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The vast majority of b-to-b marketers now use content marketing as part of a strategic marketing approach, although less than half have a documented content-marketing strategy and most admit they can't track the return on their investment, according to a study released today by the Content Marketing Institute.
The fifth annual study, "2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends," was based on an online survey of more than 1,800 North American b-to-b marketers, conducted in July and August.
It found that 86% of b-to-b marketers use content marketing as part of their strategic marketing efforts. However, 48% say they have a content-marketing strategy but don't document it, and only 35% say they have a documented content-management strategy.
"We are really starting to find out what makes an effective content marketer -- it's all about documenting the strategy and following the strategy closely," said Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of "Epic Content Marketing."
"If they have a strategy, they don't document it, and if they do have a strategy, they don't follow it closely," Mr. Pulizzi said.
Having a documented content-management strategy seems to pay off in terms of effectiveness; 60% of b-to-b marketers that have a documented strategy rate themselves highly in content-marketing effectiveness, compared with only 32% of those who rate themselves highly with only a verbal content strategy.
Measuring ROI on content marketing remains a challenge for most b-to-b marketers. Only 21% of marketers said they are successful at tracking ROI on content marketing, although 35% of those with a documented strategy rate themselves as successful at tracking ROI.
Despite these challenges, 70% of b-to-b marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, even those who say they are least effective (58%) and those without any type of strategy (56%).
And 55% of marketers plan to increase budgets for content marketing over the next 12 months, including those who say they are least effective at content marketing (54%).
"Get ready for even more horrible content out there not based on any strategy," Mr. Pulizzi said.
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B-to-b marketers now spend an average of 28% of their total marketing budgets on content marketing. However, the most effective marketers allocate an average of 37% of their budgets to content marketing, and the least effective marketers allocate only 16% of their budgets to content marketing.
The top content-marketing tactics in terms of usage are social media (92%), enewsletters (83%), articles on the company's website (81%), blogs (80%), in-person events (77%), case studies (77%) and videos (76%).
In terms of effectiveness, the top content-marketing tactics are in-person events (69%), webinars or webcasts (64%), videos (60%) and blogs (60%).
"It's not digital. Everyone focuses on digital, yet in-person events are the most effective," Mr. Pulizzi said.
Of 13 content-marketing tactics tracked, usage either increased or stayed flat over last year.
The top social media platform used for content marketing by b-to-b marketers is LinkedIn (94%), followed by Twitter (88%), Facebook (84%), YouTube (72%) and Google+ (64%).
LinkedIn was also rated the most effective social media platform by b-to-b marketers (63%), followed by Twitter (55%), YouTube (48%) and SlideShare (42%).
The top paid advertising channels used for content marketing are search engine marketing (58%), print or other offline promotions (52%), online banner ads (49%) and social ads (48%).