Commentary

King Content: Email Remains First In B2B Distribution

Email remains the top vehicle for distributing B2B content. It is used by 94% of the 250 B2B Enterprise marketers — firms with 1,000+ employees — polled in a survey by the Content Marketing Institute.

Plus, 87% rate the channel as key to their firm’s content marketing success. Here, too, email is in the No. 1 spot. But how long can it remain there?

Take the response to the question: Which tactics will be most critical to your success in 2017? Email—in the form of newsletters—came in seventh, with only 36% citing it.

Although used by 79%, newsletters were beaten in this area by social media (45%), in-person events (44%), eBooks (43%), pre-recorded video (42%), blogs (40%) and Webinars (38%).

Why this seeming disparity?

For starters, the above question is focused on formats, not on delivery mechanisms. Let’s not forget that email can be used in the delivery and/or promotion of several of those formats, such as video. But is email losing some of its luster to social media? Not really, according to Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi.

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“Large enterprises are still chasing the big, shiny thing that is social media,” he said in an email. “Many of those organizations haven’t realized that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have turned into the ABC, NBC and CBS of our time.  Social, for the most part, is pay to play.

“But when it comes to results, it’s email where we can have and nurture a direct relationship with our customers instead of renting that relationship (a la social media)," Pulizzi continued. “In the research and with the companies we work with, email subscribers are still the most meaningful metric when it comes to content marketing success.”

That makes sense, given this year’s corporate objectives. The most popular content goal, specified by 76%, is brand awareness. But it is tied for first with engagement and lead generation.

What can email contribute?

Social media may have an edge in building brand awareness (just maybe). But email is great at driving engagement, especially when triggered by behavior and enhanced by personalization — tactics that are useful even when sending content. Email also shines in these areas:

  • Lead nurturing—63%
  • Sales—58%
  • Customer retention/loyalty—56%

So don’t worry about the old workhorse. It’s one channel that can benefit from the three main content-marketing tools used by the respondents: analytics, brand style and obviously, a dedicated email platform.  

Content marketing continues to b a robust activity. Of those surveyed in the study out today, 32% plan to increase their spending on content over the next 12 months, while 46% will hold even. On average, the firms involved spend 22% of their marketing budgets on this activity.

Even better, 99% describe their content marketing as effective. Breaking it down, 24% say it’s very effective, 59% that it’s moderately so, and 2% claim it is simply spectacular (to paraphrase). Only 1% say it doesn’t work. And 88% in this group employ it.

As for metrics, website traffic is first (44%0, sales lead quality second (33%) in terms of providing measurable results of content marketing efforts, the study says. Also on the list are time spent on the website (26%), higher conversion rates (25%) and social media sharing (23%). 

What are the challenges bedeviling content marketers? They don’t seem concerned about email technology. The short list includes strategy issues, not enough time, content creation challenges, management/HR problems and budgets.

The big problem is how to manage the content process. It’s easy to generalize, but here are three basic requirements:

  1. Data analytics that can precisely specify the content that a person needs, and which stage they are at in the funnel.
  2. A solid approach to metrics, as much to determine the next step as to select and buy media.
  3. Writers who can grasp the subject matter and bring some verve to it.
  4. A good copy editor. There’s no bigger turnoff to a reader than typos, bad syntax, factual contradictions and turgid prose. We’ve noticed all these problems in B2B content, balanced by some great prose.  

Above all, know you can start on the small scale. One good white paper is better than none. Build as you go and as response increases. See what turns readers into solid leads, and what moves them through the chute. Create your content accordingly.

 

 

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