New Survey of Marketers Offers Strategies for ROI

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Walker Sands Communications has put out a report titled The Future of B2B Content 2019: How Marketers Turn Content Into Real Business Impact. They interviewed 300 B2B marketers—in January 2019—who have active roles in their companies' current content programs.

Here are some takeaways:

Short-form content currently rules. The greatest number of B2B organizations plan to produce more social (72%), website content (65%), video (63%) and blog posts (49%) in the next 12 months.

Buyers want more video/multimedia content. Almost 70% of B2B marketers believe their target audiences will prefer video/multimedia content over written content in the next 12 months.

Consider more blog posts and podcasts. B2B marketers' top content types for engaging existing customers are: website content 65%; social media 58%; video 52%; newsletters 41%; and blog posts 32%.  It would seem that an existing customer would get used to (tired of?) seeing your website content and a weekly blog post, quiz or podcast would be a good way to get them to come back each week. Only 10% of those surveyed think podcasts will have a huge effect on how they handle marketing. Hmmm.

Don't overlook long-form content. While organizations do prefer short-form content for obvious reasons, long-form content has its plusses. The right data report or white paper can make a big impact and incentivize key segments to provide personal information for lead gen.

Overcome the video disconnect. Experts predict 70% of B2B search queries will originate on smartphones by 2020, partially due to the growing number of millennials in the workplace. And that means more social video will be required. But while marketers identify video and multimedia as a preferred content format for audiences, B2B organizations currently produce more written content than video (42% majority vs. 35%).

Keep dollars dedicated to new technology. Two of the top content categories in which B2B organizations plan to reduce investments this year are augmented reality (20%) and virtual reality (18%), probably because the technologies haven't matured enough to gain traction with audiences. But if video is the go-to for the near future, then "brands need to improve the quality of produced videos and approach all video/multimedia projects from a more strategic perspective. The future arrives fast.

Boost the value of video with transcripts and captions. Adding captions to your videos increases accessibility and allows B2B buyers to watch regardless of access to sound—an important consideration for users who consume video on public transportation, have a disability, work in a busy office, etc. Although posting a transcript below the video may seem counterintuitive to the concept of non-written content, it allows search engines to index your video, improving its visibility in organic search.

To gate or not to gate. An overwhelming majority of B2B marketers say gated access stops them from downloading content at least some of the time. But 45% of executive B2B decision makers (VP level and above) say gated access always stops them from downloading content.

Explore progressive profiling. "This automated marketing tactic can offer a win-win solution to the gated content dilemma. It solves for the annoyance of providing personal information multiple times by capturing a user's information at first conversion and pre-filling it for subsequent downloads. It makes the customer feel trusted."

Be open to outsourcing and/or working with partners. A third of B2B marketers say they struggle to create website content in-house. Data reports (29%) and blogs (28%) present similar challenges. These owned content categories demand a combination of strategy, expertise and, most importantly, integration. As I've often said here, crafting good content is just the first step to engaging your audience. While 40% of marketers report that budget prohibits them from hiring external partners, only 25% of B2B executive decision makers identify budget as the biggest hurdle to working with an external content partner.

Download the report here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…