What I find interesting about HiveFire’s new B2B Marketing Trends Report isn’t just how much content marketing has grown in importance, but how a well-integrated content marketing strategy can support other marketing efforts. The new study reports that 82 percent of B2B marketers are now relying on content marketing as a strategy in their marketing programs. This is ahead of search engine marketing, which ranked at 70 percent, events at 68 percent, public relations at 64 percent and far ahead of print/TV/radio advertising at 32 percent. While it’s true that content marketing may compete in terms of budget allocation across channels, I see it less as competition than as a supporting player. When it works in tandem with other marketing efforts, businesses are able to drive and capture more qualified leads, elevate their brands and maintain more cost-effective customer relationships.
What is content marketing? It’s a company’s blog postings, newsletters, white papers, case studies, webinars, ebooks, videos and other online content that is designed to attract and engage customers. When it’s done well, content is relevant to customers and positions the brand as a thought leader. When it’s done poorly, it comes across as a sales pitch.
A content marketing strategy can including content curation, but original content is best for reflecting your true brand. So can a business rely solely on content marketing or should it be incorporated into a more comprehensive marketing approach?
I looked up several B2B keywords, including web conferencing software and email marketing. Paid search still delivers the highest rankings, and there is no shortage of results. Organically, those sites that included blogs and webinars ranked highest. While this was not a complete survey, we do know that relevant, keyword-rich content improves SEO. Once those site visitors arrive; however, it’s important to convert them into customers. Sites that offered white papers, newsletters and case studies through a simple registration process made the best use of content marketing by capturing leads and providing an opportunity to develop those relationships over less expensive channels. Blogs also encourage prospects to maintain contact, which is crucial for businesses that have a long sales cycle or simply want to maintain relationships for repeat business and referrals.
Rather than replacing paid and earned media, which certainly has its role for generating leads and raising brand awareness, content marketing should strengthen these communications. The HiveFire survey revealed that the main objective of a content marketing program for 82 percent of respondents was engaging customers and prospects. This was followed by a secondary objective of driving sales at 55 percent. Obviously, the two are complementary as are the marketing channels when used in a strategic, well-designed approach.