What’s going on in the minds of B2B marketers?

When we look at the data, a few key elements stand out.

88% of B2B marketers use content marketing, yet only 30% describe themselves as “effective,” so states the 2016 benchmark report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

So what’s happening here? Do B2B marketers have high standards for themselves and their teams, or do they have an inferiority complex?

The Kapost Content Assessment: Insight into Kapost Customers

To find out, we interviewed hundreds of B2B marketers and Kapost users to understand what our customers care about most, and how we can better support them with our products and services. The results provide fascinating insight into the priorities of the world’s top B2B marketers, as well as the challenges they face executing their marketing and content strategies.

Here are some of the key takeaways.

82% consider content marketing one of their top five initiatives.

As users of Kapost’s marketing software, this group self-selects for a priority around marketing content. When asked, “How important is content marketing to your overall marketing effort?,” 82% said it is a top-five initiative.

This holds steady with industry benchmarks, as marketers have bought into the power of content for fueling digital, social, and demand channels.

The top three priorities for Kapost customers are (1) traffic and engagement, (2) lead and revenue generation, and (3) minimizing inefficiencies.

When asked about the goals for content marketing efforts, the #1 goal is to generate traffic and engagement at 71%. The next priority is attributing content to lead and revenue generation, including quarterly lead and revenue targets, cited by 58% of respondents. Rounding out the list, were establishing processes that minimize inefficiencies at 45% (more research on that topic here), and identifying and surfacing existing content at 40%.

Personas and buying stages can be helpful, but are used inconsistently.

When it comes to persona development, and putting them into action, B2B marketers are uneven in their execution. Nearly half (42%) say they use personas to guide their content, but admit they need work. An additional 25% realize that personas are helpful, but they don’t use them. Only 14% are currently using personas, but admit they don’t map them to buying stages.

This represents an opportunity for B2B marketers to put their personas into action by mapping their content strategy and doing content audits to determine if key personas and buying stages are adequately being cover by the current marketing programs (here are some planning templates to help you out).

75% of marketers focus content strategy on top of the funnel engagement

Most of the content strategy focuses on the top of the funnel, with 75% saying they focus on the top of the funnel (i.e. web/prospects), an additional 59% produce content for the middle of the funnel (i.e. lead nurturing), and 45% create content for the bottom of the funnel (i.e. sales enablement). Less than a quarter, or 24%, focus on post-sale content for customer success and retention. Ten percent of respondents do not focus content according to the buying funnel.

Silos are a problem and marketers are in the process of breaking them down.

Respondents were asked to best describe how different groups within their organization collaborate on the production of content. The most common response was “we are breaking down the silos, but it’s a long process.” More than a quarter (27%) said the groups remain in silos, but there are efforts to coordinate; an equal amount said, “we collaborate well, but we lack an efficient process.”

“We are breaking down the silos, but it’s a long process.”

Internal silos have ramifications beyond inefficiency—they also impact the customer experience. When teams aren’t aligned around the same processes, business objectives, and messages, they often deliver ad-hoc content through different channels, creating a disjointed customer journey. Breaking down internal silos support visibility and alignment, which in turn deliver an effective, marketing-driven customer experience.

Most content ideas are sourced internally.

The majority of ideas are generated through internal sources, with 82% of marketers generating content ideas from employees, 57% from sales, and 19% from the customer support team. There is some idea generation happening through external sources, but the numbers are much lower with 47% of marketers using social media, 26% from surveys, and 15% described as crowdsourcing.

This imbalance between internal vs. external sources represents an opportunity for B2B marketers to move toward a more outside-in, customer-focused approach to ideation. Check out the first (ever) in-depth research into content ideation for more.

The planning process is quarterly, at best.

B2B marketers tell us they struggle with planning, even as far out as quarterly. A third, or 34%, say they try to plan quarterly with little changes to the plan. Another 27% say they plan quarterly, based on major themes and initiatives. The remainder of respondents say they make it up as they go, plan monthly with quick changes, or work mostly ad hoc with planning only around major product releases.

34% say most of their content is produced ad hoc vs. repurposed.

When asked how much they reuse or repurpose content, 35% of respondents said they have experimented with producing larger content pieces and breaking them up for reuse, while 20% said they “often” do so. Another 34% admitted that most of what they produce is one-off, and they reuse some content to extend its life.

