Almost all B2B technology marketers use content marketing, but only 30 percent rate their programs as effective or meeting overall objectives. That's the word from the Cleveland, Ohio-based Content Marketing Institute (CMI), which released a new report on content marketing today. 

michele linn

The majority of the 392 B2B technology marketers surveyed rate their content marketing efforts only average — or worse. Specifically, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very effective and 1 being not at all effective:

  • 3 percent gave it a 5
  • 27 percent gave it a 4
  • 47 percent gave it a 3
  • 19 percent gave it a 2
  • 3 percent gave it a 1

Have a Strategy

Those who have a documented content marketing strategy rated their programs the highest: 48 percent of them said their organizations are effective at content marketing.

“When you dig in and are doing the right things like adopting a content marketing strategy and finding the right technology and using it effectively, that makes content promotion more effective,” said Michele Linn, vice president of content for the CMI.

Marketers may simply be overwhelmed by the vast amount of actions they can take in their content marketing strategies. “It can be really difficult to bring it all together and measure it toward sales goals,” Linn said.

B2B technology marketers should sharpen their focus in their content marketing strategy. Too many of them try to do more when the better move is focusing on what works best, Linn told CMSWire.

“Technology marketers on average have about 14 tactics and five to six social programs,” Linn said. “It’s hard to do anything really well when you’re all over the place. What we really advocate is taking a step back and looking at your strategy to make sure it’s the right strategy. Focus on those things you do really well and go back to those things.”

Be Smart and Focused

This is the sixth year CMI has issues its B2B Technology Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends -- North America report.

CMI is a champion of a intelligent content — content that is by definition automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable. It was the theme of the Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) in Las Vegas earlier this month, which CMI hosted. 

In its Global Content Marketing Forecast 2015-19, PQ Media predicted the global content marketing industry will be worth more than $50 billion by 2019.

But marketers still need to refine their focus, Linn said.

According to CMI survey results, LinkedIn (95 percent) and Twitter (94 percent) are the social media platforms technology marketers use most often. LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform they use (72 percent).

How are marketers using LinkedIn? Some use paid LinkedIn marketing, while others use more organic paths like sharing and posting blogs

Carter Hostelley, founder and CEO of Leadtail, a B2B social media agency in Burlingame, Calif., said he’s a “self-professed LinkedIn power user” who’s on the platform multiple times a day. He said marketers can build a personal brand presence, listen to what's happening within and beyond their professional network, build an audience for their content and engage a target audience. 

“Anyone that blogs, publishes bylines, ghost written or not, or has opinions to share should be publishing on LinkedIn's Pulse platform,” Hostelley said. “And increasingly, this should be any business professional that is serious about advancing their career.”

LinkedIn's also a powerful tool for reaching out to buyers to connect and engage them in initial conversations, Hostelley said.

Content Drives Value

Michelle de Haaff, vice president of marketing and customer success at Palo Alto, Calif-based Glooko, which offers diabetes remote monitoring software, said LinkedIn’s now a social and content platform where connections and content drive business value. 

As a marketer, she looks for interesting content from influencers and thought-leaders to learn something new or find a new partner or vendor. She also posts ideas, stories, company and personal opinions as a way to connect beyond just a name and a digital resume and also to “find real people that might be interested in diabetes population management and remote monitoring solutions" from her own company.

LinkedIn has advantages because it allows both "social buyers" and"social sellers" to see the background of the person and the company to which they are trying to connect with or deliver content.

“The InMail feature on LinkedIn is starting to become really spammy,” de Haaff said, a fact Hostelley confirmed. “It’s definitely a disadvantage if you use LinkedIn a lot. But the content platform and posting interesting insights that connect back to a product or service is a great way to engage someone in a real conversation and ultimately in an offering that can really benefit them and their company.”

LinkedIn’s made it easier for writers and thought-leaders to post content and for readers to receive it. 

“They provide a way to share content so that an author and her company are connected to that content so that buyers can learn more and follow up on something they are personally interested in, in a pretty seamless way,” she said.

Don’t Rule Out Twitter

According to the survey, B2B marketers use Twitter (94 percent) nearly as much as they use LinkedIn (95 percent). They are easily the top two social media platforms for B2B marketers. Hostelley sees Twitter as a better platform for building a quality audience for content. 

“If you are an active content creator then you must be on Twitter,” he said. “For example, if you'd like to build a audience of decision makers for your content then it is much easier to do this on Twitter than LinkedIn.”

B2B marketers can also use Twitter to engage media and influencers. 

“The media and top influencers are very active on Twitter, and many enjoy and look for relevant social conversations to engage in,” Hostelley said. “This is typically not the case on LinkedIn unless someone is already part of your personal network.” 

The right solution is to be active on both LinkedIn and Twitter. A strong social path, he said, would be Twitter to LinkedIn to Facebook: moving along the social connections to offline relationships curve.

“I've personally used Twitter to reach and engage interesting folks that I then connect with on LinkedIn, and to take it one step further, you should then build relationships that turn you into friends on Facebook,” Hostelley said.

Here to Stay

Whether it’s social or other avenues, Linn said she doesn’t see B2B technology marketers slowing down soon: 95 percent of them use content marketing and a third said their content marketing is sophisticated or mature.

CMI also found technology marketers allocate 29 percent of their total budget, on average, to content marketing, up from 25 percent last year. Technology marketers say in-person events are the most effective content marketing tactic (75 percent).

“I come from a technology background myself, and a lot of times there are long sales cycles,” Linn said. 

“Those marketers want to keep their prospects engaged throughout these long sales cycles. Content marketing is a great way to bring awareness to brands and generate leads. You’re nurturing those leads across long sales cycles, closing deals and helping maintain customer loyalty.”