The State of B2B Content Creation: Navigating the Future of In-House Marketing Innovation

Author's avatar Content Marketing May 9, 2024 24 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Is your B2B content stuck in 2020?

    You’re not the only one facing this problem. With the B2B market getting more competitive by the day and consumer expectations rising, companies are increasingly looking for ways to innovate and stand out.

    And over these past few years, many B2B companies have started combating this issue by hiring in-house creators and developing internal influencers.

    But how exactly does this strategy work? What should you pay attention to when hiring in-house creators? What results can you expect and what are some of the potential risks associated with this model?

    These are just some of the things we wanted to know when we partnered up with Robert Katai. Together, we surveyed over 120 businesses since February 2024 to find some of these answers – and the survey is still open.

    We received lots of valuable insights into how B2B companies use in-house creators in 2024 and got some direct feedback from industry experts. You can find all of this below:

    Who Did We Survey?

    For this report, we partnered up with Robert Katai and surveyed more than 120 companies since February 2024 – and the survey is still open.

    In-house creators are not just a marketing trend in the B2B industry. It’s the solution for the A.I. pollution and why people don’t trust brands anymore.

    If you look in the B2B industry, you will see more human voices than brand voices. You will see more interaction from people to people than from brand to people. But you can’t just engineer that. You need to be authentic and build credibility over time. That’s why I believe that this first benchmark is something many marketers and entrepreneurs needed to understand why in-house creators are so important these days for a B2B company.

    Robert Katai

    Robert Katai

    Founder at The B2B Creator Newsletter

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Our goal for this research was to explore the best practices of companies that have developed internal influencers and evangelists (in-house creators), the impact this has had on their marketing and business, and the results in-house creators bring to the company.

    Most of the respondents that participated in the survey are small companies, with 50 employees or less.

    If you’re also a B2B company, we want to invite you to join our exclusive, invite-only Benchmark Group called B2B Content Creation Survey: Navigating the Future of In-House Marketing Innovation, which is hosted by Robert Katai.

    It’s completely free for everyone to join and you can use it to anonymously compare how you stack up in different areas against competitors in the same industry. All you need to do is connect your tools to the Benchmark Group, which is 100% anonymous.

    Even if you’re not in the B2B space – but still want access to industry benchmarks – you can still join Benchmark Groups for free and find a cohort most relevant to your business.

    B2B Content Creation Survey: Navigating the Future of In-House Marketing Innovation

    Over these past couple of months, we collected a lot of valuable insights, both through our survey and the Benchmark Group – here are just some of the insights that you may find interesting.

    First off, we wanted to know how popular internal influencers (in-house creators) are in today’s B2B space.

    Turns out that most of our surveyed companies have at least 1 internal influencer (in-house creator) and evangelist acting as extensions of the company brand.

    And for companies that have at least 1 in-house creator, most of them are in marketing – particularly marketing executives and marketing managers.

    Also, companies with at least 1 in-house creator reported that ​​the best-performing channels used by their in-house creators are organic social media platforms and blogs. 

    When it comes to content types and formats, short native posts on the platform are the best performing. But long-form articles and videos are also highly ranked.

    We also talked to them about paid advertising and organic marketing strategies.

    For paid advertising, ⅓ of the companies that have at least 1 in-house creator reported that social media advertising produced the best results in the past 12 months for their creators.

    Another ⅓ of the companies don’t use any form of paid advertising for them.

    As for delivering organic results, LinkedIn outperforms other social media platforms (used by in-house creators).

    “It looks like LinkedIn is winning the game in the B2B industry, especially these days when a B2B person needs their own place where they can meet, engage, and build business opportunities with other professionals like them.

    But I’m still wondering where LinkedIn will go if they will do some major updates with the video feed, if they will improve their DMs, and so on. We’ll see. But until then, LinkedIn is the go-to place if you want to build your B2B personal brand as an employee.”

