Only 1 in 7 B2B marketing leaders believe that their content marketing efforts have very effectively delivered business value during the past 12 months, with a slight majority 51% feeling instead that their efforts have only been somewhat effective, finds a recent study [download page] from Forrester Research, the Business Marketing Association (BMA), and the Online Marketing Institute (OMI). Part of the problem identified in the study is an outsized focus on content production that isn’t optimized for the buyer’s full journey.
According to the study, some 62% of respondents agreed that they develop content on a campaign by campaign basis, an ad hoc approach that the study’s author interprets as ignoring the ways in which buyers encounter the content over time.
Moreover, roughly half of the respondents said that their primary focus is creating content for distribution channels such as websites, social media, and print publications, and another 16% said that their primary focus was developing sales materials or collateral about their products, services and offerings. Such a narrow focus on content production runs the risk of using content marketing as a type of outbound advertising practice, rather than a marketing technique used to engage customers and build relationships. For example, only 5% of respondents said that the primary focus of their content marketing practices is to publish regular communications to their customer base or commercial contacts, and just 3% report their main focus to be writing case studies, examples, or stories or shooting videos about their customers.
In other words, as the study notes, content marketing practices seem inordinately focused on customer acquisition at the expense of relationship-building that continues throughout the buyer’s journey. (For more information about buyers’ content preferences at the various stages of the buying cycle, see the MarketingCharts Debrief, “Reaching and Influencing B2B Buyers and Decision-Makers” [download page].)
Indeed, for the most part, respondents to the study fail to consistently understand the issues and identify topics that engage target prospects and current customers, also failing to consistently measure and optimize content to deliver value to both customers and the business. Moreover, respondents are more likely to consistently create content that “customers will like and seek out” than to adjust their strategy based on customer or prospect feedback.
Meanwhile, only about one-quarter of respondents can consistently determine the ROI of their content and regularly measure and report how it affects the sales process, retention, or cross-sell/upsell. Either as cause or effect, only a minority are able to consistently tie their content marketing objectives to specific business goals such as customer acquisition, retention and revenue growth.
About the Data: The study’s methodology is described as follows:
“As part of a joint study, Forrester Research teamed up with the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Online Marketing Institute (OMI) to field this benchmark survey. As a result of online marketing to each respective customer base or membership list, we received 137 completed surveys, and 82% (113) were from companies that sold primarily or exclusively to other firms. For quality assurance purposes, we required respondents to provide contact information and answer basic questions about their firm’s location of operations, industry, and number of employees. Respondent incentives included a complimentary copy of this report.
Exact sample sizes are provided in this report on a question-by-question basis. Survey responses are not guaranteed to be representative of the population at large. Unless otherwise noted, statistical data is intended to be used for descriptive and not inferential purposes.”