When it comes to content marketing, the majority of business-to-business (B2B) marketers we surveyed last month are not as mature as they think.
Roughly half of respondents (52%) are in the early stages of assembling a content strategy and executing against it. We call this early majority "aspiring editors," and while their practices are often inconsistent or not fully embraced across the organization, these marketers are busy laying the foundation upon which to build an editorial point of view that gives their buyers something useful and valuable to read, watch, or interact with.
In a new report, published today (subscription required), we took a closer look at the maturity of content marketing practices among 113 B2B marketing professionals. Half of our respondents hail from companies with 1,000 employees or more, and 41% occupy senior marketing positions including the title of CMO or senior vice president. When compared to peers, most (51%) believe their practices are very mature.
But that bar is not very high when an overwhelming 85% can't connect content activity to business value and, as a result, fail to create those intimate long-term relationships that will form the primary source of competitive advantage in business from now on.
Our content marketing benchmark shows that B2B marketers have more work to do when it comes to consistently delivering a valuable exchange of information with prospects and customers. Key findings include:
- Content is not marketing's job No. 1. A startling 72% of surveyed marketers say less than half of their marketing staff plays a primary role in content marketing today — leaving content to quickly devolve to talk of products and features, rather than interesting insights buyers crave. It's not a surprise, then, that 87% say they struggle to produce content that truly engages their buyers.
- Marketers produce content simply to fill the channel. Sixty-two percent admit to producing content on a campaign-by-campaign basis, while 47% said that they focus primarily on creating content for distribution channels like their company website, online advertising, email, and social media. Another 16% said they mainly develop sales collateral. Altogether, this data shows an acute focus on acquisition that practically ignores the remainder of the customer life cycle.
- They fail to highlight how they help customers become successful. While 71% of surveyed marketers say their content features case studies or customer stories, only 3% admit this is a primary focus of their efforts.
- Content lacks insight that buyers can turn into action. Only 12% of respondents make publishing research and perspectives the main focus of their content marketing, and no one said they engage external experts to validate those ideas.
- Marketers focus on creating deals, not on building relationships. While more than three-quarters of respondents say they frequently communicate to their customer base, only 5% make this a priority, proving that marketers are too focused on acquisition rather than creating long-term loyalty.
To overcome these deficiencies, and others we detail in the report, CMOs will need to take a hard look at skills, staff, and creative resources directed at content production — because it's clear that staying the current course will not be productive long-term. In the survey, we found just 4% of those we surveyed are true masters of content marketing. We were lucky enough to speak to a few at companies like Computer Sciences Corp, Deltek, Kapost, Sungard Availability Services, and Verizon — you can learn more about their practices and successes in the research. Survey participants who are members of the Business Marketing Association or Online Marketing Institute can apply for a copy of the report here. You can also read the Advertising Age coverage here to get an additional perspective.
Next up? A deeper look at why content marketing needs to look beyond the top of the funnel to deliver more impact to the business. And, in August, I'll bring this content marketing insight together during the Forrester Webinar "Four Ways To Improve Your Content Marketing Maturity" on August 7th.
In the meantime, let me know if you have any interesting content marketing successes to share. Take the assessment yourself and let me know how you score. I look forward to meeting more content masters who deliver the information and insight that buyers value and share.