As content marketing gains a greater foothold in the marketing suite, those marketers that invest 30% or more of their budgets in the tactic—”best of breed” practitioners—exhibit significant differences in their use of content than those marketers that allocate a smaller share of their budget, according to a recently released BtoB study.
According to the study, “Content Marketing: Ready for Prime Time,” high-budget content marketers' No. 1 challenge is producing enough content to feed the various channels. Volume is the key for these marketers, to a much greater extent than with marketers overall, 61% versus 44%. Producing engaging content is also higher on average on their list of challenges than for marketers overall: 50% compared with 46%.
Meridian Systems, a project management technology company, invests a significant proportion of its marketing budget in marketing content. Sue Watkins, director-marketing at Meridian, said high-quality materials are key to its thought leadership program.
“Indirect channels really need quality leads,” Watkins said. “You could generate a ton of leads, but for us it's absolutely about quality.” To help generate such leads, Meridian creates six case studies and two or three pieces of original research a year. These are offered as part of its email and
“We invest a lot in technology and want to see a payback for what we do,” Watkins said. “We drive immediate actions by getting people to sign up for our webinars, bringing in analysts or customer case studies. Then we'll offer a full case study as a
follow-up item. That's a great way to get leads into the system.”
According to BtoB's study, marketers that spend a large proportion of their budget on content marketing say trustworthiness is important to them, cited by 54% of respondents in this category. Just 47% of marketers overall view trustworthiness as an important driver of content marketing; they're more focused on engagement, according to the study.
In addition, there is a significant preference for social media among best-of-breed content marketers (88% versus 80% of marketers overall). Articles are also preferred to a greater extent by high-budget marketers (80% versus 74%), as are newsletters, blogs, case studies, white papers and videos.
“Small videos are easy and fun, and don't cost a lot,” said Denise Patrick, senior VP at Pierpont Communications, which also invests strongly in content marketing. “It terms of engagement, I find that audiences don't want anything scripted. True engagement isn't scripted and [is] rehearsed so many times it no longer sounds real. True engagement is how we talk to each other.”
Webinars work well for Meridian, Watkins said, “but when it comes to content type, the case study is king. People want to know what their peers are doing.”
Overall, high-budget content marketers are much more satisfied with their efforts than content marketers overall. Sixty-nine percent of these best-of-breed content marketers say they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their content marketing efforts, compared with just 41% of marketers overall.
“We have found that the most-effective content marketing programs are budgeted at almost three times what the least-effective programs are,” said Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, which stages the annual Content Marketing World conference and expo. “That investment also means there's more buy-in from the C-level.”
However, Pulizzi said the focus on volume may be temporary.
“There's so much focus on what we're doing on all these various channels—Facebook, Twitter, blogging, you name it—that there's almost a rush to mediocre content,” he said. “It's not horrifying to the brand right now, and there's a lot of experimentation going on, which is fine. But at some point quality will be most important.”
What is striking about best-of-breed content marketers is how markedly different they view the value of particular content marketing methods compared with marketers overall.
There is a 9 percentage points greater emphasis placed on social media, for example. In addition, high-budget content marketers value e-newsletters 14 percentage points higher, blogs 18 percentage points higher, case studies 12 percentage points higher, videos 10 percentage points higher and white papers 9 percentage points higher.
There also are significant differences in how high-budget content marketers address social media compared with marketers on average. While content marketers overall see Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—closely ranked in that order—as their key social media distribution channels, best-of-breed marketers pick Twitter as their No. 1 choice, cited by 35%, compared with 25% of marketers overall.
Facebook, by contrast, falls precipitously in usage among high-budget marketers. Just 18% of this group use Facebook to distribute marketing content versus 29% of content marketers overall.
According to BtoB's study, high-budget content marketers are highly focused on using content marketing to boost lead generation. Among this subset, 28% said lead-gen is their most important content marketing objective, versus 25% of marketers overall. And they value Web traffic volume much more significantly, 62% versus 56%.
High-budget marketers also highly value content marketing's ability to bolster brand trustworthiness, seeing it as a means to alter the conversation, to inspire loyalty and reorders, to prompt brand devotion, and to edge out the competition.
This is only possible through a commitment to high-quality content, Pulizzi said.
“My assessment of best-of-breed content marketers is that they're creating little media companies in-house,” he said. “If you're going to create a piece of content, you have to go in with the vision that you will be the leading information provider in your niche.”
BtoB's study also found that high-budget content marketers value the volume of sales leads to a greater extent than marketers overall, as well as inbound linking, downloads and time spent on site.
BtoB surveyed 440 b2b marketing professionals online in April and May. For more information or to download the study, visit www.btobonline.com/