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More than two-thirds of B2B companies are planning to invest in “content creation” in 2021, according to the latest annual report for the industry from Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

The ‘B2B Content Marketing Benchmark, Budgets and Trends: Insights for 2021’ report is the 11th annual study and has a broader focus this time amid changes caused by the global pandemic. It also takes a look at content creation and distribution and how teams are budgeting and managing campaigns.

A sizeable 94% of business-to-business marketers said that they have had to amend and update content marketing strategies due to COVID-19, and the vast majority (86%) said that they were able to do so quickly. Four in five also stated that the changes were effective.

The pandemic was disruptive though as 70% of respondents said that it had either a “major” or “moderate” impact, while just 6% claimed that it had “none”.

When making changes, 70% optimised targeting and messaging, making it the most popular area for amendment ahead of adjusting editorial calendars (64%) and updating content distribution and promotion (53%).

There was less focus on data and analytics during this time as less than a third said that they revised buyer personas, adjusted KPIs and metrics, or took another look at how customers are moving through the sales cycle.

This suggests that companies are focused on addressing immediate needs first and foremost. However, CMI noted that a customer-based focus will come to the fore again as the pandemic continues, as this will be central to long-term success.

The good news is that there is no loss in appetite for further content marketing investment. When asked what they expect to invest in next year, 70% of respondents said that they would funnel more funds into “content creation”, while two-thirds will do the same for “website enhancement”.

The annual CMI study also takes a look at the ways that “top performing” B2B companies are differentiating themselves. Six in 10 of the most successful marketers have a documented strategy in place, but this slumps to 43% for all respondents and 21% for the least successful.

Having an editorial calendar and using metrics to measure content performance are also linked to higher levels of performance, though there has been an improvement for the latter overall. 81% said that they now dig into data to determine ROI.

Content marketing is also, by and large, still being used at the top of the funnel as 60% said that articles, blogs and videos are enabling them to successfully generate and nurture leads, audiences and subscribers.

Overall, 31% would rate their organisation’s approach to content marketing as “extremely” or “very successful” during the last year, and the vast majority believe that the value of content has been a core part of that success.

MarketingProfs chief content officer Ann Handley concluded: “Our industry met the challenges of this pandemic head on and adapted quickly. No one knows what the future holds, but as long as content marketers continue to believe in the value content provides, and listen to what audiences need, I believe we can weather this pandemic.”


Content creation and the demonstration of expertise through high-quality editorials and blogs is one of the five marketing best practices for ‘high growth’ enterprises, according to a recent report released by Hinge.

The ‘All Professional Services Edition’ of the High Growth Study 2020 found that marketing is a key driver for business performance and that there is a range of different levers that companies can use to achieve bespoke objectives and deliver ample return on investment (ROI).

Following the release of the study, Hinge partner Elizabeth Harr outlined five specific marketing initiatives that companies should undertake during the remainder of the year to remain a step ahead of competitors.

Hinge says that these best practices have empowered companies to outgrow peers by 20% over a sustained period of three years or more.

The first, and arguably the most important as a base to work from, is content creation. With both B2B and B2C customers looking for high-quality materials, thought leadership pieces and informative articles are a crucial method of generating leads and attracting new clients.

Those capable of publishing relevant, value-added content are more likely to be viewed as leaders, which not only has a positive impact on marketing and sales but also makes a company a more attractive prospect for potential employees.

The study found that a company’s content marketing output embodies its culture and employee development.

The second best practice for high growth is the deployment of search engine optimisation (SEO). Fast-growing firms are 19% more likely to focus their efforts on SEO, and optimising strategies in this area leads to higher levels of visibility in Google.

Next up is social media marketing and management. Social networks enable companies to distribute and share high-quality content, which is a product of the effective creative marketing efforts outlined earlier.

Social media plays a vital role in amplifying the power of content, giving companies a visible online presence within target client groups. Managing accounts on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn is also cost-effective and sustainable in the long term, making it perfect for new tech companies and other start-ups.

The fourth best practice is one that Google has championed during the last 12 months. Website performance is now viewed as a fundamental element of SEO and also underpins the sales cycle.

Optimising for technical SEO makes it easier for companies to rank on the first page of search results while also providing the excellent user experiences that customers expect when they navigate to a webpage. This makes it easier to capture and retain the interest of new leads who might otherwise click away.

The study noted that high growth firms also regularly dip into web analytics for feedback about the performance of webpages with the view to optimising them regularly.

The fifth and final best practice is ‘brand differentiation’. High growth companies set themselves apart by conducting research and identifying industry trends that can be put into practice.

