One might argue that the line between B2C (Business to Consumer) and B2B (Business to Business) marketing is blurry when it comes to online marketing. B2C and B2B marketers essentially use the same kinds of tactics which, increasingly, rely on social media.
But B2B marketers, it seems, have become masters at content marketing, which can be broadly defined as the creation and distribution of compelling content in order to attract, engage, and retain customers. The latest report on the subject, â€œB2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends,â€ developed and conducted by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, indicates that 9 out of 10 B2B marketers actively use content marketing. The study is based on a survey of 1,092 B2B marketers worldwide with the majority from North America.
Content Distribution Channels Vary
While B2B marketers are committed to content creation, they deliver the content in different ways. The most popular content delivery tactics, according to the study, are article posting (79 percent), social media excluding blogs (74 percent), blogs (65 percent), eNewsletters (63 percent), case studies (58 percent), in-person events (56 percent), videos (52 percent), and white papers (51 percent). Some of the other means for content delivery include webinars, microsites, eBooks, and podcasts.
Content marketing is most widely used by companies in professional services (94 percent), computing/software (93 percent), advertising/marketing (89 percent), and healthcare (89 percent.)
Why do B2B marketers use content marketing? Brand awareness ranks first (69 percent), but customer acquisition (68 percent) and lead generation (67 percent) are not far behind. Customer retention and loyalty is next (61 percent), but the least widely employed goal for content marketing is lead management/nurturing.
B2B marketers spend about 26 percent of their total marketing budgets on content marketing initiatives; however, smaller companies tend to spend a greater percentage of their budget on content marketing than larger companies. Over half (62 percent) of all B2B marketers say they will spend more money on content marketing in 2012.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Content Marketing
B2B marketers measure the effectiveness of content marketing mostly by the web traffic it generates, but sales lead quality has become an important metric as well. As for the competitive environment, 40 percent of B2B marketers think they do a better job of content marketing than their competitors â€“ although 41 percent admitted that their greatest challenge is producing compelling content that engages customers and prospects. The good news for suppliers in this space is that 62 percent said they used outsourcing for content marketing in 2011, up from 55 percent the prior year.
The social media outlets used by B2B marketers to distribute content are the usual suspects, but Twitter leads the pack (74 percent), followed by LinkedIn (71 percent), Facebook (70 percent), and YouTube (56 percent). YouTube, however, had the largest increase in 2011 in terms of adoption rate (a 47 percent increase).
Strategies for Success in 2012
There is some indication that 2012 will be a year in which more B2B marketers understand the value of segmenting audiences and targeting content to individual segments. While the most popular way to segment an audience was by company characteristics (50 percent), marketers are increasingly segmenting based on the profile of the decision maker, which includes such things as department and job title (57 percent in 2011 vs. 49 percent in 2010). Still, only 39 percent align content with a particular stage in the buying cycle, and 12 percent do not tailor their content in any way.
The study concluded that the most effective B2B content marketers â€œtap into a more extensive distribution network, using all distribution channels in the survey at significantly higher rates than their less effective peers.â€ This should come as no surprise. These days, covering all bases with content makes more sense than restricting distribution to only a few channels. The real key for B2B marketers in 2012, though, will be to increase their understanding of what customers and prospects consider to be the most compelling content â€“ and how these constituents prefer to receive it.
About Barry Silverstein
Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the worldâ€™s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.