    Robert Katai

    Robert Katai

    Founder at The B2B Creator Newsletter

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Now, how do companies evaluate the work of their in-house creators? What data do they pay the most attention to?

    Well, we found that traffic is the metric companies rely on mostly when evaluating in-house creators (selected by 35% of the respondents), followed by social media engagement (selected by 29.6% of the respondents).

    Our next topic was around budgets.

    Most surveyed companies (51.39%) with in-house creators stated that their content creator budgets will increase in 2024 (compared with 2023), while 23.61% reported that the budget will remain the same.

    Interestingly, about 14% of the respondents stated that they don’t have a defined budget for content creators.

    Lastly, we wanted to know what our respondents think about in-house creator programs for employees and whether any of them already use it.

    We found that 48.6% of the companies have such a program, while about 40% stated that they don’t have one. 

    Oh, and one more thing – we prepared a sneak peek of our B2B Content Creation Survey: Navigating the Future of In-House Marketing Innovation Benchmark Group that you can check out.

    Here’s just one metric example from our group – according to the data provided by the Benchmark Group, the number of Sessions in March was 4.45K (median, 9016 contributors).

    The top-performing quartile, however, had 20.31K sessions in the same month, indicating there’s a lot of room for improvement.

    Want more insights like this? Join our B2B Content Creation Survey: Navigating the Future of In-House Marketing Innovation for free and get the benchmark data most relevant to your business immediately.

    7 Potential Risks and Challenges of In-House Creator Programs

    Having an in-house creator program brings a lot of benefits to the table – but it’s not without its risks and challenges.

    Here are some of the most common challenges our respondents shared during our research:

    1. Setting up an In-House Creator Program Is a Full-Time Job That Requires Both Time and Resources
    2. Properly Positioning In-House Creators to Best Reflect the Company Brand
    3. Fresh Faces Don’t Do Well in B2B as Familiar Ones When it Comes to Marketing and Thought Leadership
    4. Hiring an In-House Creator Is no Different Than Hiring an In-House Marketer
    5. It Could Backfire and Damage Trust with Your Buyers
    6. In-House Creators May Leave and Diminish the Results of Your Investment
    7. Generative AI and LLM Will Disrupt Content Creation Programs 

    Setting up an In-House Creator Program Is a Full-Time Job That Requires Both Time and Resources

    Building and managing an in-house creator program can be resource-intensive, both in terms of time and money.

    It requires a dedicated team to oversee the program, develop guidelines, and manage creator relationships.

    As Samantha Hembree of Beam Content puts it, “it’s a full-time job.”

    “Setting up an in-house creator program is a full-time job. Social media managers, content marketers, marketing heads—you name it—are often asked to help enable their teams to become active on social in addition to their 58937 other tasks. It starts as a great experiment with the best of intentions, but it’s difficult to turn it into a consistent, repeatable, scalable thing.

    My concern with investing in an official in-house creator program is the lack of time and resources to support doing it properly. We have one low-key running on the side, but I’d like to have the support eventually to make it more structured and strategic.”

    Properly Positioning In-House Creators to Best Reflect the Company Brand

    It can be difficult to strike the right balance between maintaining tight control over the brand’s messaging, while also giving creators enough freedom and authenticity.

    Too much control can drag creativity and come across as inauthentic, while too little guidance can lead to content that doesn’t accurately represent the brand.

    What do we do then?

    Colton De Vos of Resolute Technology Solutions is one of our respondents who talked about this issue and shared some actionable advice:

    “I think it’s important for businesses to properly position in-house creators and contributors in ways that are sustainable and best reflect the company brand. It can be easy for people to follow or subscribe to the individual versus the company which can prove risky down the road.”

    He says that to counteract this, “it’s worth involving more of the team in content creation where possible such as quick interviews with subject matter experts, quotes in graphics from other team members, and applying company branding to videos, articles, and graphics that are shared out.”

