One year ago, the content marketing industry looked just a little different. While brands were creating content, it seemed that it was really only the big brands, or those who had focused on content marketing a few years back, that executed based on any sort of strategy and were making the splash. Other companies trying to grapple with this “new” concept (really, just a new term) were approaching content on an ad-hoc basis throwing things out there just to see what would stick.

Now, one year later, things have absolutely changed in a notable way.  So says the Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs B2B Research report.

1. B2B marketers are creating more content

This year, it seems that B2B has finally found the value in content marketing and hopped on the content marketing wagon. According to the report, “70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, even those who say they are least effective (58%) and those without any type of strategy (56%).” That is a huge jump in the amount of content being produced!

But do B2B marketers have any idea where they’re headed? The report shows that 83 percent of marketers have a marketing strategy, albeit with 48 percent stating it is an undocumented strategy. But, what is still an issue is that these increased efforts seem to fall flat in producing results (mainly because marketers are still struggling to understand a content marketing ROI) and more have an undocumented strategy than those who have it documented.

If there is one thing in marketing that hurts my heart, it’s wasting time and resources on efforts that lack a clear strategy. B2B marketers are trying, but seem to be unclear as to where they are going because they lack a defined roadmap with benchmarks and clear KPIs.

Which leads to the next stat.

2. B2B marketers can’t find trained professionals

One statistic that is a true sign of the times and a reason why efforts are lacking measurement and a very clear strategy is that, “More B2B marketers say they are challenged with finding trained marketing professionals this year (32%) than last year (10%).”

While the creation of engaging content has been at the top of marketers’ list for the past five years, finding trained professionals has now jumped into the top three. So, what does that mean? It means there’s a shortage of talent. Brands really need skilled marketers who know how to plan and create engaging content, and those who can also think strategically and contribute to marketing initiatives with the right content.

Maybe content marketer is the new social media manager? 

3. Visual content is king and LinkedIn is where it’s at

Personally, I appreciate a really great infographic. It’s one of the best types of content because, when it is beautifully designed and produced, it’s educational, visually appealing, and can be used within blog posts, whitepapers, reports, websites, etc. Basically, it’s one piece of content that is easily consumed and can be repurposed to fit various formats.

The report showed that marketers are embracing the benefits of infographics since, “Once again, infographics was the tactic that had the greatest increase in usage (from 51% last year to 62% this year.” The tactic is either working, or we all just like seeing pretty pictures to consume content instead of actually reading content.

And, when it comes to platforms, LinkedIn is absolutely making a splash. With its newer publishing function, marketers were given an easy-to-use platform for publishing content that is distributed within the professional network.

The key term there is “professional network.” LinkedIn is where most of us find our colleagues; posting a review of a marketing report on Facebook will most likely only be relevant to a small percentage of contacts. The report showed that marketers are adopting LinkedIn and that “95% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, making it the social media platform used most often (they also say it’s the most effective social media platform).” If you aren’t publishing on LinkedIn, start doing it, but be sure it’s the right content for your audience. Oh, and make it good.

The content marketing industry into the future

To me (and I am sure to many others) the content marketing industry pattern is similar to what we experienced in 2008-2011 in the world of social media – although this industry seems to be evolving and maturing even faster. As of now, most companies understand that they need a content marketing component of their marketing initiative, but they also need the right resources (people or agencies who know strategy and measurement) and the bandwidth or budget.

As the industry continues to evolve, adoption rates will rise and it would be great to see the number of brands deeming their efforts inefficient or without a documented strategy decrease.