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7 big B2B content marketing predictions in 2015

I for one, would like to see more creative storytelling prevail above the usual corporate spiel. Fortunately, there are already great strides being taken in this area and here are the key trends in B2B content marketing I believe we'll see develop in 2015.

1. B2B content strategy comes to the fore

More B2B marketers are recognising the importance of a formal content marketing strategy to focus their activity. According to a recent CMI research report, a documented content marketing strategy dramatically improves the effectiveness of a company’s efforts. In 2014, 48% of UK marketers said they were effective, but that figure rises to 71% for those who said they had a documented strategy.

A documented content marketing strategy means marketers can plan campaigns in line with a broader outlook of business development objectives, create more targeted content, stick to a distribution plan and measure ROI more effectively. If it’s not written down, you don’t have a strategy.

2. B2B firms develop a content culture

Rather than creating content on a campaign by campaign basis, content marketing will form the core of marketing strategy, promoting a culture of content. Marketing departments will need to work closely to create consistent campaigns that work across platforms – from print and email to websites and social media.

B2B firms have some way to go in this regard. A recent Forrester Research report found that in 72% of B2B marketing teams, less than half of the staff played a primary role in content marketing activity.

A culture of content will only succeed if that content is fully attuned to client needs. And that requires a change in mindset. What clients want – insights around their most pressing business issues – and what B2B firms tend to deliver – information on their latest products and services – are two different things.

3. B2B will be knee-deep in content

Marketers should be wary of sacrificing quality for volume, but shorter-form content offers a definite opportunity.78% of UK marketers say they will be creating more content in 2015. As communications with clients become increasingly real-time, content length will decrease to cater to the time-constrained audience, making content easily digestible as well as more shareable.

4. B2B brands embrace storytelling

Case studies are already a popular format in B2B but in 2015 marketers will look for new ways to involve clients and associates in telling their stories.

B2B firms have a wealth of content at their disposal in the form of client stories. Typically case studies follow a formulaic approach, which can bore readers/viewers quickly and lose impact. Involving clients in exploring issues and solutions adds more personal appeal to your content, and can take the form of interviews, guest blogs, events or video.

In the same way, B2B firms are sometimes reticent about talking about their CSR activities. But this rich vein of human interest stories can be used to engage staff, stakeholders and the wider community.

5. Print becomes the B2B disruptor

Although at Grist, we still receive a strong demand for the creation of print client magazines, overall the spotlight has been focused on digital marketing tactics in the last few years. We are therefore pleased that the power of print and its increasing competitive advantage in a digital world has been recognised by the CMI's Joe Pulizzi.

Print still has a significant role to play in B2B marketing, conveying an authority and delivering a wow factor that is hard to replicate online. Digital is rightly praised for its immediacy, usability and ease of measurement, but aligned to clear business objectives and success criteria, client publications encourage more time spent with your brand and can bring tangible results to the bottom line.

6. B2B marketers plan for the weekend

A 2014 CNBC survey found that 60% of business executives in Europe, the US and Asia access business content via their mobile device over the weekend. This was accompanied by a significant jump in social media use among European business executives to 97% in 2014, with LinkedIn usage rising 8% to 66%.

Understanding the changing consumption habits of business audiences will help B2B marketers gain the upper hand on competitors. Content will need to be optimised for mobile and tablets, with responsive design becoming the norm. When the new business prime-time may be 10pm on a Sunday, marketers will have to wonder why they’re still restricting themselves to the nine-to-five.

7. B2B teams dig deeper into data

Measuring content effectiveness will be a top priority for B2B marketers in 2015. Only 28% say they are successful at tracking ROI at the moment. Marketers will want to know how to use data from websites and social media channels to gain deeper insights and there will be many more agencies that provide services to help in this regard.

The desire to measure ROI is no surprise as B2B marketers seek long-term board-level buy-in for their content marketing investment. Rather than just counting web traffic and social shares, measuring ROI effectively means setting success criteria tied to defined business goals from the outset. It is, therefore, also no surprise that those who believe they are tracking ROI successfully rises to 46% among those with a documented content marketing strategy.

Final thoughts…

Making content marketing the engine of brand awareness is still a relatively new idea but the model is maturing at a fast pace. If content marketers can continue to adapt to the digital B2B landscape, they will not only survive, but thrive in 2015.

“2015 will be the year that B2B content marketing comes of age. Those that formally align their content with the broader marketing strategy, and ensure that they meet clients’ needs as well as their own will prosper. Those that don’t will fall by the wayside.” – Andrew Rogerson, co-founder, Grist.