The phrase “Content is king” has been thrown around more in the last couple of years than Harry Kane in England’s opening World Cup game against Tunisia. 

But that’s because time and time again, much like Harry Kane, content has proven to be a valuable and effective tool. (Note: This has been written on the morning of the England v Columbia last 16 game - all love for Harry Kane may be gone by the time you’re reading this). 

Despite its proven effectiveness, there are still questions to be asked. Just how many B2B marketers ae implementing content marketing? At what stage do tech buyers engage with marketing content? And how long will Harry Kane keep up this scoring record?

State of B2B content marketing

While it is clear that B2B marketers have been won over (or given into) the power of content, there is a much higher adoption across the pond than in the UK.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s ‘2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America’ report, the overwhelming majority (91%) of respondents use content marketing, which it defined as a “strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Of those not currently implementing content marketing, more than half (54%) revealed they have plans to launch a content marketing effort within 12 months. 

Meanwhile, the Institute’s ‘Content Marketing in the UK 2018’ research found that 86% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing. 

Interestingly, British marketers were more optimistic about the maturity of their organisation’s content marketing. Nearly a third (32%) described it as ‘mature’, meaning they find success but are challenged with integration across the business. Over a quarter (26%) cited it as ‘adolescent’, in that they had developed a business case and were seeing early success. Meanwhile, 27% described it as ‘young’, 7% as in the ‘first steps’, and 7% as ‘sophisticated’.

In contrast, maturity in the US was described as: adolescent, 31%; mature, 25%; young, 25%; first steps, 9%; and sophisticated, 9%.

When do buyers engage with marketing content? 

We recently attended the Computing Tech Marketing Forum, where the opening talk by Tom Wright discussed this very topic. 

The common line of thought is that most decision-makers now consume marketing content when they’re further along in the buyer journey. However, his researched revealed that 58% of buyers engage with tech vendor marketing content whenever they see something of interest, regardless of their intent. A similar amount (54%) only does so when they are looking to buy IT, and 16% when a peer recommends it. 

If so many decision-makers are simply stumbling across interesting content, as opposed to actively looking for it, what exactly should content marketers be focusing on and where should they be sharing this content?

Nearly two thirds (63.2%) of respondents revealed that they engaged with vendor content when they went directly to the vendor’s website. It is, therefore, clear how vital it is for companies to ensure that they are making content readily accessible and easy to find on their website. 

But tech vendors also need to use a mix of platforms to share their content, as 58% engaged with content when an email headline caught their attention and 57.5% came across it when a headline grabbed their attention when they were Googling for something. Meanwhile, 15.1% clicked through from related link on a media owner site, and almost one in 10 (9.9%) clicked on an ad.

And marketers still shouldn’t rule out the power of recommendations, as nearly half (47.6%) were referred to the content via a colleague. 

What are their attitudes towards tech vendor content?

If content really is king, then buyers presumably have a positive attitude towards vendor content? But is this really the case? While it is clear that they engage with content, nearly six in 10 (61.6%) feel there is a very wide spectrum of quality when it comes to tech vendor content, and half (50.2%) described much of it as being the same. Even more worryingly, a fifth (20.4%) feel more if it is bad than good and a similar amount (19%) described some of the content as ill-informed. Less than one in 10 (9%) felt there was more good than bad tech vendor content available. 

When they had a negative reaction to content, the research found the following reactions: 75.4% ‘scan read’ the summary and then abandoned the rest of the content; 46.9% unblocked or unsubscribed from the vendor; 29.4% revealed that something, such as an email headline, an ad, or an editorial, had piqued their interest; 17.1% read it out of due diligence; and 6.2% shared it with their colleagues. 

Quality over quantity

Yes, that old adage that is heard probably just as often as “content is king”, is being mentioned again. When it comes to your marketing content, you really do need to focus on quality over quantity. The majority of vendors will be producing content, but how many of them are creating content that engages beyond just a headline? If you know your audience, we mean really know them, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be providing them with quality content that answers their questions, gives insights, and positions you as a thought leader in your field. 

It really does boil down to how well you know your audience.