Content marketing has been growing in popularity as B2B companies look for new ways to reach customers directly. Fueled by the growth of digital channels, brands and prospective customers alike are able to share and access information in unprecedented ways.

Unlike traditional advertising, content marketing gives brands a chance to elaborate on and demonstrate the business’ expertise in a certain field. It also allows for the customer to respond and showcase enthusiasm for a product. This gives the brand a stronger voice and more opportunities to engage with its customers.

Buyers are using branded content to discover and evaluate vendors. They are also writing reviews of products and services thereby contributing to the body of information publicly available about a company. How well are you controlling the information flow that these buyers are using when they compare your products?

Your company’s entire reputation may be hinging on what has been posted (or not posted) online. Whether it’s a positive review from a loyal fan, an in-depth analysis of industry trends in your dedicated blog, or a whitepaper detailing your technology’s capabilities, buyers are using this information to make decisions about your company.  

In short: a brand’s reputation can hang on their management of native and user generated content (UGC). If that’s not enough to convince you to up your content marketing game in 2016, here are five additional reasons that might help you get the ball rolling.

1. B2B marketers  give content marketing low marks at their company.  88% of companies currently use content marketing but only 8% describe the level of their content marketing maturity level as “Sophisticated.”* While most B2B companies say they are using content marketing, there is an opportunity to stand out from the pack by refining your content marketing strategy and honing in on what materials have been most successful for your brand in the past and finding out what your customers actually want. This is something companies can learn through competitor research or working with agencies who have experience in content marketing.

2. Your competitors are stepping up their social media game. On average, content marketers are using 6 different platforms to manage their brand’s social media. Social media is a useful tool for keeping up-to-date with quick posts, sharing recent achievements, and learning more about your followers. The most popular social media sites for B2B organizations are LinkedIn (94%), Twitter (87%), and Facebook (84%).* The challenge B2B marketers face when managing social media is the lack of specialization and bandwidth of current staff to keep up with what is happening online. We see B2B marketers solving this problem by following their B2C cousins in finding social media agencies that can help them monitor, create content and engage online.

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3. If your current content marketing campaign isn’t working, your budget could be the problem. 51% of content marketers say they will increase spending in 2016. The average budget allocated to content marketing in 2015 was 28% while the most effective B2B marketers allocate 42%.* We think that while advertising becomes less and less effective for B2B companies, content marketing might just take the stage as an effective replacement.

4. It’s the early innings for content marketing. Only 30% of marketers say that their content marketing is effective.* Ouch. While content marketing is growing in popularity and the number of ways to publish information online is ever expanding, there are still ways to innovate this tactic and create better, more targeted campaigns with consistency across all branded spaces. B2B companies can understandably make the mistake of focusing too much on what they think is important rather than what their prospective customers need to make their purchase decision. When was the last time you asked your target audience what they think? Social media has made it easier than ever to get feedback with quick polls and surveys, you might be surprised at the results.

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5. Content marketing is about to get a whole lot bigger. 76% of marketers say they will produce more content next year than this year.* Content marketing is growing in popularity. Social media, newsletters, blogs, and other digital content gives users more ways to interact with a brand. Technical whitepapers and eBooks help establish your credibility to buyers.  The more types of content you have, the more chances you have to communicate with your audience.  

B2B marketers cite producing engaging content, measuring content effectiveness, and product content consistency as their top 3 challenges for content marketing. That makes sense. Content marketing is not always easy, some companies have been slow to adopt varied content strategies and it can take even longer to figure out what content is actually going to bolster your brand.

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Having a team of content specialists can help manage some of these obstacles. Content marketing is relatively new and requires a different approach than some marketers are used to, but it’s becoming an incredibly valuable and indispensible tool that will continue to grow in 2016, your company needs to be ready to meet the challenge head on.

* 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North Americas