Even though content marketing has been around for years now, the topic continues to generate plenty of buzz. Why? Because when it’s done right, content marketing works. Just ask the throng that Content Marketing World earlier this month. I was there, and over and over again, I saw proof that content adds business value –for both B2Cs and B2Bs!

I know, I know . . . Many B2B marketers feel like they are on the outside, looking in at this new world of content generation and promotion. But, it’s time for all that to change. After all, more than half (56 percent) of the marketers surveyed for B2B Marketing’s Content Marketing Benchmarking Report said they’ve seen content marketing boost sales.

B2B marketers need to learn from these success stories and start developing strategies of their own –which is precisely why B2B Marketing’s research is so valuable. The Content Marketing Benchmarking Report offers insight in to what’s working (or not) in the B2B world, and it provides guidance to help B2B marketers develop effective content marketing campaigns.

But why now? Why is it so important for B2Bs to take action on content marketing? As this new report shows:

1. The time for equivocation has passed. I’ve been encouraging B2B marketers to join the party for years, and as those who participate in #B2BChat illustrate every Thursday night, the pump is primed. What’s more, attendance at Content Marketing World has nearly tripled over the past three years, and I’d venture to guess that every industry is now represented there in some way. To me, this made it clear that the writing is on the wall:

Even if you’re not using content marketing, your competitor is (or will be soon). B2B companies have simply run out of excuses for sitting on the fence.

Sure, some B2B marketers may be dragging their feet because there’s still no consensus on which channel is most effective, but honestly, that’s not a valid reason to wait. In a world where channel options are forever expanding, there will never be a clear consensus –and even if there were, you’d have to take any kind of agreement like that with a grain of salt. Every brand is unique, and you’ll have to test and measure to determine what channels work best for your company and its customers.

2. Demonstrating ROI remains a challenge, but it can be done. Almost half of those polled in this survey (46 percent) said proving ROI is a key challenge. However, I’ll let you in on a “secret:” There is no black-box mystery around demonstrating ROI. I hear time and time again that “it can’t be done,” but that’s just not true! Proving ROI CAN be done – if you implement integrated processes that can link marketing efforts directly to revenue.

In fact, Marketing Operations solutions are now so sophisticated that you can not only show aggregate ROI, you can zero into one channel, one campaign, even one piece of content to determine its effectiveness. If you paid $100 for a brochure, and got 100 downloads of it, 10 leads and 1 sale, we’ll, that’s a measurable return. Bottom line: You won’t get C-suite buy-in until you can prove results.

3. Personal touch still rules, and that’s what marketers do. Survey respondents said the two most-effective methods of distributing content are “one-on-one meetings,” which 55 percent regarded as “very effective,” and “events/seminars,” which 40 percent rated similarly highly. Of course, content marketing is just another way to feed into those kinds of personal connections.

Think about it: Content elements are really sales enablement; they offer information to position and support sales for meetings and events. Naturally, in order to be effective, these content elements must be relevant and engaging . . . and that means content marketing boils down to the same things that marketing has always boiled down to: knowing your customer and creating the most relevant experience for them. The difference is that now, thanks to data analytics, marketers are able to do that more effectively and more efficiently than ever. Today’s B2B marketers can leverage analytics to personalize content based on a customer’s likes and dislikes, past behaviors, etc. They can also use analytics to sort through enormous amounts of data to identify who the real B2B decision-makers are at customers and prospect companies.

Are you ready to beef up your content marketing efforts? If so, this B2B Marketing report is a great place to start. It’s loaded with action steps and will help you keep your focus where it needs to be – on the customer. Remember: Your goal should always be improving the customer experience and zeroing in on that 1:1 customer relationship. Plot your strategy, take small steps and keep testing and measuring as you go.