Where is B2B content marketing headed in 2022 and beyond?
Continuing an impressive and time-tested marketing tradition, the recently-released twelfth annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI), MarketingProfs, and ON24 offers up a bountiful array of insights for B2B content marketers, and helps us answer this key question and several others.
The 54-page 2021 edition provides a comprehensive look at how some of the top content marketers have been making an impact and achieving success during the past year, even with the unprecedented challenges we’ve all faced.
B2B content marketing is growing in importance, scope, and adoption by organizations of all sizes, and is poised to see further expansion in 2022 and beyond, as we’ll examine.
Let’s take a look at some of the insights and revelations from the research data that you can take action on and use today in your own B2B content marketing efforts, and include in your strategy for 2022 and well beyond.
1 — More B2B Content Marketing & Greater Success From Defined Strategies
The research’s own introduction summarizes as a key finding the significant success that content marketing has had in the B2B landscape over the past challenging year.
It should come as little surprise, as other recent research has also revealed that content-based business models are on the uptick, such as new report data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) contained in its latest “The Economic Impact of the Market Making Internet” study, published every four years.
The new IAB data showed that over half of all U.S. advertising and media employment is now derived from the Internet, with a healthy proliferation of business based on content creation — a fact that is backed up throughout much of CMI’s recent research.
Having a documented content marketing strategy is a basic yet vital factor seen in the most successful organizations, with 62 percent of the survey’s top performers having a defined strategy in place, compared to only 40 percent of all content marketers taking part in the study, while just 11 percent of the least successful performers said that they had a documented content marketing plan in place.
2 — More Successful B2B Organizations Outsource, Use Content Marketing Tools
A majority of the top marketers in the research — some 57 percent — say that their organization outsources some content marketing functions, a statistic that meshes with the importance of creating best-answer content, whether in-house or in the form of a top award-winning outside agency such as TopRank Marketing.
While only half of marketers who describe their organizations’ approach to content marketing as minimally or not at all successful say that they use content creation, calendaring, or collaborative workflow tools, a hefty 83 percent of the most successful organizations did make use of such technology, the report noted.
3 — Measurement, Creativity & Consistency Present In Top B2B Content Marketing
Another differentiator that places a stark contrast between the most and least successful content marketers is that 90 percent of the top performers have a program in place to measure the performance of content marketing efforts, while just 39 percent of the least successful organizations use such measurements.
Across the board, today’s B2B content marketers view 2022 with optimism for content marketing, as witnessed by 75 percent of those at the most successful organization who expect content marketing budgets to increase in 2022, with even 61 percent of those having the least success also expecting to spend more on content marketing next year.
The most successful firms utilizing content marketing tend to place a higher value on the attribute of creativity, a trait 92 percent of top content marketers said their organization sees as helping to craft successful content, while just 63 percent at lower-performing organizations strongly value such creativity in content marketing, the report noted.
Consistency has always been an important element of the process of content marketing, especially in the B2B landscape, however the new research shows just how key consistent customer experiences have become, with 81 percent of the most successful content marketers noting that their organization provides consistent content, while just 30 percent of those at the least successful firms remain consistent throughout the customer journey.
4 — Bolstering Customer Loyalty & Nurturing Audiences Are Key
Another glaring contrast between the most successful and the least successful B2B content marketers is how each utilizes content marketing to build customer loyalty and to nurture new leads or audiences, the research reveals.
78 percent of top performers make a point to use content marketing in loyalty-building programs targeting existing customers and clients, while only 34 percent of the least successful performers do.
64 percent of top performers use content marketing to nurture audiences, subscribers, or leads — a tactic that just 23 percent of the least successful organizations use.
“B2B content marketing is growing in importance, scope, and adoption by organizations of all sizes, and is poised to see further expansion in 2022 and beyond.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Click To Tweet
5 — Empathy Allows B2B Marketers To Capture Greater Attention
The new research shows a general uptick in how content marketing has succeeded in capturing attention in the B2B realm even as competition has escalated as the pandemic has continued, and that the global health crisis has brought the practice of content marketing to more organizations, becoming an essential element to some.
