content-marketing-in-2016Thanks to the fine folks at Content Marketing Institute and their 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, we scored some hard-hitting facts about the current state of content marketing in the B2B vertical. And because sharing is caring, we’re here to spark conversation about what they mean for your brand’s strategy this year.

Spoiler alert: Experts predict the vast majority of brands will “crash and burn” in their attempts to successfully deploy content marketing strategies in the months to come. Not exactly uplifting, we know. But if brands focus on learning how to identify what a successful content marketing strategy looks like, and mirror these strategies (adding their own flair, of course) to consistently deliver engaging content with serious value—they’ve got a fighting chance.

Here are the facts.

1. Content Marketing Will Continue to Grow

Eighty-eight percent of marketers currently deploy some form of content marketing strategy, albeit not effectively. But we’ll get to that. This is up 2 percent from last year—but what really has us intrigued is this: 76 percent of marketers claim they plan to produce more content this year than last. Which brings us to “sure thing” No. 2.

2. Content Shock Will Become More Severe

If you think last year was tough—watch out! More content means greater saturation and a lot more content crapola your audiences will reluctantly need to wade through before they find the truly valuable information they’re after. For marketers, this means you’re going to need to get a lot better at differentiating your brand story from everyone else’s.

One possible trend that could come out of this rise in content saturation is brands making bolder editorial moves. Instead of creating several small blog posts each month, it’s likely we’ll see an increase in unique, long-form content pieces that deliver big meaning, bigger value and serious impact.

3. Engaging Content is the Reigning King

Despite the general unrest among brands about reaching the right audiences, the top content marketing priority is still to make sure content engages audience members once the connection is made. Think less about volume and reach, and more about getting the message absolutely perfect.

Unfortunately, most marketers see creating engaging content as their greatest challenge. One possible solution is more aggressively excavating data to build out those increasingly valuable persona profiles. Without a deep understanding of whom you’re trying to reach, there’s no way you’ll break through the noise and create a personalized, hyper-relevant experience for your audiences. Odds are, your lead generation, conversion rate and website traffic will reflect this.

4. Most Brands Will Miss the Mark

The vast majority of B2B marketers don’t think their current content marketing strategy is effective. More than half of marketers don’t even feel they could recognize a good content marketing strategy if they saw one! This is clearly the marketing universe saying, Hey! Let’s change the subject!

Instead of talking circles around content distribution, technology and metrics (which are important but waterlogged topics), perhaps it’s time to gather around the virtual water cooler and share more information about how to tell a powerful brand story that not only reaches audience members, but also resonates with them.

Overall, it’s likely the gap between those doing content marketing right and those doing it wrong will continue to widen this year, making it painfully obvious the difference between front runners and the rest of brands.

5. Companies Aren’t Spending Enough

Most B2B marketers spend about 28 percent of their budget on content marketing. But (see point 4) most marketers also don’t feel their strategies are successful. Those who do feel their content marketing is effective spend about 46 percent of their budgets on it. With most marketers planning to produce more content this year, it’s safe to say they’re also going to plan on dishing out more cash for the cause.

6. Paid Distribution is Gaining Traction

Search engine marketing is still No. 1 among content marketing strategists, but promoted posts saw the greatest increase in popularity since last year and is considered one of the most effective means for peddling content. As more content is produced and the Internet becomes increasingly saturated, paid distribution is becoming one of the only ways to cut through the crowd to get your message in front of the right eyes. And with global social media users surpassing the 1.79 billion mark, it’s no wonder social networks make for highly effective paid distribution channels. That’s where audience members spend their time! As a result, we’ll probably see content marketers and media buyers become quite chummy this year.

7. Video Content is a Serious Player

YouTube became the third most effective content distribution channel since last year, and there’s a good reason for it. People prefer image and video content over text alone. In fact, 65 percent of people fall into the “visual learners” category, according to Pearson, the largest education company in the world. Put simply, data associated with images or video resonate deeper, and engage more effectively with these types of learners, which helps solve some of the above-mentioned content challenges. Case in point: 65 percent of video viewers watch more than three-quarters of a video (HubSpot). From a marketing standpoint, video makes a lot of sense. It’s like a content trifecta—imagery, text and audio—and it’s increasingly exciting search engines.

The grand takeaway: It’s time for marketers to step up their content marketing game and “go big” this year. Not big as in many … big as in impactful. And their ability to do so will hinge on how well they know their target personas, and the strength of their ability to tell a good story.

I’ll leave you with a final quote by Jay Acunzo, vice president of platform at NextView Ventures (published in 40+ Predictions on Content Marketing in 2016):

“Yes, today is a great day to be a marketer; but tomorrow will be the very best of times to be a creator.”

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