The state of B2B content marketing in 2013: five new reports digested

Here’s a quick roundup of the most interesting reports and findings that we’ve noticed from the past few weeks.

The state of B2B content marketing in 2013: five new reports digested

The past few weeks have seen a slew of interesting reports for content marketers and copywriters, giving a snapshot of the state of content marketing in the first half of 2013. Here’s a quick roundup of the most interesting reports and findings that we’ve noticed:

Adestra: Subject Line Analysis Report 2013

Adestra examined more than 90,000 email campaigns (more than 2 billion emails), all for lists with a minimum of 5,000 subscribers, studying keywords in the subject lines. They examined open rates, click rates, click to open ratios and unsubscribe rates in relation to these keywords.

There are more than a few new insights in this latest round of research. For instance, the content marketing deluge is quite possibly upon us, as emails with subject lines offering specific types of content are now “trending down”.

For example, open and click rates were both decreased for emails with subject lines featuring “report” (-23.7% and -54.8% on the average, respectively) or “webinar” (-16.6% and -70.7% on the average, respectively).

Adestra’s advice? Everyone is doing content marketing at the moment, so marketers need to “focus on differentiating your offerings”.

Holger Schulze: B2B Content Marketing Report 2013

Holger Schulze’s latest trends report surveyed members of his B2B Technology Marketing Community LinkedIn Group. Pooling the findings from 815 participants, the report aims to show how tactics are changing for B2B technology marketers.

This year, the main aims of content marketing for those who responded to the survey are “lead generation” (71.3%, up from 2012’s 68%), “thought leadership/market education” (49.9%, no discernible change form 2012) and “customer acquisition” (45%, up from last year’s fifth place).

Interestingly “brand awareness” has dropped out of the top three, which perhaps suggests that marketers are looking for more measurable results from their content marketing activities.

Customer testimonials and case studies are still seen as the most effective content marketing tactics. Consider this in the context of respondents rating “audience relevance” and “engaging and compelling storytelling” as the two most important things in creating successful content.

Sticky Content: The State of Digital Copywriting 2013

Produced by digital copywriting agency Sticky Content, the report is based on the responses of 365 content professionals who answered 20 questions about the issues affecting them as creators of online copy.

Apart from the familiar struggle of balancing engaging copy with the demands for SEO friendliness (44% of those surveyed worry about this a lot), there was some alarming insight regarding briefs in Sticky Content’s report. Apparently, “only 1 in 10 content professionals surveyed always use a written brief.” And 40.4% of respondents “sometimes” had a brief.

It’s not as if a written brief needs to be Tolkienesque in length; as Sticky Content points out, it mainly needs to show “[…] who the copy is for and what you want people to think, feel, or do when they read it”.

B2B Marketing: Content Marketing Benchmarking Report

From B2B Marketing and Circle Research, this report examines the responses of 177 client side marketers in order to understand current issues affecting those involved in business-to-business content marketing.

Measuring and demonstrating ROI is a theme of several of the reports highlighted in this post. It’s an issue that this benchmarking report from B2B Marketing returns to several times, with one question showing that respondents are struggling to demonstrate ROI from their content marketing activities. Only 1% were able to “completely” show their ROI from content marketing, compared to 37% who could do so “some of the time” and 18% who found they could “rarely or not at all”.

B2B Marketing acknowledged that the report could just be showing that “[…] different organisations are at different stages of their journeys towards marketing sophistication”.

An interesting finding is that marketers seem to be clinging on to some traditional content formats despite not finding them particularly effective. Press releases were being “frequently used” by 55% of respondents, for example, but only 18% rated them as “very effective”.

Base One: Buyersphere parts one and two

This research from Base One, in association with McCallum Layton and Research Now, asked 500 B2B buyers about their most recent purchase over £20,000.

The research has some interesting insights into why B2B buyers make the investments they do, and the channels they use to research a purchase before buying. For instance, advice from social media was ranked lowest in terms of usefulness, whereas information from a friend or colleague is held in far higher regard.

It’s definitely worth looking at the reasons why organisations begin their purchase processes, because, surprisingly, “a need to cut costs” did not come out top. Businesses were more likely to be prompted by “the need to improve productivity” or to support “business expansion” as well as a perceived need to keep up with competitors.

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