opportunity to have facetime with customers, prospects, and industry experts and influencers, but also the opportunity to create insightful (and influential) content.

If one or more of your warm or targeted influencers or another representative from their brand are delivering a keynote address or are part of a learning track that’s relevant to your audience, plan to attend their sessions and amplify the insights they share via social media, blog content, or both. Giving influencers this kind of thoughtful attention benefits everyone, helping you:

  • Deliver your wider digital audience with credible, relevant, and valuable content.
  • Capitalize on event engagement and reach.
  • Deepen your connections with existing influencer partners.
  • Help grow your partners’ influence among your audience and within the industry.
  • Get on the radar of prospective influencer partners.
  • Provide additional perspective and insight into who your current and prospective partners are, helping you further vet or find new connection points.

[bctt tweet="Cutting edge B2B influencer marketing focuses on both online and offline engagements. @konstanze" username="toprank"]

#2 - Conduct on-site video interviews at industry conferences and events.

Co-creating content with influencers provides influential experts with a medium to share valuable insights and gives your audience a mix of perspectives—upping your brand’s storytelling capabilities and credibility. Industry events and conferences provide the perfect platform for capturing original insights—especially on video.

Set aside the fact that video is an increasingly preferred learning and entertainment medium for modern consumers and buyers alike. When it comes to working with influencers, video can help capture their essence as well as their expertise. This can add a new degree of authenticity and credibility to their insights and resonate more deeply with your audiences.

Here’s an example from our own vault. While attending MarketingProfs B2B Forum in 2017, our team conducted a series of interviews with marketing experts and influencers, including MarketingProf’s own Chief Content Officer Ann Handley. The “Content Conversations” series covered top marketing learnings from the year, predictions for the coming year and decades, and tips and insights to finding success in the future.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kM1BMOSMpw[/embed]

*SAP’s video coverage of its own SAPPHIRENOW event is a fantastic example of how influencers can play an active role in bridging the real and digital worlds.

Working in partnership with SAP, Eric Kavanagh, CEO of The Bloor Group and a respected technology analyst, actually interviewed SAP’s own Chief Innovation Officer Max Wessel. This is just one of several unique examples from the conference.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IITUVS34cec[/embed]

[bctt tweet="If you want content to be great, ask influencers to participate. @leeodden" username="toprank"]

#3 - Host a VIP appreciation and networking event.

There may be no better way to create meaningful connections than over good food, drinks, and great conversation. Whether it’s a cocktail hour, leisurely lunch, or sit-down dinner, inviting influencers to come together for a couple hours of relaxed fun is a great way to show your appreciation for their partnership, nurture prospective partners, and connect influencers with one another.

This is a practice that is near and dear to our hearts. We absolutely love the work we do and almost always carve out time for this while attending larger industry events. And of course, you can chronicle your interactions on your owned digital properties to let your audiences in on the fun. Here’s a little shot from our dinner at B2B Marketing Exchange 2019, courtesy of our CEO Lee Odden’s Instagram.

B2BMX 2019 Dinner

This sort of engagement can certainly be planned independently of any industry conference, but it can be yet another way to make the most out of your trip to an event.

[bctt tweet="Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches. @AmishaGandhi @SAPAriba" username="toprank"]

#4 - Play matchmaker when the opportunity arises.

There will undoubtedly come a time during your work with industry experts and influencers where you can help them connect with one another. Whether they’re looking for insight, a new product or solution, or you’ve discovered two people share a common hobby or interest, take the lead on introducing them.

Why? Because you have the opportunity to provide more value. The relationship you’re cultivating needs to be mutually beneficial to go the distance, and helping influencers solve problems or grow their network has value written all over it.

[bctt tweet="We pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers … which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give to get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. @ranimani0707 @adobe" username="toprank"]

#5 - Embrace the “show, don’t tell” mantra when it comes to influencer appreciation.

Your online efforts to nurture, engage, and showcase the expertise of your influencer partners are incredibly important. Your prospects are online. Your customers are online. Your influencers are online. The world is online.

But there is absolutely an opportunity to add a personal, human touch to show your influencer partners you care about and appreciate them. New job? Send a handwritten letter filled with well wishes. New baby? Send a congratulatory gift basket. New campaign launch? Deliver a tasty treat or bit of swag to give thanks.

A couple years back, we helped our friends at DivvyHQ introduce the world to Grandma Gertrude, as well as easy-as-pie recipes for content planning. Following the launch, we sent pies to the influencers who contributed their thoughts and insights.

DivvyHQ Pie for Influencers

[bctt tweet="Grow your influencer network long before you need them. The day to create an army of influential advocates isn’t the first day of the war. Find common interests and develop rapport. - @leeodden " username="toprank"]

Build a Bridge to Stronger Influencer Relationships

Influencer relationships are often cultivated in the digital realm. But they can be nurtured and grown to new heights in the real world.

Take advantage of any opportunity to spotlight, co-create, or connect with influencers at industry events. In addition, go the extra mile to create valuable, memorable connections. Taking action here not only helps you strengthen relationships and generate content for the digital world, but also plant the seeds of partnership.

What’s on the horizon for B2B influencer marketing? Check out Lee Odden’s rundown of seven B2B influencer marketing trends to watch.

*Disclaimer: SAP is TopRank Marketing client.

The post How to Intertwine Online & Offline Tactics to Cultivate B2B Influencer Relationships appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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