Oct 28, 2021

5 Takeaways From The 12th Annual Content Marketing Benchmark Report

By: Josh Dougherty


This month the Content Marketing Institute released its 12th annual B2B content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report. The report is full of rare and valuable quantitative data that will help you answer the big questions us marketers wonder about:

  • How does my program measure up against others?
  • Is my team approaching their work the right way? Or is there another approach I could take?
  • What content is most effective right now? Does this blog post I’m writing really matter?
  • How are others measuring the success of their programs?

This report is super valuable because the insights are generated from an online survey of 1,275 respondents working in a variety of functional areas within B2B companies worldwide. In summary, this isn’t a small survey, the data can be trusted.

While I recommend you take a look at the full report, I wanted to break down 5 key takeaways from my review last week.

1) It’s Time To Write Down Your Content Marketing Strategy

One of the most shocking takeaways is that in 2021 only 40% of organizations have a defined and documented content strategy. This is a concerning statistic due to the fact that one of the biggest challenges we content marketers face is proving the efficacy of our efforts to organizational decision makers. 

A written strategy provides a concrete reference point to share with stakeholders that demonstrates not only what you’re trying to achieve, but how you are trying to measure success. This will go a long way to building credibility with the rest of your organization.

If you don’t yet have your content marketing strategy written down, take heart, you’re clearly not alone. But there’s no time like the present! If you want somewhere to start, feel free to make a copy of the template we use at A Brave New. Sharing is caring! 

2) Small Teams Are Still The Norm, Half Outsource

If you’re feeling stretched and a little bit tired, you’re not alone. A majority of respondents have only one person or less dedicated to content marketing. Another 33% have a team of 2-5. 

Think about that for a moment. In an 18-month period when content marketing was arguably the absolute best way to reach B2B audiences, teams remained small and everyone was just asked to do more. No wonder you’re tired, or thinking of quitting. You deserve a good nap just for making it through, and probably a vacation for staying dedicated to the needs of your audience throughout.

In many cases, those small teams were augmented by a little help from their friends. 50% of the respondents said they outsourced a portion of their content marketing efforts, whether it be to a freelancer or an agency like us.

3) Topical Expertise Is The Biggest Challenge

Finding a great outsourcing partner, like an agency, can be difficult. The biggest challenge content marketers faced was not agency budgets, but instead finding people with significant expertise in the subject matter and a clear understanding of their audience. 65% of respondents said they struggled to find someone with adequate expertise. 41% struggled to find a partner that could empathize with their audience.

This is why we’re a big fan of finding a niche. Over the years we’ve developed deep knowledge of the healthcare and technology spaces that allows us to create content confidently about topics like AI/ML and kubernetes on the technology side and aligned incentives, primary care models, and advance care planning on the healthcare side. 

Topical expertise and audience empathy are developed over time through hard work. You owe it to yourself to find a partner who knows and understands who you are and how to build connections. Don’t settle.

4) Short Articles Still Dominate

Despite the rumors of the transcendence of video content, pesky short-form content (under 3,000 words) is still the dominant form of content created, with over 90% of marketers reporting that they used that format. Blogging really does work. 

There were three other major types of content created:

  • 66% leveraged video
  • 64% leaned into the trend of online courses, webinars, or virtual events
  • 61% used case studies to prove credibility

5) Virtual Events Join Traditional Top Performers to Produce Results

While the last point was about what type of content marketers are using, I’m always a bit more interested in what is working. On this point the clear winner was virtual events/webinars/online courses. 58% of respondents said this tactic was successful. This makes sense in our Zoom-inundated pandemic world, right?

Classic top performers followed closely behind, continuing to demonstrate their effectiveness year after year:

  • Research reports - 48%
  • Short articles/posts (less than 3,000 words) - 48%
  • Ebooks/White Papers - 47%

Don’t count out classic content marketing tactics just yet! 

Ok! I hope you’ve decided that it’s time for you to head over and check out this report. The full PDF is available without a gate. It will arm you with the data to make better decisions, defend your program, and hopefully sleep a little easier at night. 



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