The year isn’t quite over, but 2012 has shaped up as the year content marketing has come of age.

Content marketing is the new SEO, the new advertising and the new branding. Content has been compared to currency and marketing is the exchange on which it is bartered for attention.   Content marketing has gained traction and earned the interest of senior marketing leaders – even the CMO Council has launched a white paper on content marketing and ROI.

All of these ideas are indications of content marketing’s popularity, yet a new study provides evidence of its influence in the B2B marketing sector. The Content Marketing Institute recently released the 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends survey for North America – and it’s filled with compelling data on the rise of content marketing.

Here are seven takeaways:

1.  More marketers are using content marketing because it works.  Content marketing accounts for one-third of marketing budgets, up 26% from the previous year. Ninety-one percent of B2B marketers say they currently use content marketing.  About half of respondents said they plan to increase spending in this category next year. Why?  Because content marketing is effective – and completely measurable – the top two criteria for measuring effectiveness were 1) traffic and 2) sales lead quality. Indeed, marketing’s top priority is not sales lead generation, it’s quality lead generation.

2.  Content marketing is a full time job.  On average, companies use 12 different content marketing tactics – from newsletters and mobile apps – to white papers and social media promotion. The largest companies use 20 or more tactics while smaller companies, naturally, use fewer.  It used to be that when a white paper was complete, all you needed was a registration page and an email and called it a marketing day; that’s true no longer.  The content can be repurposed and marketed in a number of ways, such as breaking a white paper into short blog posts for your own blog or as contributed content, presentations can be made for SlideShare, quotes and graphics pulled for Pinterest – all compelling ways to extend the shelf life of content.

3.  Traditional marketing techniques still matter.  Despite the fascination with new media, traditional marketing tactics are still effective – and more importantly provide an important blend to the overall content marketing mix.  Email newsletters ranked third among tactics in this study, but other tactics that were as familiar in 1999 as they are today are also ranked such as, webinars, events and research. Press releases, which were not listed as a tactic in this study, also ought to be part of an overall content marketing program because press releases drive traffic.

4. Events are enormous content marketing opportunities. 
Well-orchestrated events, like conferences, product launches and seminars, hold tremendous potential for content marketers.  In fact, 67% of marketers said “in-person events” were effective – a higher rating than any other tactic.  This is because events are a news hook; they give us something to talk about, to write about, to photograph or to capture video and then share – before, during and after the event.

5.  You can build a brand and earn leads at the same time.
It used to be marketers could choose tactics to build a brand or generate leads, but not both.  Content marketing bridges this gap. Consider the top three goals for content marketing according to this survey 1) brand awareness 2) customer acquisition and 3) lead generation.  Brands are what customers and prospects perceive – and marketers can shape that perception with conversations through content.  When content is shared, it’s a subtle but powerful form third-party validation which is the ultimate in brand building.  For lead generation, every page of content that is added is like building a new entry point – or door way to invite potential customers to engage a brand.  Customers leave digital footprints that tell exactly what content they are interested in, how long it retains their interest and whether or not it influence their buying decisions.

Google’s CEO is famous for having said, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”  For content marketers, it’s not just creating information, it’s creating compelling content; do that well, and the rest falls into place.