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Some 9 in 10 B2B marketing organizations, regardless of company size or industry, say they've used content as a form of marketing in 2011 (that's the same proportion as in 2010), according to a study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

Moreover, those marketers say they employ on average eight separate content marketing tactics to achieve their marketing goals.

Some 60% of the surveyed marketers say they plan to increase spend on content marketing over the next 12 months. On average, they now spend over a quarter of their marketing budget on content marketing, the study reports.

MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute surveyed 1,092 marketers in August in what is the second annual content marketing survey the two organizations have conducted together.

The resulting report, "B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends," provides a detailed look at many aspects of content marketing, including the tactics used, social media considerations, goals, measurements, budgets, outsourcing, and challenges.

The report also presents the practices of self-described "best in class" content marketers.

For purposes of the research, the survey defined content marketing as follows: "Content marketing/custom media (sometimes called custom publishing, custom content, or branded content) is the creation and distribution of educational and/or compelling content in multiple formats to attract and/or retain customers."

Below, an overview of findings from B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends in five key areas: usage and effectiveness; goals and measurement; budgets and production; challenges; and practices of the "best in class."

Usage and Effectiveness

Just as last year, 9 out of 10 B2B marketers are using content marketing to grow their businesses, relying on eight content marketing tactics, on average, to achieve their marketing goals.

Tactics

The most popular tactics are article-posting (79% of respondents), social media (excluding blogs) (74%), blogs (65%), e-newsletters (63%), case studies (58%), and in-person events (56%).

Content Distribution

To distribute their content via social media channels, B2B marketers rely most on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, as was the case the previous year--albeit this year usage rates are greater by 15-20 percentage points.

Effectiveness

Though they are confident about the value of content marketing in general, B2B marketers find it challenging to demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of individual tactics and distribution channels. They rate in-person events, webinars/webcasts, and case studies as the top 3 most effective tactics.

Industry adoption

Content marketing uptake is high across industries, with no industry reporting below 70% adoption. The professional services industry reports the highest level of adoption, just nudging out computing/software, which ranked number one last year.

Challenges

The greatest reported challenge is "producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers" (41% of respondents), which was also the top response in 2010 version of the study.

Also, nearly the same percentage of respondents in 2011 as in 2010 reported that "producing enough content" (20%) and "budget to produce content" (18%) are their greatest challenges in content marketing.

Practices of the "Best in Class"

Some 40% of marketers consider themselves more effective in content marketing than their competitors. As was the case last year, those marketers spend more and are more strategic in their approach:

  • The "best in class" allocate 31% of their budget to content marketing, compared with 18% for those not describing themselves as effective content marketers.
  • The "best in class" are 50% more likely to consider the "stage in the buying cycle" when developing content.
  • The "best in class" benefit from substantially more buy-in from senior members of the organization. Only 8% of effective marketers complain about lack of buy-in from higher-ups, vs. 17% of those who rate themselves as less effective (though, on a positive note, that number was 24% last year).

Goals and Measurement

Marketers are using content marketing to support multiple business goals: brand awareness (69%), customer acquisition (68%), lead generation (67%), and customer retention/loyalty (62%). The least employed goal for content marketing is lead management/nurturing, as was the case in the previous year's survey.

Web traffic is the most widely used success metric (58%), as it was the previous year. However, this year, sales lead quality (49%) is the second most frequently used metric, whereas direct sales was in the previous year's survey.

Budgets and Production

On average, B2B marketers dedicate approximately 26% of their total budgets to content marketing initiatives—precisely the percentage reported, on average, the previous year.

Also in line with last year's results is that smaller companies (in terms of number of employees) allocate a larger share of their budget to content marketing than do larger companies.

This year, 60% of marketers report that they plan to spend more money on content marketing during the year (compared with 51% saying so in 2011).

Some 62% of B2B marketers use outsourcing for content marketing, a substantial increase from last year's 55%.

For more findings, including more charts and tables, download a free copy of "B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends."

About the findings: The content marketing study electronically surveyed B2B marketers from among members and subscribers of MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute. A total of 1,092 responded worldwide (with the majority from North America) in August 2011, representing a full range of industries, functional areas, and company sizes.

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