Insights from Content Marketing Institute's 2017 Content Marketing Report

By Kat Liendgens — Thursday, December 15th, 2016 at 11:00am
Insights from Content Marketing Institute's 2017 Content Marketing Report

Every year,
Content Marketing Institute publishes benchmark reports on trends in Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing. The reports analyze the key challenges faced by content marketers as well as many contributing factors to success. Let’s take a look at the 2017 reports.

Increased adoption of content marketing

Content marketing has become a mandate. 89% of B2B organizations are using content marketing, and out of the 11% that were not, over half of them said that they were planning to implement it within the next year. Most organizations, both in the B2B and the B2C space, are expecting to significantly increase content production (70% of B2B and 73% of B2C respondents) and budgets (29% of B2B and 42% of B2C respondents) dedicated to content marketing.

Greater success due to bigger commitment

53% of B2B marketers stated that their organization’s content marketing was more successful than a year ago. Only 3% rated it less successful. Those numbers look similar on the B2C side: 18% rated their content marketing to be much more successful and 45% somewhat more successful, while only thought they were 5% less successful. There are several factors contributing to this positive development. It starts with the improved ability to show the ROI of content marketing, which results in organizations making it more of a priority by allocating more resources to it. In return, greater commitment to content marketing leads to higher quality content, improved processes, better distribution, and a more strategic approach.

Simply put, the more committed organizations are to content marketing, the more successful their efforts are.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the most frequently named factors that are impeding successful content marketing include lack of time dedicated to content marketing, staffing issues, and challenges with regard to both the content creation process and content strategy. Only 25% stated content measurement issues as an obstacle. It appears that organizations have started defining their goals more clearly and finding ways to better track pertinent metrics.

The thing about metrics

That being said, most organizations still focus (too much) on website traffic as a metric to monitor the success of their content marketing initiatives. In fact, it was the number one metric mentioned by both B2B and B2C marketers. While it’s certainly one of the easiest data points to obtain, it doesn’t really tell you the whole story. For instance, your thought-provoking or shocking title might initially attract a lot of visitors, but if you’re attracting the wrong audience or if you’re not delivering quality content to the right audience, you will not achieve your primary goals, such as increasing brand awareness and, above all, conversion rates. In order to get a better understanding of content effectiveness, organizations are looking at metrics such as social shares (66%), time spent on page, conversion rates, SEO rankings and subscriber growth, as well as qualitative feedback from customers (33%) and inbound links (32%)

However, it appears that having a holistic set of metrics to accurately predict content marketing’s contributions to the bottom line is still somewhat challenging. Thus, it’s not surprising that only 40% of organizations reported to have a clear understanding of how content marketing success should be measured. At the same time, identifying key performance indicators must be included in your content strategy.

Content strategy elements

Benchmark reports from previous years made it clear that organizations who had a documented content strategy considered themselves to be more successful. 40% of B2C and 37% of B2B organizations currently have a documented strategy in place, which is only a minimal increase over last year. Some of the reasons for this could indeed be the abovementioned challenge of identifying metrics to accurately track success. Another contributing factor could be the lack of tools on the market to effectively capture the many different aspects and components of a content strategy. Some of the most common elements of strategy, according to the report, include ongoing commitment, delivering value, and understanding personas.

Deeper understanding of target personas

We are also seeing a decrease in purely promotional content in favor of content that focuses on different segments of an organization’s audience. This increased emphasis on customers’ needs will continue to result in higher quality content that provides value by answering questions, solving problems, and providing entertainment and inspiration. Both B2B and B2C marketers are diving deeper in order to better understand what type of content to create for different segments of their audience. Some of the most frequently used techniques include website analytics and search terms used.

Having a better understanding of your audience also affects the channels that organizations use in order to distribute their content. Therefore, it is not surprising that the most prominent social distribution channel for B2B organizations remains to be LinkedIn (71% compared to 57% for B2C) , while B2C marketers focused on Facebook (71% compared to 38% for B2B). Overall, a balanced combination of print, email, and social media marketing appears to be the preferred approach.


Perhaps the single most important finding in this year’s benchmark reports is that there clearly is a correlation between an organization’s commitment to content marketing and its success. While it’s still a challenge to holistically and accurately measure ROI, marketers are doing a better job demonstrating that content marketing is worth the investment. As a result, most organizations have increased their commitment in terms of budget, time, and staff, and are experiencing more success than in previous years. While most organizations are still struggling with the development of a documented content strategy and with key performance metrics, they are more committed than ever to gain a deeper understanding of their audience and to provide the content that is most important to their target personas.

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