2016 is gearing up to be a game-changer for content marketing, and there's finally plenty of data to back it up. I forecast some big purchases of media platforms from major brands aiming to start pushing niche content to already-loyal audiences.

But it won't just be content produced on a whim. I think this will be the year where marketers start to use data to develop better strategies, in order to create better content (with smarter distribution).

I'd like to think that's the direction things are heading, but I'm blown away by some of the statistics I'm seeing that might actually prove me wrong.

Here are 10 that stood out to me the most.

1. Fewer marketers are creating documented content strategies... seriously?

Why is this still an area where a lot of businesses and marketers struggle? Fewer marketers have a documented content strategy than last year (32% vs 35% last year).

"Content strategy is the infrastructure of content marketing. Without answers to 'why' and 'how' the result is chaos." -Rebecca Lieb, research analyst (from the Content Marketing Strategy Infographic)

2. More than half of B2B marketers don't want to leverage content marketing

There's still a pretty big disconnect--content marketing isn't being leveraged nearly enough.57% of B2B marketers are still using print and other offline promotions to market their products and services, despite the fact that only 31% see it as effective.

Surprisingly, more than 50% are still using traditional banner advertising as a means to drive traffic.

So what's the cause of the disconnect? A lack of faith in performance? More new marketers that don't see the value yet?

Brian Clark of Copyblogger says, "The best 'native' advertising helps build an audience into a long-term business asset, and that's a goal worth spending on in conjunction with owned content creation."

3. Businesses want more content marketing

You can't blame the C-suite for the B2B sector not leveraging content. Despite a lack of buy-in from B2B marketers, more businesses are employing content marketing (88%--up 2%) from last year, and 76% of content marketers state that they plan to produce more content this year than last.

4. Marketers still have no idea what kind of content is effective

Despite a wealth of information and an uptick in content marketing deployment, marketers are still struggling in some areas. In fact, 65% struggle to define what content is effective and what isn't.

Marketers also want to learn more about how to repurpose existing content (57%), how they can create more visual content (51%), and how to tell better stories to connect with their audience (41%).

5. Some marketers think it's fine to not change a thing

The stats I'm seeing paint an interesting picture of how marketers are focusing on top-level funnel content, with a great deal of emphasis on social and blogs. Surprisingly, almost 20% of marketers intend to produce the same amount of content in 2016 that they created last year.

Marketers are using an average of 13 different tactics. The top 10 are:

6. Marketers aren't paying attention to what is effective

Interestingly enough, the most effective content marketing tactics (listed below) aren't necessarily the same as the most commonly-used ones:

That seems pretty lopsided to me.

7. Marketers want to spend more on social ads than content marketing

With an increased emphasis on content marketing in 2016, I think we'll see companies spending more--but are they spending it in the wrong areas? 51% of marketers plan to increase content marketing spending this year, but nearly 2/3 of marketers are boosting social media budgets for ad spending.

8. More than half of marketers don't know how to produce engaging content

Marketers want to spend more on content marketing, but they're still struggling with producing engaging content (60%) and measuring performance (57%).

I also see a lot of struggles with promotion. You can't just create something and expect people to pick it up and engage.

Marketers need to learn how to promote content and their brands. My own company, Narrow.io, receives 300+ leads a month, and guest posts alone account for 75% of those leads. Content marketing and promoting the right away drove that success.

9. Not enough marketers are making content a priority

Despite the challenges they face, businesses and marketers seem to have their sights set on growth and overcoming those barriers.72% of content marketers have made it a priority to create more engaging content, and 65% have made it a priority to better understand what content is truly effective.

Those are great numbers to see, but I'm really surprised it's not higher at this point. Content marketing needs to be a greater priority. It can deliver exceptional results when leveraged properly.

For example, my other company, Contentmarketer.io also used content marketing to create buzz, with mentions in 50+ online publications a month that generate over 500 leads in a 30-day cycle. Pretty great stuff.

10. Lead generation is still the highest priority

Content marketing still isn't the highest priority for marketers right now. Data shows that lead generation (85%) takes a higher priority than lead nurturing (78%), engagement (76%), and customer retention (74%).

"Content is the atomic particle of all marketing across paid, owned and earned channels," writes consultant Michael Brenner. "A Culture of Content starts with an obsession of customer."

While lead generation is important, I feel that many companies would see far greater results (and better, more-qualified leads) if more emphasis was placed on nurturing, engagement, and providing value through content marketing.

Did any of these statistics surprise you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:

Published on: Jul 6, 2016