Content marketing in the UK: facts, stats and analysis

David Sasson – Outbrain
David SassonOutbrain

An overview of research on content marketing, conducted in the UK by various organizations and companies.

In 2013, Econsultancy found that 71% of businesses planned to increase digital marketing budgets. In its Marketing Budgets 2013 Report, conducted with Responsys, Econsultancy further discovered that “more than two-thirds of client-side respondents (70%) said their companies would be increasing the amount spent on content marketing”.

The second most important area for increased investment is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), followed by email marketing and social media. Webinars and virtual events are classified separately.

The results from the survey, mainly conducted among UK respondents, more or less reflect similar findings from another Econsultancy report, released end of 2012 in collaboration with Outbrain.

Here 90% of respondents said content marketing would become more important over the next 12 months. However, it seems that content marketing, in the UK is lagging behind the US when it boils down to content marketing spend.

Other highlights from the Econsultancy content marketing UK report

  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of digital marketers agree that ‘brands are becoming publishers’.
  • Less than half of companies have dedicated budgets (34%) or individuals dedicated (46%) to content marketing.
  • Increased engagement is the most commonly cited objective for content marketers, with 52% of in-house marketers and 58% of agency marketers listing this as one of their top three business objectives.

However, according to the end of 2012 report, there is still quite some work to do as well. As David Sasson, COO of Outbrain (see picture), says in the foreword of the content marketing report (sample PDF opens), “we have a long way to go as an industry before content marketing strategies are as well-refined and well-funded as other traditional advertising practices“.

Below are the key data from the Marketing Budgets 2013 Report.

Content marketing spend tops digital marketing budget plans in 2013 – source Econsultancy
Content marketing spend tops digital marketing budget plans in 2013 – source Econsultancy

Data from the Direct Marketing Association and the Content Marketing Institute

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) also conducted research about content marketing in the UK, in association with the UK Direct Marketing Association.

Content marketing spend in the UK over the next 12 months – source (PDF opens)
Content marketing spend in the UK over the next 12 months – source (PDF opens)

The Content Marketing Institute report found that, overall, 64% of UK marketers are increasing content marketing budgets. That’s pretty close to the percentage Econsultancy released.

There is a striking difference between B2B marketers and B2C marketers: while 72% of B2B marketers plan to increase content marketing spend, only 45% of their B2C peers plan to do the same. However, there is an explanation for this difference.

As opposed to North America and Australia, content marketing – until now – was more practiced by B2C marketers in the UK so it seems their B2B peers are catching up. As the report found, actually 97% of UK B2C marketers have adopted content marketing, compared with 95% of B2B marketers. Furthermore, content marketing was originally more aimed at B2B marketing, as Joe Pulizzi told us a few years ago.

The rapid uptake in B2C is not totally unexpected though, given the strong presence of what we once knew as custom(er) publishing. It’s important to realize there are differences between the way content marketing is approached from a B2B perspective and the way many B2C marketers see it. Remember that content marketing is an umbrella term.

Content marketing tactics and budget allocation

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) also found 94% of UK marketers currently use content marketing. However, as you’ll read further, it’s important to understand which tactics are categorized as such. From a content marketing spend perspective, it’s also interesting to note that on average, 27% of marketing budgets in the UK are now allocated to content marketing. This number differs from other surveys but it obviously depends on how you define content marketing and thus what tactics you include in the results. Fortunately, the report provides some insights in this regard.

An overview of the different content marketing tactics – and in which degree they are used in the UK – is shown in the graphic below. You’ll notice that eNewsletters, for instance, are included in the report and even rank third among all content marketing tactics, after articles on websites and social media, other than blogs. It can be debated to which extent these first tactics are content marketing tactics.

Other findings from the UK content marketing research by the CMI

Content production sourcing. For those interested in the insourcing versus outsourcing debate: one average, 55% of UK companies outsource content creation. In most cases, it’s a combination though: 51% combines in-house and outsourced while 4% outsources everything (hence the 55%). Just as in other regions, outsourcing happens most in larger companies.

Tailoring and personalizing content. 96% of UK B2B marketers claim to tailor their content in at least one way. 88% of B2C marketers claim the same. In both cases UK marketers personalize and tailor their content more than their Australian and North-American peers. The most popular methods of tailoring content are according to:

  • The profile of individual decision makers (56%).
  • Industry trends (55%).
  • Company characteristics (54%).
  • Stages in the buying cycle (41%).
  • Personalized content preferences (31%).

It’s not clear in which degree UK businesses use content marketing and buying personas, nor content gap analysis, to tailor their content.

Content marketing challenges. It’s striking to see that producing ‘enough’ content, producing the kind of content that engages and producing a variety of content are the top three challenges that UK content marketers face. It remains a remarkable fact as a proper content strategy, oriented around the questions and needs people have, should never lead to such challenges as far as we’re concerned. It’s probably yet another sign many businesses still have to think and work in a more integrated and customer-centric way and focus less on the content production from their viewpoint than that of the different personas and target audiences.

Content marketing effectiveness. UK marketers are quite confident about the effectiveness of the way they use content marketing though. 41% of B2B marketers believe they are effective or very effective. 33% of B2C marketers believe the same. That makes UK marketers the most confident in terms of their content marketing effectiveness (compared to North America and Australia, that is).

Finally, check out the graphic below, plotting the degree in which UK content marketers feel their content marketing efforts are effective against other answers. It can serve as a guideline or benchmark but remember that content marketing and content marketing effectiveness is very individual.

Content marketing usage in the UK according to content marketing tactic 2013 – click for source PDF
Content marketing usage in the UK according to content marketing tactic 2013 – click for source PDF

Full data in the report here (PDF opens) and in the slideshare below. Below the slideshare presentation you find the promised infographic based on the Econsultancy research.

NewsReach: 80% of UK respondents plan to increase content marketing spend

NewsReach also conducted a survey regarding the usage of content marketing by UK businesses. Although the number of respondents was much lower, 78 per cent of respondents said their companies invest in content marketing (here an online poll was used).

NewsReach also inquired about content marketing spend and found that of those respondents who were aware of their companies’ budgetary plans for 2013, 80 per cent said more will be spent on content creation and marketing.

More details in the infographic below and the accompanying blog post here.

Content marketing in the UK – source NewsReach
Content marketing in the UK – source NewsReach
Below is an infographic, made by BlueGlass Interactive, summarizing some key findings of Econsultancy’s content marketing report.

Content marketing in the UK – source
Content marketing in the UK – source