Content distribution: Lessons from the B2B leaders

06 December 2017

We talked to the client-facing teams in 150 professional services, financial services and technology firms to find out how the leading B2B content marketing exponents plan, create, distribute and measure content, compared to the rest. In this third blog in the series, we turn our attention to distribution.

What good is great content if no one ever reads it? Getting your content in front of the right people, in the right place, at the right time is essential to a successful content marketing strategy – and in our latest research we found leaders know where and when to distribute their content to maximise success.

One hundred percent of those we defined as content marketing leaders in our most recent survey said they ‘know the channels clients frequent, and they test new ones systematically’. This implies to us that not only are they the leaders now, but they will be the leaders in the future, and they are constantly honing their distribution strategies.

Just 44% of ‘others’ could make the same claim. A quarter either use the ‘same channels they always have’, or leave distribution to another team. Such a disjointed approach all but ensures the content will not be performing to its potential.

Content marketing leaders do four things differently when it comes to distribution.

They distribute widely

Leaders are more likely to distribute their content to a wider audience, averaging five recipient groups compared to four for others.

There’s a huge focus on clients (85%), but the press (77%) also feature highly, showing leaders understand the power of PR and getting reputable organisations to convey your message for you.

Interestingly, influencers rank much lower as a target for leaders and others, despite the current hype of ‘influencer marketing’. Just 54% of leaders (46% of others) send their content to influential people in the industry.

A similar missed opportunity is distributing to colleagues, which reported the same results. Your staff are your best brand ambassadors and distributors, and ensuring colleagues around the company are aware of your content creation efforts will encourage them to distribute to their own networks, too.

They use a variety of channels

Just as leaders use a variety of content formats to get their message across, they also spread that message through a variety of channels, typically using around seven formats to others’ five.

Digital marketing looms large in the strategy of leaders, with social media, company websites, search engine advertising and email marketing all used more widely than others.

More traditional channels such as industry or firm-organised events are favoured slightly more by others than by leaders. It’s true that digital approaches give a wider reach and, likely, more bang for the buck, but the right content delivered at the right event can be a highly effective conversation-starter.

Likewise, print is far from dead; just under 40% of both groups distribute via their firm’s print publications. Print should not be forgotten as a potential disruptor in the digital age; think of how rarely a hard-copy magazine crosses your desk these days, and consider the potential impact of a tangible product.

They are social-savvy

One of the best ways to get attention for your content is by popping up in social media feeds; our leaders recognise that and are way more social-media-savvy than others.

Interestingly for B2B firms, they use Facebook more than LinkedIn; the top three networks used by leaders are Facebook, private networks and YouTube. LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ are not far behind, though, each at 77%, showing that leaders truly value the different audiences each channel attracts.

Remember that your content should be fit for each channel, which may mean switching up formats and repurposing assets. A listicle blog post could become an infographic for Facebook and a short video for YouTube, with an expanded series published on LinkedIn communicating deeper expertise.

They work with distribution specialists

Distribution is where the science of content marketing starts to come into play. Co-ordinating a range of campaign activity at scale across different networks is no easy task, and difficult for one person or team to control.

Certainly we found that almost all (92%) of leaders have a specialist department to organise distribution, compared to only half of others. We expect this trend to increase with the growing reliance on CRM systems and marketing automation, and the potential risks under GDPR regulation, beginning to influence strategy.

Around 40% of both groups rely on help from an outside agency for distribution. This could include getting support to control paid media spend, or from social experts who can report on trends as well as distribute.

Testing and fine-tuning activity across different areas of the PESO distribution model – paid, earned, shared, owned media – will help to maximise reach.

It’s essential to shore up your distribution strategy before you start creating content, lest you encourage random acts of marketing that take away from your own engagement.

What else can you learn from the B2B content marketing leaders? Download the report.

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Author: Andrew Rogerson

Andy is a co-founder of Grist, and account director for many of our professional services clients. His recent projects span the full range of marketing communications, including integrated content marketing programmes, web development, thought leadership and video. Prior to founding Grist, Andy was marketing director at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London and New York.

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