Content marketing has been on the rise in B2B companies for a few years now—but in 2012, this savvy strategy has finally crossed the threshold from potential to essential.

According to a joint study by Marketing Profs and the Content Marketing Institute, 9 out of 10 B2B marketers are using content marketing to promote their businesses, committing an average of 25 percent of their budgets to fund creating and distributing relevant content online. More than 60 percent of marketers are planning to spend more on content marketing in 2012, too.

Content marketing covers a diverse range of information-sharing channels, from posting industry-relevant articles to creating various types of social content, toward an equally diverse range of target goals, from lead generation to thought leadership to increased client loyalty. Ultimately, content marketing focuses on providing value for the reader/receiver—and it has never worked more effectively than it does now.

Some more eye-openers from the study:

  • At 58 percent, web traffic is the most often-used metric for the success of distributed/posted content.
  • 62 percent of marketers intend to use some form of outsourced content to promote their company.
  • 69 percent of those surveyed stated “brand awareness” as their primary goal—making it the number one priority overall.

Google—still undeniably the top dog in the search universe—is gearing up to be even more deeply involved in social sharing in the year ahead, and B2B marketers can’t afford not to follow its lead. That’s why creating engaging social media content (excluding blogs) is second only to article posting as a core focus for survey respondents:

  • 74 percent zero in on Twitter content more so than any other network.
  • Nearly tied at 71 percent and 70 percent respectively, LinkedIn and Facebook also get major attention from B2B content marketers.
  • YouTube brings up 4th place at 56 percent—but 36 percent of those surveyed said they’d be putting more time and effort into video in 2012.

While not included in the stats above, blogs remain a big player in the content marketing game, with 65 percent of the marketers surveyed listing them as a significant priority, and 58 percent rating blogging as one of their most effective strategies across the board.

In fact, most B2B marketers are actually incorporating an average of eight content marketing methods into their marketing plan, from the strategies above to tactics such as…

  • Case studies
  • E-Newsletters (or eBooks)
  • White papers
  • Articles
  • Event materials
  • Microsites
  • Webinars
  • Virtual Conferences

… and many more.

All this bodes well for B2B customers, as the focus shifts once and for all to providing meaningful information over pushing out traditional marketing messages, via traditional marketing channels.

What are you doing to give your customers greater insight into your expertise and perspective? How will you tell your story in a way that compels your audience to know more?

With all the engagement opportunities available to B2B marketers in 2012, it’s time to put content marketing on the front burner for good.