The B2B Content Marketing Survey Says… Doing These 5 Things Will Get You Ahead in 2016
October 15, 2015
Marketers, how are you capitalizing on micro-moments? Are you ready to enter the wearables market? Have you decided on Meerkat or Periscope for real-time streaming? Are you cross-pollinating your Snapchat and Instagram audiences? How about growth hacking? Tell me you’re growth hacking!
All right, stop. Breathe. The panic you’re feeling is perfectly normal. Shiny Object Syndrome abbreviates to S.O.S. for a reason; it can make you feel like a sinking ship. With all the new tools and platforms popping up every day, it’s easy to feel like you are falling behind if you are not actively chasing the next big thing.
Many marketers are indeed falling behind, but the reason has nothing to do with failing to keep up on trends. Last year, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published their 2015 B2B Content Marketing Survey. Among the survey’s clearest takeaways: The most effective content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, but only 35% of marketers surveyed had one. That means 65% were building their content marketing empire on a weak foundation.
Last month, the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Survey was released. With a full year to develop a written marketing strategy, based on overwhelming evidence in favor of one…the number actually dropped. Now only 32% have a documented strategy.
We know what we need to do to succeed. But many of us aren’t doing it. Which means you have a golden opportunity: If you start with the fundamentals suggested by this year’s survey, you can easily get ahead of the marketers who are still holding out.
So let’s borrow a tagline from Family Feud and take a critical look at what “the survey says!” These five foundational activities will all play a major role in achieving B2B content marketing success in 2016.
The Survey Says:
Of the organizations that rated highest in effectiveness, 79% had a clear definition of success. Only 23% of those rated least effective could say the same. Overall, less than half of the 5,000 marketers surveyed said they were clear on what a successful content marketing program looks like.
It makes sense that defining success makes you more effective. Without a clear end goal, it’s hard to make a good plan, adjust to stay on track, or even recognize success if you happen to achieve it.
How to Take the Lead in 2016: Start your content marketing strategy with clear goals and a definition of what success looks like. This definition will vary from company to company, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Create a definition of success that makes sense for your organization. Then you can start setting goals that match your definition.
The survey shows a healthy trend toward measurable goals, rather than vanity metrics like website traffic or social media sharing. Sales lead quality, sales, and higher conversion rates are the top three metrics B2B content marketers use, and they’re a good place for your organization to start when making goals.
The beauty of these three metrics is that they’re directly tied to the financial health of the business. That’s good for calculating your ROI, also making it easier to for everyone, from the CMO to the entry-level employee, to realize how they contribute to the company’s success.
Put Your Content Marketing Strategy in Writing
The Survey Says:
As noted in the introduction, the big takeaway from 2015’s survey was that a documented content marketing strategy makes organizations more effective. The companies that put their strategy in writing get consistently better results from their content marketing tactics, social platforms, and paid distribution.
This year, over half of the most effective marketers had a documented strategy, while only 13% of the least effective had one. A well-crafted, documented content marketing strategy doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes success far more likely.
How to Take the Lead in 2016: It’s well past time for your organization to develop a documented content marketing strategy. The Content Marketing Institute has a good getting-started guide.
Your plan should include the following components:
- Customer research that will inform the entire plan
- Specific, measurable goals for each piece of content
- A content plan mapped to each stage of the buying cycle
- A promotion and amplification plan
- A plan to repurpose content for different audiences & delivery methods
- A plan to evaluate and adjust the strategy as you deploy it
As Brain Traffic’s Kristina Halvorson says, “Content without a strategy makes the web lame.” Use your content strategy to elevate your content above the lame by making sure it’s relevant, useful, and discoverable.
Make it a Mission
The Survey Says:
The mission statement question was a new addition to the survey this year, and there is a strong correlation between having a documented mission statement and increased effectiveness. Forty-eight percent of the most effective marketers have a documented mission statement, versus just 14% of the least effective.
While a documented strategy brings clarity to your content marketing efforts, a mission statement brings another crucial ingredient: It inspires the passion that enables creative, engaging content.
How to Take the Lead in 2016: Help spark the passion that makes a difference in your organization with a mission statement that describes how you plan to help your audience and you company. And “mission statement” in this context doesn’t mean the standard buzzword-laden, high-minded but hollow run-on sentence.
To make your mission statement truly inspirational, consider using Michael Brenner’s template: “Become a destination for [audience] interested in [topics]. To help them [customer value]. This will help us [content marketing goals].”
Keep the focus on helping your audience, tie it back to your business, and you can inspire the passion your team needs to create content that connects.
The Survey Says:
The frequency of content marketing program meetings is another new addition to the survey. As with the mission statement, fewer than half of the respondents meet regularly, but the most effective marketers make meetings a priority. Sixty-one percent of the most effective meet daily or weekly, and 70% of the marketers who meet daily or weekly say the meetings are valuable.
How to Take the Lead in 2016: Obviously, scheduling meetings is not a guarantee of effectiveness. Without a definition of success, a documented strategy, and an editorial mission statements, more meetings can just mean more wheel-spinning.
Once you have the other pieces in place, though, meetings can be more productive. By having everyone on the same page, meetings can be about reinforcing each member’s role, checking the effectiveness of the plan to date, and getting consensus to make adjustments.
Perhaps most importantly, regular meetings can keep everyone focused on your mission and goals, which can keep everyone passionate about seeing the plan through to success.
Focus on Better, Not More
There is an interesting disconnect between the volume of content creation and the quality of content created. The survey found that 76% of marketers plan to produce more content, while 70% still struggle with creating effective content (up 8% from last year). It doesn’t make a lot of sense to create more content to address your content not being effective, but that is the current state of the industry. Which means you have an opportunity to create higher quality content than your peers.
How to Take the Lead in 2016: Focus on better, not more. This is about more than content. Doing fewer things better applies to almost every aspect of your marketing strategy. Devote more resources to the channels you know are most effective for your organization. Experiment with new platforms and tools, of course, but only those that make sense for your audience, your mission, and your goals.
Instead of cranking out more content, identify the content that performs best, find the commonalities, and use that as a model to create better content. Map your new content strategy to your buyer journey, making sure it’s created for the personas and stages you identified in your documented strategy.
Finally, take a look at your social network involvement and see if you can do better instead of more. Rather than taking a half-hearted swing at every available channel, focus on the platforms where your audience is most likely to engage.
The Survey Says…You Can Do It
The new B2B Content Marketing Survey is a wake-up call for our industry. Content marketing is on the cusp right now for many organizations. We can do it smarter and better, or we can resort back to the outbound marketing tactics that generally cost more and produce less. Organizations with strategy, clarity, and quality will be the ones left standing when the dust settles.
But beyond the dire warnings, the survey gives enterprising marketers a clear and simple path to success. If your organization is in the 70% that rate their marketing as ineffective, it’s time to take the lead and join the elite. Set measurable goals and define success. Craft a mission statement to inform and inspire your efforts. Document your content marketing strategy and meet frequently to stay on course. Finally, focus your attention on doing better, not just more.
Take control, take action, and make your organization a best-in-class content marketing powerhouse.
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