How Top-Performing Enterprise Content Marketers Get the Work Done [New Research]

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Have you ever heard (or voiced) these content marketing laments? “If only we had more budget.” “If only we had more people.” “If only we had more time to prove this works.”

Many content marketers believe these factors are the secrets to success. And, according to our latest study of enterprise marketers, there does seem to be a correlation.

But remember, correlation isn’t causation.

Let’s take a closer look at the insights from Enterprise Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends with Insights for 2021. (Enterprise refers to for-profit B2B and B2C companies with 1,000 or more employees.)

Most successful enterprise content marketers are the most mature

I’m not talking about mature as in the presence of a silver strand or two of hair. I don’t even mean the length of time the content marketing program has been around. Let’s look at the real meaning of “the most successful enterprise content marketers are the most mature.”

The survey defines success as achieving your organization’s desired/targeted content marketing results. One-third report being extremely or very successful in the last 12 months. We designate these respondents as top performers.

Seventy-nine percent of this group consider their organization to be in the sophisticated or mature stages of content marketing (compared with 50% of all enterprise respondents).

79% of most successful #enterprise marketers are in sophisticated or mature stages of #ContentMarketing, says @EditorStahl via @CMIContent #Research. Click To Tweet

Here are the maturity descriptions used in the survey:

  • First steps: Doing some aspects of content, but haven’t yet begun to make content marketing a process
  • Young: Experiencing growing pains but challenged with creating a cohesive strategy and a measurement plan
  • Adolescent: Having a business case, seeing early success, becoming more sophisticated with measurement and scaling
  • Mature: Experiencing success, yet challenged with integration across the organization
  • Sophisticated: Providing accurate measurement to the business, scaling across the organization

Keep in mind: Maturity describes how advanced a program is – and that’s not necessarily tied to the program’s age.

Maturity describes how advanced a program is – and that’s not necessarily tied to the program’s age, says @EditorStahl via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing #Research Click To Tweet

Top performers centralize the content marketing function

When we compare those top-performing enterprise marketers against all enterprise respondents, we found notable differences in team size and organization.

Content teams at top-performing organizations are more likely to be centralized. Forty-four percent of the top group “have a centralized content marketing group that works with multiple brands/products/departments throughout the organization.” Only 29% of all enterprise respondents did.

Top performers have bigger (and growing) content marketing teams

Forty-eight percent of top performers report having six or more full-time employees dedicated to content marketing vs. 32% of all respondents.

And top performers are less likely than all respondents to rely on a small or one-person content marketing team to serve the entire organization (10% vs. 22%). They’re also less likely to report no one dedicated full-time to content marketing (9% vs. 17%).

A chart that shows key areas where we observed a gap of at least 10 percentage points between all enterprise respondents and the top performers among them.

Click to enlarge

Forty-eight percent of top performers report the size of their content marketing team increased in the last 12 months vs. 35% of all respondents. Only 10% said team size decreased vs. 16% of all respondents. Keep in mind, we conducted this survey in July 2020, a few months into the pandemic.

Top performers have bigger content marketing budgets

The top performers appear to have larger budgets for content marketing: 71% report budgets of more than $100,000 at the beginning of 2020. Only 54% of the total pool report a budget of that size.

More than half of enterprise marketers had $100,000+ #ContentMarketing budgets in 2020, says @EditorStahl via @CMIContent #Research. Click To Tweet

When they took the survey in July, only 13% of top performers (and 17% of all enterprise respondents) anticipated spending less on content marketing in the second half of 2020 than they did in the first half.

They changed quickly when the pandemic hit

Sixty-four percent of top performers strongly agreed their organization changed quickly due to the pandemic, compared with 52% of all respondents. The top performers also were more likely than all respondents to strongly agree that the changes they made were effective (58% vs. 37%).

Top performers focus on building loyal audiences

On the whole, the adjustments top performers made when the pandemic hit weren’t all that different from those made by all enterprise marketers. However, more top performers revisited their customer/buyer personas (24% vs. 16%).

Image showing a chart: Enterprise marketers' opinions about changes their organization made to content marketing in response to pandemic.

Although that’s not a huge difference, it points to top performers’ efforts to understand their audiences’ changing needs. A few differences emerged between top performers and all respondents in other relationship-building areas not specific to pandemic response.

Fifty-seven percent of top performers had established an online community – notably higher than the 43% of all respondents who had. (The survey defined an online community as a “space where your audience can engage with each other and your brand in the form of discussions, posts, surveys, etc.”)

57% of the most successful enterprise marketers have online communities, says @EditorStahl via @CMIContent #Research. Click To Tweet

Similarly, more top performers report using content marketing successfully in the last 12 months to build loyalty with existing clients/customers (79% vs. 69% of all respondents).

An image showing a chart of goals enterprise marketers have achieved by using content marketing successfully in the last 12 months.Click to enlarge

What do the findings mean for content marketing success?

You could point to this study as a way to reinforce your “if only …” content marketing thinking. But here’s the hard truth. That would be a mistake.

Yes, top performers reported higher budgets and larger teams than the overall set of enterprise marketers. But remember, top performers also tend to have more mature content programs. That means they’re experiencing success, measuring results, and scaling their efforts.

When you can track results and show success (even with a small, relatively inexpensive trial program), it’s easier to make the case for securing additional budget to experiment with new ideas.

Instead of pointing to your budget or your team size as limiting factors, look at what you’re doing with that budget and team:

  • Are you building your content marketing strategy around goals that matter to the business?
  • Are you building it based on personas that tell you what your audience cares about and what they need or want from you?
  • Can you measure your progress toward those goals?
  • Are you telling the story of your content marketing goals and progress to the rest of the business?

Focus on these factors, and you may find it’s not the size of the content marketing program that matters; it’s what you do with what you have.

Get all the results from Enterprise Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends with Insights for 2021. Click here to download.

And sign up for CMI’s free weekday newsletter to be among the first to see our newly released research throughout the year (along with tips, trends, and other help to create more successful content marketing programs.)

 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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