B2B marketers may be getting more serious about content, but few have developed a “fully fleshed-out content strategy within the broader marketing context.”

Indeed, there are indications that marketers are neither thinking strategically
about the production of content — such as white papers, case studies,
best practices research, etc. — or creating content that’s in synch
with the interests of prospects
, according to a forthcoming report by Marketing Sherpa and KnowledgeStorm.

“Some B-to-B marketers focused on generating leads don’t fully realize the impact of content when it comes to engaging their audience and reinforcing their marketing message,” says Matt Lohman, Director, Business Development, KnowledgeStorm Inc. “The quality of the leads has everything to do with how the message, positioning and format of the content resonates with their target audience, in addition to when and where marketers engage them.”

The new survey (of 722 marketers and 3257 content users), which is to be fully released on March 19, is part of a three-part project that examines content development and targeting; content distribution tactics; and performance measurement and lead nurturing.

Several interesting findings:

  • What Interests Prospects and Marketers? Not necessarily the same thing. The survey  revealed that prospects are more interested in research data, best practices, how-tos and other business advice than marketers were — suggesting marketers are underestimating the power of such content. Survey findings also suggest that marketers are more interested in case studies than their prospects by a 2-to-1 margin. Of course, this finding probably reflects the fact that marketers find it very difficult to obtain strong case studies — and buyers aren’t highly interested in them until they are moving into a decision cycle. (At that point, case studies become important forms of validation.)
  • What Triggers Content Updates? The survey revealed that marketers are likely  to generate new content because of new product releases. However, there’s no indication that prospects want to hear about products. In fact, MarketingSherpa encourages vendors to start thinking like publishers: “[Pay] close attention to what the audience needs, what kind of content best meets that need and how frequently to deliver it.” Only 49% of marketers said they are paying attention to which content works and which doesn’t.
  • Targeting Content to the Buy Cycle.Yet another finding is that most marketers don’t currently target content to the buyer’s buy cycle. To do so means to recognize that prospects go through different stages of consideration in which different types of content might have greater relevance. For instance, a thought leading white paper at the early stage, a case study or product sheet in the later stages of decision process. Only 38% of marketers are now staging the delivery of their content in this fashion.

As this compelling research suggests, B2B marketers are becoming increasingly aware of the valuable role of rich content in their ultimate performance. While there is work to be done in terms of elevating the strategic value of content relative to the bottom line, there’s a recognition by most marketers that they must take a disciplined and forward-looking approach to this challenge.