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Trends in B2B content marketing

In the fast-paced world of online marketing, it pays to keep up with current trends. Marketers need to be able to adjust their strategies to adapt to a changing market at a moment's notice. A recent survey by Holger Schulze of the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn revealed current trends in content marketing. The research concentrated on types of content, motivation in deploying a marketing strategy and the means of content production.

Types of content
The popularity of white papers and other long-form content is declining. Instead, marketers appear to favor shorter, more interactive media, such as videos. White papers were considered the second most effective form of content by survey respondents in 2012. This year, it has dropped to sixth in rank, well below video and blog articles. YouTube is increasing in popularity as a channel for lead generation, a possible product of the rising appeal of video. Potential buyers, no matter how high their interest, are often strapped for time. There simply may not be room in their day to read a white paper, but their schedules can accommodate short videos. The way people use the Internet is not the way they engage with print trade journals, and B2B content marketing increasingly acknowledges this.

The forms of content marketers believed to be the most effective were customer testimonials and case studies. Many online marketing strategies attempt to tap into the tendency of people to seek the opinion of peers rather than companies in making buying decisions, and these two forms of content are excellent ways to do just that. While marketers must render customer feedback into readable, engaging content, it can feel to the prospective buyer less like a branded creation and more like a curated view into the typical customer's experience. This strategy is valuable, as the survey results show.

Content marketing goals
In the B2B space, the top goal of content marketing is still lead generation, according to the survey. Seventy-one percent of marketers cited this as their top concern. Nearly half mentioned the desire to establish thought leadership and accomplish market education as another driving force behind their content marketing efforts. Of course, this goal supports lead generation. Becoming a trusted name in the industry can lead to more sales for a company, both directly because of increased brand awareness and indirectly due to educational materials linking back to the product or service it offers.

In order to meet these goals, marketers attempt to create and curate content they consider effective. The majority reported the most important feature of effective content is audience relevance. This is a sensible answer, as even the most compelling content will fall on deaf ears if prospective leads find it meets none of their needs. Once marketers have ensured their content is relevant, they find it necessary to tell a story that invites specific action, according to the survey. While content marketing is in part about thought leadership, its primary goal as a way to generate leads is evident from these priorities. It is not enough to engage and inform readers – content must also drive real interest in the brand itself and what it offers.

Content production
A majority – 93 percent – of B2B marketers create content from scratch. Thirty-four percent of marketers curate content, while 30 percent encourage users to generate their own content. Clearly, homegrown content is the most popular in B2B marketing. However, businesses that choose to explore curation and user-created content may have an edge over their competitors simply because these methods are not as common.

Furthermore, the survey found that most content is created in-house. Twenty-five percent of respondents outsource none of their content, while 18 percent outsource one-tenth of their total content production. Videos, white papers and research reports are the types of content most likely to be outsourced. Companies who desire to use these types of content may wish to contact an interactive marketing agency for guidance.

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.