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There’s an interesting new survey out on B2B Content Marketing Trends that was compiled from responses by marketing professionals in the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn. The objective was to discover emerging trends in the rapidly growing content marketing space in the second half of 2012. Let’s take a look at some of the key findings and discuss how they may impact our inbound marketing strategies going forward.
Is Content Marketing Becoming Mainstream?
With more than 84% of those surveyed responding that they are increasing content production, clearly the word is out—blogging and advanced content are taking a prominent position in B2B marketing. The leading content types being created are case studies (62%), white papers and ebooks (61%) and press releases (58%). Infographics have also been hot, increasing from 28% last year to 43% this year. More interactive content, such as “advertorials,” webinars and social media engagement appear to be on the decline with B2B marketers. Budgeting trends are also telling; last year 20% of marketing budgets were allocated to content. This year the number is closer to 30%.
It’s interesting that blogging wasn’t mentioned specifically, even though this is clearly an important part of the content marketing arsenal. Perhaps the surveyors consider blogging to be more of an interactive skill, like social media posting. We consider blogging to be one of the core components of content marketing.
What are the Primary Goals of Content Marketing?
There was a time when content was all about brand awareness and product marketing. Times have changed. Effective content marketers these days deliver qualified sales leads to the bottom line by tailoring topics and content, SEO optimization and targeted demand generation tactics to reach potential buyers. This is the essence of our Enterprise Inbound Marketing services, and B2B marketers are steadily moving in this direction with:
- Lead generation is the top goal of content marketing—at 68%!
- Thought leadership and market education are next—at 50%
- Brand awareness is #3—at 39%
- Lead nurturing is in 4th place—at ~35%
- Social media engagement is 2nd to last—at ~12%
We are embracing these trends, with one exception. We see lead nurturing as a primary goal for content marketing. In our view, the best way to drive more sales qualified leads is to create integrated lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns, mapping appropriate content for each stage and each persona with high quality content and using marketing automation to drive and analyze results. In our view, thought leadership and brand awareness are still important, but they are less campaign-oriented and are best served with regular blogging and social media promotion of compelling, educational content. With the B2B emphasis on ROI-driven marketing, we feel that content marketing budgets should be focused more on lead generation and nurturing and less on brand and product awareness and thought leadership.
What About Marketing Automation?
Surprisingly, only 26% of marketers are feeding marketing automation campaigns with compelling content mapped to buyer personas and stages. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed don’t use marketing automation at all. A good follow-up question would have been, “How do you expect to grow sales—through telemarketing and direct mail?” Good luck with that, folks. This is 2012, and you have lots of great options for reaching and closing more qualified sales leads these days.
What are the Biggest Challenges?
This is not surprising—creating good content has always been a challenge due to:
- Insufficient in-house talent and bandwidth
- No resources dedicated to content marketing
- Content marketing is “owned” by different groups with different agendas
- Content creation is still focused on brand and product marketing
- Marketing executives don’t “get it” yet
What are your thoughts about these B2B content marketing trends?
Photo Credit: San José Library
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