Empathy has been a top concern when it comes to garnering that attention, the research also shows, a finding that we’ve emphasized, most recently in our senior content marketer Joshua Nite’s look at, “Why Empathy Matters More than Ever in B2B Content Marketing (And How to Get It Right).”
More than half of B2B content marketers in the new research said that over the past year it’s become more challenging to capture the attention of audiences.
6 — Video Investment In 2022 & A Different B2B Content Marketing Landscape
As I covered recently in our weekly Friday TopRank Marketing B2B marketing industry news, 69 percent of B2B content marketers said that they view video as a top area of 2022 investment, according to the new research.
Some 77 percent of B2B content marketers said that their content marketing strategy was different now compared to how it operated prior to the pandemic, with 4 percent noting an extreme difference, 15 percent who said it was very different, 22 percent who noted that it had differed slightly, and 36 percent who’ve noted a moderate difference in strategy.
7 — Large & SMB Organizations Benefit From B2B Content Marketing
CMI’s research pointed out that successful B2B content marketing helps organizations of all sizes achieve successful marketing outcomes.
From smaller B2B organizations that saw 27 percent of marketers in their ranks report high levels of content marketing success, to 30 percent from those at large companies, content marketing was seen a bringing success due to the value that it provides regardless of organizational size.
In 2021 75 percent of B2B marketers working at larger firms said that their organization utilized outsourcing, up from some 71 percent in 2019 — and even more tellingly, up significantly from last year’s 61 percent, the CMI research has noted.
8 — Putting Audience Needs & Journey Stages First
87 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers said that their firms focus on putting the needs of their audience ahead of their own organizations’ sales or promotional messaging, compared to only 41 percent of those from businesses with the least successful content marketing efforts, the research showed.
Similarly, 62 percent of those at top performers noted their organization crafted content with an eye towards the specific stages of buyer journeys, with just 17 percent of low performers taking these element into account in their efforts.
9 — Virtual Events, Research & Blog Posts Are Primary Elements
Today’s B2B marketers have more variety and choices than ever when it comes to the elements that can be used in content marketing, however certain digital assets have performed better than others.
The B2B content assets producing the best results over the past year include virtual events, research reports, blog posts under 3,000 words, eBooks and whitepapers, and the venerable case study, all ranking above video in the new research.
The nearly exponential increase in both the variety and volume of digital assets B2B content marketers are using every day now makes it more important than ever to accurately keep track of vast amounts of content, which is why more B2B firms are also taking a look at an implementing digital asset management solutions, as I explored recently in “Optimizing Digital Assets: How B2B Marketers Can Combine the Best of External & Internal Search Findability.”
10 — Content Marketing Hits Multiple B2B Targets
Finally, with all of these increasingly important B2B content marketing elements coming together to form a cohesive strategy, the CMI research has shown the top goals content marketing has brought to organizations from small or large.
80 percent of B2B content marketers said their organization’s content marketing efforts created brand awareness, with 75 percent noting it built brand credibility and increased trust, while 70 percent found content marketing successful in educating their audiences.
Additional benefits achieved by content marketing were greater loyalty among existing clients and customers, lead generation and nurturing, and content marketing’s ability to successfully drive attendance to virtual, in-person, or hybrid events.
Blast Off By Turning B2B Content Marketing Insights Into Action
The 10-plus insights we’ve shared here can help propel your own B2B content marketing efforts to new heights in 2022 and beyond.
In order to help you further all aspects of your B2B content marketing strategy, here are five bonus articles we’ve recently published, each exploring how to craft successful best-answer content:
Content marketing takes on added scope and potential for greater and more authentic audience connections when it joins with B2B influencer marketing, an area our CEO Lee Odden explored recently in an episode of our Inside B2B Influence podcast featuring Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist at Salesforce, “Inside B2B Influence: Brian Solis of Salesforce on the Future of Influence in B2B Marketing.”
No matter how you tilt it, creating award-winning B2B content marketing takes considerable time and effort, which is why many firms choose to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today to learn how we can help, as we’ve done for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and others.