When Kapost customers come on board, we share with them the content pillar approach to marketing content. It’s an easy, effective, result-driven tactic for repurposing major content assets, and getting the most out of the content you’re already creating.

39% use spreadsheets to coordinate content.

The most common scenario we hear from new customers is, “Can you get me out of spreadsheet and email hell?

When respondents are asked to describe their process for organizing and coordinating content, 39% say they use spreadsheets and a rudimentary process. Another 22% describe content as created by various departments, with information living in multiple places. The next most common scenario is using project management tools to manage content production, at 18%. A small portion, 8%, describe having a content production calendar, but without having real-time visibility. The smallest percentage, at 7%, have a shared universal, real-time content calendar. The remainder of respondents describe various scenarios such as spreadsheets or a manually updated calendar.

Instead of supporting process and visibility, these manual, highly inefficient tactics can end up causing more harm than good, especially when deadlines need to be shifted or priorities change.

Influencer strategies are relatively new for most B2B teams.

When asked about their influencer strategy, specifically, how they target and interact with influencers to boost content performance, 43% said they have a small network of influencers, with whom they engage inconsistently, and have gained little traction. A full 25% have not yet identified influencers. A mere 2% have a mature influencer program–which means a staffed influencer program that ranks influencers by topics, solicits interaction and links, and tracks performance.

Nearly a quarter have a growing influencer program, with 22% stating, “we have a network of influencers we engage with on a consistent basis.” A smaller percentage, at 4%, described a formalized influencer program content is co-created; 3% say they have a small network of influencers they attempt to engage; and 1% say they engage with their influencer network “from time to time.”

Only 4% give themselves top marks for coordinating content and SEO.

B2B marketers give themselves an average rating of 2.55, on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being best, when asked how well they are coordinating their content strategy with their SEO objectives. Only 4% of respondents gave themselves a 5-star rating.

Despite the articles you might see come through your social feeds, SEO is not dead. It’s a crucial element of driving traffic and lead goals, and one of the key benefits of delivering a content-focused strategy. Moz has an incredible guide to beginner’s SEO, and where content marketing fits into the equation.

45% collect data across channels, but don’t consider it actionable.

While B2B marketers have made great strides in better tracking content to conversions and revenue, there is still huge room for improvement.

Marketers know that tracking the right metrics is crucial to optimizing the success of their marketing content, but tracking the right metrics, getting all their data in one accessible place, and gleaning actionable insights are still areas of growth for most marketing organizations.

When asked about their marketing metrics dashboard, 45% of respondents said they collect data from different channels, but that it’s not as actionable as they would like. 27% said metrics are in each of the various systems and accounts, but are reviewed less frequently than they should.

Still, progress is being made. 20% have the data accessible in several dashboards and report on consolidated numbers. That said, only 5% have real-time data tracking across multiple distribution channels, and even fewer (2%) can boast comprehensive, cross-content dashboard with real-time insights.

34% gather analytics and create KPIs to understand performance against goals.

Even thought there’s a long way to go, the good news is–at least for Kapost customers–moves have been made to track performance as it related to goals. 34% say they are gathering analytics and creating KPIs to understand how they are performing against goals, while only 25% don’t yet use detailed metrics to inform our content strategy and production. That said, only 7% are at fully optimized functionality, capturing analytics to identify patterns and insights in real-time and using those insights to inform our content strategy.

So what does this data tell us about B2B marketers, and the reasons they seek out platforms like Kapost? It’s becoming a goal-driven, content-fueled world–and marketers are taking the steps they need to keep up.Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the latest news, tips, and tricks in B2B marketing.

Peg Miller

About Peg Miller

Peg has the unique vantage point of working with B2B marketers all over the world, with experience leading the technology division of a B2B information company, building a loyal IT audience through content, and developing marketing, lead generation and content services for clients such as Microsoft, HP, AWS (Amazon Web Services), and many mid-market SaaS companies and software vendors. Her work in tech media for nearly 15 years in various business management, marketing and sales roles helps shape her view of how marketing, product, content, and sales work together to create an aligned customer experience. Follow @PegMiller or connect with Peg at www.linkedin.com/in/pegmiller

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