B2B Content Marketing: What Separates the Best From the Rest in 2021?

Posted by Tom Davis on May 04, 2021

The past year or so has been tumultuous. The pandemic has left many B2B content marketers scratching their heads and asking themselves “what is the best way to face marketing challenges head on during the pandemic?”

Some content marketers are struggling to keep the quality and quantity of content high, while others are finding it difficult to adjust their tone of voice with new customer expectations in mind.

So, what is it that really separates successful B2B content marketing in 2021?

While the past year has been unprecedented for organizations, marketers and customers - a recent survey from the Content Marketing Institute, B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Insights for 2021, found that content marketers are resilient. 

“Most have met the challenges of the pandemic head-on: They’re adapting quickly—and they believe in the value their content provides,” a snippet from the survey says. 

In this blog, The Brit Agency has compiled some of the report’s key takeaways, trends and findings to give you an idea of what to expect from B2B content marketing as we move through 2021:

Learning from the content marketing top performers 

One of the most important parts of the report from the Content Marketing Institute is a look at what differentiated the most successful content marketers from the least successful. 

The most successful content marketers are those who define their content marketing approach as “extremely” or “very successful”, while the least successful were those who said their B2B content marketing approach was “minimally” or not at all successful.

Here are just a few of the standout differentiators that separated the most successful and least successful content marketers.

  • 60 percent of the most successful content marketers had a documented content marketing strategy (compared to just 21 percent of the least successful).
  • 94 percent of the most successful content marketers use metrics to measure content performance (compared to 60 percent of the least successful).
  • 93 percent of the most successful content marketers made quick changes due to the pandemic (compared to 63 percent of the least successful).
  • 73 percent use content marketing successfully to nurture subscribers, audiences and leads (compared to 38 percent of the least successful). 
  • 64 percent use content marketing successfully to generate sales and revenue (compared to 41 percent of the least successful). 


How has the pandemic impacted content marketing success?

When COVID-19 began to spread last year, the B2B content marketers who made quick adjustments to their strategy were the ones who saw the most success.

Many initially saw success by making some simple changes to their messaging strategy and adjusting their editorial calendars, but it was those who really looked into how the pandemic affected buyer personas that saw huge success.

79 percent of B2B marketers reported that their organization has a content marketing strategy, and 70 percent of those said they had made moderate or major adjustments to their strategy due to the pandemic. 22 percent saw those adjustments as short-term, while 66 percent view them as both short and long-term.

The report, which was conducted four months into the pandemic, found 31 percent of B2B marketers reported their organization was extremely or very successful with content marketing in the last 12 months - with the top two factors contributing to that success being the value their content provides (83 percent) and website changes (60 percent).

What tools are content marketers using and how are they distributing content?

To help achieve B2B content marketing success, the report found an increase in organizations who use content creation, collaboration and workflow technologies - up from 48 percent in the previous report in 2019 to 58 percent. 

Topping the list of tools used while creating content were keyword research tools (78 percent) and editorial calendars (70 percent). Other tools used in B2B content marketing creation included:

  • Shared documents to collect and track ideas (69 percent).
  • Personas (56 percent).
  • Writing readability tools (48 percent).
  • Ideation, collaboration, project management platforms (47 percent).
  • Fact-checking procedures and tools (22 percent).

The top three organic content distribution channels B2B marketers use are social media platforms (89 percent), email (87 percent), and their organization’s website/blog (86 percent).

As a result of the above, blog posts and short articles topped the list of content types created by B2B marketers (93 percent). Other content formats included:

  • Email newsletters (77 percent)
  • Case studies (68 percent)
  • Pre-produced videos (68 percent)
  • Virtual events, webinars and online courses (67 percent)
  • Infographics, charts and photos (65 percent)
  • Ebooks and guides (54 percent) 
  • Whitepapers (47 percent)
  • In-person events (42 percent)
  • Long-form text (32 percent)
  • Live streamed videos (29 percent)
  • Research reports (28 percent)
  • Podcasts (26 percent)

Meanwhile, 72 percent of B2B marketers said their organization used paid content distribution channels (vs. 84 percent last year) in the last 12 months. However, the percentage of those using each paid channel increased over last year.

How content marketers are using metric to measure content performance

With B2B content marketing tools in mind, let’s take a look at what the report found in terms of how B2B marketers used metrics and goals to track content performance. In fact, most respondents said their organization used metrics to track content performance over the last 12 months (81 percent).

The metrics used most often to measure content performance were website traffic (90 percent); email engagement (86 percent); website engagement (84 percent); conversion (80 percent); social media analytics (76 percent).

The report found an increase in the percentage of marketers reporting success with using content marketing to achieve various goals over the last three years. Here’s what it found:

What content marketing trends can we expect to see in 2021?

At the time, the Content Marketing Institute survey found that 50 percent of respondents thought the pandemic would have a moderate long-term impact on their organization’s content marketing success - yet only 15 percent felt it would be major.

Whether organizations still feel that way more than one year into the pandemic is unknown, and we will have to wait for the 2021 report to be released.

Looking forward to 2021 at the time the survey was conducted, content creation (70 percent) and website enhancements (66 percent) were the areas that most organizations said they would invest in during 2021.

The pandemic has clearly had a huge impact on economies around the world, yet many B2B content marketers are still understanding just how valuable their content is in building customer trust, converting visitors into leads and generating sales. 


Want to learn more about improving your B2B content marketing strategy and delivering true value to your audience? The Brit Agency’s team of content marketing experts would love to help. Reach out to us today.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing