A key trend in our recent annual content marketing research is an increased emphasis on demand and lead generation and conversion measurement among tech marketers. Whether that is a long-term change or a blip caused by pandemic-related pressures remains to be seen.
Let’s look more closely at this and other findings released today in Technology Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends with Insights for 2021 sponsored by IDG Communications Inc. The report reflects responses from 290 content marketers at for-profit technology companies who participated in the 11th annual Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs survey in July 2020.
Tech marketers report a big jump in these digital tactics
While we haven’t seen big changes in the last few years regarding the types of content used by technology marketers, 2020 was different: The use of virtual events increased, while in-person events decreased (no surprise there). Also notable was the jump in livestreaming, with 33% saying they use it compared with 13% the previous year.
Looking at the data by company size, a few gaps stood out. As the chart below shows, the biggest gaps between marketers at large tech companies and all tech respondents are in their use of podcasts (+11 points), research reports (+13), white papers (+14), and livestreaming video (+20).
A majority of all tech marketers used virtual events/webinars/online courses. That finding indicates – no matter how big or small the company – getting in front of audiences virtually was a priority.
With the focus on using content marketing for demand gen (as discussed below), it makes sense that virtual events with their lead gen, capture, and nurturing features became a vehicle for doing just that.
Focus more on generating demand and leads
When looking at the content marketing goals of tech marketers, we noticed an uptick in generation of demand/leads— 86% vs. 79% the previous year.
Reflecting on that goal growth and increase of online events, it’s clear virtual relationship-building and selling has taken a front seat. (This aligns with a recent CMI research finding that showed 71% of marketers who used virtual events for demand gen in the last 12 months said virtual events were much or slightly more important than pre-pandemic in-person events.)
These results do not indicate tech marketers have given up on brand awareness – 89% of tech marketers cited it as a content marketing goal. In fact, it’s been the top goal in our last three annual surveys.
Conversions key metric for content performance
More tech marketers could say they successfully used content marketing to generate demand and leads because more of them are monitoring the numbers. Measuring conversions increased to 90% from 81% the previous year. The use of marketing-qualified lead metrics also increased to 77% from 64%.
What’s in store this year?
At the midpoint of 2020, tech marketers were scrambling to adjust to the changes in business practices presented by the pandemic. They shifted to more virtual ways to engage their audiences – and emphasized demand and lead generation more. As a result, they put slightly less emphasis on social media measurement, building subscriber lists, and PR/media outreach.
Are these lasting shifts? Or will priorities change as restrictions caused by the pandemic ease up? That’s something we will look at during our next round of annual content marketing research.
In the meantime, we can spot some clues based on what tech marketers’ spend expectations are for 2021. They cited website enhancements (67%) and content creation (66%) as the top expected content marketing investments in their organizations in 2021.
See Technology Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends with Insights for 2021 for all the findings, including:
- How top-performing tech marketers differ from the group
- How the work gets done – team structure and outsourcing
- Content distribution channels
- Action steps for 2021
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute