If you wanted to know what types of content are currently popular in B2B marketing, where would you look?
For us, it’s usually one of two places: the Content Marketing Institute’s excellent annual forward-looking survey, B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, or Holger Schulze’s annual survey of B2B marketing professionals on LinkedIn.
Both surveys provide excellent insight into the types of content that modern marketers are creating. Because of them, we know B2B marketers typically use 13 different content formats to attract and engage potential buyers.
We also know that, despite all the hype in recent years about ‘old-school’ content being dead, traditional formats like white papers and case studies still figure in the top 10 most commonly-used content types.
(And with good reason: this research by Eccolo Media suggests they’re in the top three formats that B2B buyers value most when it comes to making a buying decision.)
Our view of 2014 from the copywriting trenches
The work we do at Radix is – or should be – a microcosm of this larger universe. In 2014, we wrote copy for 716 content projects for 31 B2B technology brands. That’s a lot of content – 33% more than we produced in 2013, in fact. So it stands to reason that we ought to see broadly the same trends as the CMI and Holger Schulze, right?
Well, actually, as it turns out, no. Our experience of 2014 in some ways differed quite wildly from what the market as a whole said it was doing. You could argue that our universe of 31 tech-industry clients is pretty small compared to the entire universe of B2B content marketers, so we’re bound to see some differences, and you would be right.
But as this is the third consecutive year that we’ve crunched our own numbers, it’s intriguing to see distinctive trends emerging over time in the type of work clients are commissioning us to do.
Emily has done a fine job of summarising five of those trends in this SlideShare. If you’re a B2B technology marketer, it ought to provide an intriguing snapshot of the types of content your peers are producing (and outsourcing to a copywriting agency). If you’re a B2B copywriter, we’d be really interested to know if your experience of 2014 tallies with ours.
Some surprising results
I was personally surprised at a few of the things our 2014 numbers revealed. For example, I hadn’t really clocked that our social copy work had a) skyrocketed and b) shifted from writing tweets and Facebook posts – which are designed to link through to content elsewhere – to writing copy for visual, social-native formats that are designed to be consumed on the platform itself.
A mysterious decline in blogging work
And I was highly intrigued by the apparent nosedive in our blogging work, especially since the CMI et al say that articles and blogs are the #2 and #3 most used content type respectively, and Holger Schulze’s crew say they’re the #2 most outsourced content type. Surely we should be seeing more blog work year on year, not less?
I’m not sure what to conclude from this, other than that marketers have never seemed to place the same kind of value on individual blog posts as they do on comparable (in terms of the research and writing involved) content formats like executive briefs and shorter white papers. There’s a definite mentality in the industry that blog posts ought to be cheap, and perhaps that’s driving marketers to outsource to low-cost content farms rather than high-class outfits like our own.
Infographics down – are they too difficult?
I was less surprised by some of our other big trends. We saw infographic work decline after a peak in 2013, and I think that’s because infographics have become so common that only the really good ones stand out – and creating really good infographics is very hard, especially if you don’t have very good data to create them from. Good infographics also require writers and designers to work very closely together, and that’s not always possible when they’re not in the same place.
White papers increasing year on year
And as one of the lonely voices in the industry who still thinks white papers are useful – indeed essential – elements of the content marketer’s toolkit, I felt slightly vindicated to see that our white paper work has been increasing steadily over the past three years. At the same time, we’ve been working on a wider range of content than ever before, including lots of fun, top-of-funnel stuff like parallax sites, slideshares and ad copy. So it’s not as though we’ve painted ourselves into a white paper corner.
So it was a bit of a strange year, with lots of stuff that falls in line with wider trends, but lots of counter-intuitive stuff going on, too.
But enough of me blathering on – have a look through the Slideshare and if anything strikes you as noteworthy, do let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Finally, big thanks to two of our favourite UK-based content marketing gurus, Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners and Sonja Jefferson of Valuable Content, for contributing their thoughts on what will be big in content marketing this year! And extra special thanks to our long-suffering operations director Sophie, who painstakingly extracted all our project data from our PM system for the second year running – and on a Sunday, too. Thank you, Sophie!