    Fresh Faces Don’t Do Well in B2B as Familiar Ones When it Comes to Marketing and Thought Leadership

    Credibility and trust are crucial factors that influence purchasing decisions and brand perception – especially in the B2B space.

    Established thought leaders and subject matter experts who have built their reputations over time tend to carry more weight in the eyes of potential customers.

    Fresh faces, unless they have exceptional credentials or accomplishments, typically struggle to gain the same level of trust and authority at the beginning.

    This is what worries Mateusz Calik of Delante.

    “I’m quite concerned to create a program like this, since I’ve seen that “fresh” faces don’t do as well in our field when it comes to marketing and thought leadership as familiar faces (like mine for example). This doesn’t come from arrogance, it’s a simple fact. Other SEO agencies want to listen to experts and only authentic content created by them gains a proper engagement.

    My level of concern in investing in an in-house creator program comes from my belief that I would be scammed in a way. Why should I pay for something that I already do naturally on LinkedIn, and something that would likely have worse results. The only reason for me to hire a person to do my content for me is to find someone who would take away all the technical parts of actually creating and posting it. We post a lot on our LinkedIn, you can see my face and my manager’s faces there and we are all respected and well-known people in our industry.”

    Hiring an In-House Creator Is no Different Than Hiring an In-House Marketer

    Sometimes, thinking about whether to hire an in-house creator will come down to one simple question – will this work?

    John Bonini of Some Good Content talks about this and says that the biggest risk for many businesses is that it simply won’t work.

    “I think there’s a high likelihood that it won’t work in the way that brands think. They’ll invest in hiring and nurturing an in-house creator only to realize it’s no different than an in-house marketer. They lack objectivity. Therefore, they’re less likely to garner the trust and authority that your traditional external creator would. So the biggest risk? They realize it doesn’t work this way and they’ve wasted a lot of time in trying to mimic their favorite creators only to realize it’s not possible to do in-house.”

    It Could Backfire and Damage Trust with Your Buyers

    There are a couple of scenarios in which an in-house creator could actually damage the trust you have with buyers.

    One big reason is that consumers often follow creators because they perceive them as authentic and trustworthy. So, if these creators are seen as mere mouthpieces for the brand, their credibility could diminish in the eyes of their audience.

    Jon Molek of Best Offer Ohio says that this is one of the biggest reasons they don’t plan on hiring internal influencers:

    “We currently do not have internal influencers and we don’t plan to have them either. The reason is that the industry we are in is highly personalized, with high-value transactions involved. Based on our experience, I’ve found that any attempt at such sneaky practices or intentional, unnecessary persuasion backfires and damages trust with buyers.

    When we started our service, we did some internal influencer marketing, but it wasn’t worth the effort. I observed that people prefer seeing me sharing raw, unfiltered, and personalized offers I could bring for them, unlike anyone intentionally talking about us. Of course, organic third-person evangelists are great, but we don’t have them internally and we never plan to do so.”

    In-House Creators May Leave and Diminish the Results of Your Investment

    Creators, especially those who gain significant following and manage to grow their personal brand, may be tempted to go for independent opportunities or even join competing brands that offer better compensation or creative freedom.

    And if creators leave, they could benefit competitors and lead to your brand losing its competitive advantage in the field.

    Logan Lyles of Teamwork talked about this as one of the things companies are most afraid of:

    “The biggest risk I hear with building in-house creators and investing in the personal brands of your employees is “What if they leave and all that investment goes out the door?” I typically answer this by sharing my personal experience. Before my current role, I was part of a fast-growing podcast production agency where LinkedIn (organic, through personal profiles of multiple team members) was one of our PRIMARY marketing channels. It drove great results for the business (source).

    But even as multiple members of the program left the company and moved on in their careers, there’s still a positive impact on the brand as our individual audience has grown, there’s still an association with Sweet Fish in many people’s minds and we often refer to and shout-out the company even though we no longer work there. The other challenge is finding employees who have both the willingness and ability to be a creator (or at least a content contributor) AND have expertise that’s valuable to the company’s ICP.”

