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B2B Content Marketing: Trends and Benchmarks for 2012


Content marketing is gaining in popularity: 83.5% of B2B marketers surveyed say they are stepping up their content marketing production over the next 12 months, up from the 71% who said so a year earlier, according to a report by Holger Schulze for Optify.

Some 15.0% of surveyed B2B marketers expect content volume to stay flat in 2012, and only 1.5% are expecting a decrease.

Below, additional findings from the 2012 B2B Content Marketing Trends Survey, based on a poll of 740 members of the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn. Almost one-half of respondents work for high-tech (24%) or software (22%) companies, and more than one-half of those surveyed are from companies with fewer than 100 employees.

Content Marketing Goals

B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve a variety of marketing goals and cite the following as their top 3:

  1. Lead generation: 68%
  2. Thought leadership/market education: 50%
  3. Brand awareness: 39%

Top Content Tactics

B2B marketers also use a wide variety of content marketing tactics to achieve their goals.

The most popular content tactics are case studies (62%), whitepapers and e-books (61%), press releases (58%), newsletters (55%), and blogging (51%).

By contrast, fewer B2B marketers are using tactics such as advertorials (11%), community threading (12%), and virtual events (18%).

Effectiveness of Content Tactics

Case studies, in addition to being the most popular content tactic, seem the most effective (78%). Whitepapers rank second in effectiveness (73%), followed by in-person events (72%).

The least effective content formats are advertorials (18%), community threading (20%), and virtual events (31%).

Graphics are gaining in effectiveness: 43% of B2B marketers cite graphic content as the most effective content format, up from 28% in 2011.

Ingredients of Great Content

Among B2B marketers, successful content starts with engaging and compelling storytelling (81.5%), originality (52.6%), and customized content (49.2%), followed by well-edited copy (38.5%) and professional writing (38.3%):

Social Channels

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform among B2B marketers, at 85%, followed by Twitter (70%), Facebook (54%), and YouTube (53%). (The LinkedIn number is likely skewed considering the majority of survey respondents came from the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn).

Other key findings:

  • 56% of B2B marketers cite "time and bandwidth" as their biggest challenge to creating content, and 53% cite producing truly engaging content.
  • 94% of B2B marketers create new content from scratch, 39% curate third-party content, 32% reuse existing content, and just 30% encourage user-generated content.
  • Top performance metrics for content marketers include Web traffic (64%), content views and downloads (59%), lead quantity (52%), and lead quality (52%).
  • Only 26% of B2B marketers are actively creating content to feed their marketing automation campaign; 56% do not use marketing automation at all.

About the data: Findings from the 2012 B2B Content Marketing Trends Survey is based on a poll of 740 members of the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn. The report was authored by Holger Schulze for Optify. Almost one-half of respondents work for high-tech (24%) or software (22%) companies, and the remaining work in other B2B companies. Most respondents hold senior-level marketing positions, and more than one-half are from companies with fewer than 100 employees. Other report sponsors were IDG Enterprise, NetProspex, Maximizer Software, and Solution Publishing.

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  • by Kristina Thu Oct 4, 2012 via web

    Great stats. One thing-your Ingredients of Great Content chart has a typo. It should be "compeling" rather than "complelling."

  • by Kristina Thu Oct 4, 2012 via web

    Or correction "compelling." :) it's too easy to spell that wrong!

  • by Rebecca Thu Oct 4, 2012 via web

    I noticed that too and thought it was funny that it was just a few spots above "Well edited copy." Ha!

  • by Joshua Hardy Carroll Thu Oct 4, 2012 via mobile

    The new Google algorithm Penguin is going to further this trend because it ranks pages based on the quality of content, the author rank and the number of pageviews. Keyword-stuffed robo-blogs will be flagged. I say about time!

  • by Cliff Pollan Mon Oct 8, 2012 via web

    There is a great, untapped opportunity to use content in the sales and customer acquisition process. Unfortunately, as the study implies sales and marketing are not collaborating, as these are not in the top 3. And if they are not in the top three then they get no attention. Marketing is missing a tremendous opportunity to help grow revenues by helping sales to use the content they create. According to work by Forrester and Corporate Visions the sales person who sets the buying vision wins the deal 65% of the time. Wow, what an opportunity for marketing to team with sales to have them use the content in the entire sales process.

  • by Jaime Ordonez Victoria Mon Oct 8, 2012 via web

    Very insightful and timely stats, as always, Thank you. Interestingly, the numbers stagger, from what was the norm last year, clearly creating an organic algorithm of sorts. Can't wait ti see the ratios next year, this time. My White paper now again needs to be updated and tweaked as it does each year:, if you're interested in giving me your advice.

  • by Yushau Sodiq Tue Oct 9, 2012 via mobile

    I love these stats and they are very useful. The saddest number is the only 56% use marketing automation. Quite a surprising fact given the amount of content that marketers are pushing. Marketing automation is not only great for lead nurturing and management, but also simply for organizing the amount of content produced by an active team. I would love to know the closed-loop marketing stats on which of these techniques closed the most business for the organizations surveyed. How does the 82% compelling story translate to taking users through the sales funnel?

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