The Content Marketing Institute recently released its B2B Content Marketing Insights for 2022: More Budget, More Work, More Empathy. It’s a very comprehensive study and definitely worth a read for B2B marketers.
We took time to review it to come up with the highlights and insights you need to know about now so you can plan for your 2022 B2B content marketing efforts.
MARKETING TRENDS FOR 2022
The Pandemic Changed Everything
Companies are discovering new B2B content marketing opportunities because of the pandemic. COVID-19 changed everything else, so why not content marketing?
People had a lot more time to interact with content over the last two years, so it became more of a priority for businesses. Many companies that paid lip service to content marketing in the past are now making a big, organization-wide commitment to it. Instead of being a “thing” a small content team focuses on, it’s now more of a collaborative effort across the business.
People today trust the content with which they interact. That makes them more likely to take action after reading, watching, or listening to it by sharing contact information, scheduling appointments, or purchasing products and services. This has helped prove to company leaders that content can generate measurable results and earn a return on their investment.
The Proof: Content Budgets Are Increasing
Companies only put their money into things that are proven and that their leaders believe in.
Next year, businesses plan to make a serious financial commitment to content marketing.
- 46% of marketers report that their 2021 content budgets were higher than their 2020 budgets.
- By comparison, 66% expect increases in their 2022 content budgets, which is remarkable, even when taking into account today’s growing economy.
- 20% of content marketers expect their budgets to increase by more than 9%.
- 46% expect an increase of between one and 9%.
- 24% are planning for flat budgets.
- Only 2% are looking at a decrease of between one and 9%.
- 1% are planning for a 9% or greater decrease.
- 7% don’t know what their 2022 budgets will be.
Spending increases are primarily earmarked for video; digital, in-person, and hybrid events; owned media assets; and paid media.
Top Performers: Digital Events and Long Form Written Content
It’s not surprising that coming out of a pandemic, B2B content marketers report that virtual events, webinars, and online courses produced the best results of all content types during the last twelve months. Isolated people were looking for ways to interact, even if it was online.
And with little else to do, people had more time to read. This pushed many types of long form content into the top five list when it came to effectiveness. Research reports, which usually underperform, came in second.
This was followed by shorter form content of less than 3,000 words. In fourth position was another long form type of content: e-books and white papers. Finishing out the top five are case studies, which are emerging as valuable for closing deals.
Videos, a popular form of content, didn’t make the top five when it came to getting results, falling into sixth position. Not surprisingly, print magazines and books earned the lowest results for organizations that invested in them. Words on a screen are still valuable. Words printed on paper, not so much.
There are signs that things could return to normal after the pandemic. More than half of marketers who participated in the study say they expect their in-person event budgets to rise in 2022, and two out of five say they expect to spend more on hybrid events. Very few marketers, less than 15%, expect their event budgets to decrease.
It will be interesting to see if long form content will continue to be a driver of business results in a post-pandemic world when people will be busier and have less time to read reports, e-books, and white papers.
Doing More with the Same Number of People
Despite content marketing budget increases, two out of three of the marketers in the study report that they will be expected to do more work in 2022 with the same size team. Spend for staffing is flat. This comes at a time when content teams are small and stretched thin. Just over one half of companies had only one or two people handling content marketing for them. Only one of ten have six or more full-time content marketers. More than 50% of large companies (1,000 plus employees) are getting by with fewer than five content marketers.
How are companies dealing with this dearth of in-house content marketing talent? By outsourcing. One half of all businesses outsource some of their content marketing. Three out of four large companies outsource content work.
As we enter a new year, the majority of marketers have no concerns about being able to afford to outsource their content-related work.
Content Marketing Successes
Similar to previous years, building brand awareness, credibility and trust, along with education, are the top ways companies successfully used content marketing in 2021. Four out of five marketers report achieving success in leveraging content marketing to raise brand awareness. Three out of four say it has helped them build brand credibility and trust with consumers, while 70% report that they’ve successfully educated people using content.
Other areas where marketers have had content related wins are:
- Building customer and client loyalty.
- Earning and nurturing leads.
- Driving event attendance.
- Generating sales.
This second tier of successes is showing that content marketers are finally beginning, with varying levels of success, to monetize their content marketing efforts by using content to get leads and sales.
A Shift in Messaging Tone
One of the biggest changes wrought by the pandemic is the tone used in content.
According to the Content Marketing Institute sponsored study, B2B marketers are now more likely to view their customers, clients and prospects as humans, not merely as targets, buyers or brands. This has moved them to take a more empathetic tone in their messaging. They’re more focused on building trust and better experiences, not selling. The study reports that this shift has made consumers more receptive to the content shared with them and encouraged them to act on it.
This shift in tone may be the most important change in content marketing that occurred because of the pandemic. It was the right thing to do, and it generated results. It seems likely that authenticity in content marketing will be a trend that continues in 2022 and beyond.