The study found that this allows fast-growing firms to meet the evolving needs of clients and customers. Research is also completed regularly, at least once every three months, which leads to a three times uptick in profitability compared to those that don’t conduct research.


Social media marketing will play a crucial role in the effectiveness of marketing campaigns during the next two years after more brands pivoted to connected channels amid the pandemic and the number of users soared to a record high in July, a new study by Econsultancy has found.

The ‘Future of Marketing’ report found that social media is now arguably the de facto outlet for content consumption for people of all ages as it is now embedded into the routines and habits of day-to-day life.

COVID-19 has accelerated this trend as new data shows that 3.96 billion people are now regularly using social media around the world, which is a 10% increase from a year ago.

The sheer scale of this number means that the fear of missing out is strong for companies of all sizes.

It is now easier than ever before to reach and engage with a wide audience regularly using content on social sites.

The social media boom, something that started more than 10 years ago with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, is set to continue during the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

Econsultancy found that two-thirds of marketers believe that social media will become intrinsically linked to the quality and effectiveness of marketing strategies and campaigns during the next two years.

Econsultancy also went into detail about a range of trends that it expects to see in social media marketing during the final five months of the year.

It noted that while organic social and content continues to take up greater shares of marketing budgets, ad campaigns have slowed since the start of the year, which is not wholly surprising considering the impact of the pandemic.

The lockdown also had an effect on influencer partnerships, something that could lead to a re-evaluation of relationships over the coming months.

UK social media users are still very much engaging with influencers regularly.

Fitness coach Joe Wicks was one of the most prominent content creators when stay-at-home measures were in place, but marketers are now taking a step back to consider the best way to use influencers moving forward.

Econsultancy noted that brands have been focusing on publishing ‘how-to’ style content recently as this allows them to provide vital information covering a range of topics from cooking to exercising at home.

Brands will also attempt to capitalise on the continued growth of TikTok in late 2020.

“Consumption on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube look set to continue,” Campfire’s CEO Joe Gradwell said.

On advice for marketers, he added: “There’s still time to build your presence across social networks you’re not yet operating on – build your TikTok strategy, begin the podcast series you often talk about.”

The onus will be on brands to experiment with new social media campaigns and management during the second half of the year.

After the disruption during the spring and early summer, brands now have an opportunity to try new things and optimise strategies to best suit the needs of followers.


Content marketing certainly seems to be undergoing a revival as many B2B companies begin to realise that such strategies really can be successful. It was only in September that the ‘B2B Content Marketing 2017 – Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends – North America’ report was released. In this report, it was revealed that 62 per cent of companies believe their content marketing efforts for this year have already been more successful than in 2015. However, firms also continue to feel they’re stuck in a rut, largely because they simply do not have the time to prioritise.

Developing a successful content marketing strategy can take time. In fact, of those who said their strategy fared worse in 2016 than last year, 57 per cent admitted it was due to time constraints. Curating content can be extremely time-intensive, and most brands need to dedicate time to both writing content and developing fundamental strategy elements before campaigns begin. For those starting out on their marketing journey, or companies wanting to boost their efforts, there are some important questions to ask.

Brands must initially identify whether content marketing has become an organisational priority. The previously mentioned benchmark report said that 80 per cent of respondents want to generate leads from their content strategies. Growing a business can rely heavily upon lead generation, and if a firm’s aim for its content is to boost these leads, it is vital for content marketing to be seen as a priority. Content marketing is also much cheaper than attending trade shows and can generate leads just as well. Therefore, business priorities might need to be switched around so that enough time can be found for content creation and strategy.

B2B firms also need to ask themselves if they have foundational content marketing apps in place. For example, only 47 per cent of survey respondents are using buyer personas. Meanwhile, 43 per cent use social media calendars, and 62 per cent utilise an editorial calendar. Far higher efficiency can be found when using timesaving tools, helping firms carve out more time for content creation itself. However, foundational elements go beyond physical software aids to the development of new processes, such as a content approval system. These all boost time management and help strategies get the time resources they demand.

Finally, it’s important to recognise whether content is actually being created in an efficient way. All marketing teams need to evolve with the times, and if individuals are not equipped with the skills required for 2016, content creation strategies may well be outdated. Once the strategy for content development has been created, it’s vital for firms to realise that marketers have to be excellent writers with journalistic curiosity and the expertise to tell a story. Writers also need to be well versed in digital marketing, as well as having the ability to adapt their writing to suit various situations and platforms. For those unable to do this in-house, it’s well worth outsourcing content creation.

Overall, businesses must increasingly prioritise the carving out of time for content creation. Abandoning older practices that do not generate enough leads, along with optimising the foundational elements of a strategy, and ensuring that content creation itself is swift and efficient can make this happen.