New Survey Sheds Light On B2B Content Marketing Trends

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Marketers at B2B high-tech firms are, in my opinion, an interesting bellwether for the industry. This is a group that, for obvious reasons, embraces technology, and it operates in an environment where rapid innovation and very fierce competition are the norm.

Tech-industry marketing VP Holger Schulze recently completed a survey of this group, recruiting over 800 members of the LinkedIn B2B Technology Marketing Community to take a snapshot of how these folks are using content marketing. You can see a summary of the results over at Slideshare, but there are a few points worth discussing here:

Lead generation is a top goal — but lead nurturing is not. According to the study, 71.4% of these B2B high-tech marketers now use content marketing for lead generation, but just 35.4% say they use content to fuel lead nurturing campaigns.That puts lead nurturing fourth on the list of key content marketing goals, after general lead gen, thought leadership and customer acquisition.

Marketing automation is way up, but the implementation is still spotty. Last year, 43% of these marketers were using marketing automation technology in some capacity. This year, that number has increased to 61%. When you drill down, however, about 37% use marketing automation to generate leads, 36% use it to nurture leads, and 28% say they actively create content to feed their automated campaigns. Those numbers could be worse, but they still show that a lot of marketers aren’t using the technology to its full potential.

Original content is valued, but bandwidth is an issue. An overwhelming majority — 93% — of these marketers create content from scratch, and a solid majority create 80% or more of their original content in-house. Perhaps not surprisingly, 55% say their teams struggle to find the time/bandwidth to create original content, and a significant number say they have a hard time creating engaging content, creating a sufficient variety of content, or finding the talent required to create their original content.

Short-form content is gaining ground. One of the most important trends to watch is the fact that white papers slipped from #2 on the list of most popular content formats last year to #6 this year. Videos and online articles are more popular than white papers, as is customer-focused content like case studies and testimonials. This jibes with other research we’ve seen, and it reflects the growing importance of content strategists who can apply the right formats and topics for a given campaign or target audience.

I’m sure some of these trends, such as marketing automation usage, would be much lower among B2B marketers as a whole. On the other hand, if you want to see what’s ahead for all B2B marketers, including both the challenges and opportunities associated with content marketing and marketing automation, this study is a great place to start.

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