    Logan shared two possible approaches:

    “First is to only invest in those that check both boxes and second is to invest in all those willing and able to become creators or contributors knowing that even if they create content in/about their own area of expertise, then that will still lead to broader brand awareness and have a knock-on effect down the line. Honestly, I’m not sure which approach is the best or if both will be effective in the market going forward.”

    Generative AI and LLM Will Disrupt Content Creation Programs 

    We’re all witnessing how quickly generative AI and LLM models are growing – but just how big of an impact will they have on in-house creators and content programs?

    Naren Patil of StartupWind is one of our respondents who talked about this particular challenge:

    “Generative AI and Large Languages Models (LLM) for industry-specific content such as legal or sales will completely disrupt the content creation paradigm. AI will automate a significant part of content marketing. However, companies will also struggle with the generic content that AI produces which sounds robotic, which often has inaccuracies and not usually “on message” for a particular brand or industry.”

    Naren believes that “content powered by generative AI coupled with expertise from human marketers will lead to dramatic efficiency gains in terms of speed and cost of creating content while ensuring that the content is telling a powerful humanized story that is aligned with the messaging of the brand and the industry.”

    B2B Content Creation Trends

    Staying ahead of the curve is non-negotiable for B2B marketers nowadays.

    But what does it really take to impress B2B audiences in 2024? That’s exactly what we wanted to find out with our survey.

    Here are the 4 most important B2B content creation trends according to our respondents:

    There Will Be More Distinction between Creators and Influencers

    Traditionally, the lines have been blurred between content creators who produce original material (written, video, audio, etc.) and influencers who leverage their audience to promote products or services.

    However, in the B2B space, we are seeing a clearer difference in recent years.

    While some crossover may still exist where popular creators also have influencer appeal based on their authority and audience, Mike Falahee of Marygrove Awnings predicts the distinction will be much clearer.

    “I believe we will continue to see more distinctions between creators and influencers because they are different. Influencers generate higher brand visibility, while creators generate higher audience engagement. We intend to use a creator because there aren’t many niche influencers that would fit in well with our company and represent us how we see fit. A creator can come in, produce great content, and attract a large crowd that’s not dependent on their own name and socials.”

    Podcasts and Audio Content Will Continue to Hold Value

    Podcasts allow for in-depth discussions on a variety of subjects for specific B2B industries.

    This depth is particularly valuable in B2B contexts where topics can be complex and require detailed exploration, something that’s harder to achieve effectively through shorter content forms such as tweets.

    In recent years, we’ve seen B2B companies increasingly leverage podcasts as top-of-funnel lead generators and for nurturing prospects through entertaining and educational content.

    According to Gabriel Augustini of Sunny Side Up, this trend will continue.

    “I have reservations about the rise of AI and automation in content production. However, I believe that podcasts and audio content will continue to hold value, particularly for niche audiences, even if they don’t become viral. I advocate for slow and sustainable growth, with a focus on long-term objectives.”

    James Carbary of Sweet Fish agrees and adds that YouTube will also play a big role as “B2B companies finally start to crack the code on YouTube.”

    CEOs and Thought Leaders Will Put More Effort into Social Media Platforms

    For complex, high-consideration B2B purchases, the authority and expertise demonstrated by C-suite leaders on social media can help tip the scales.

    Social media provides a direct line of communication to customers and it allows leaders to engage with their audiences in real-time, providing updates and insights.

    Mateusz Calik of Delante believes that “there will be more CEOs and thought leaders visible on different platforms this year.”

    “I think it will be motivated by the need for audiences to learn from them. They are naturally able to generate bigger engagement than random people, who are perceived as marketers more than thought leaders.”

    Increased Demand for B2B Case Studies and Reviews

    For B2B buyers making considered purchases, case studies are a great way for your business to provide social proof and validation from existing customers.

    Real-world examples of how you solved specific challenges resonate strongly with prospects in similar situations.

    What’s more, well-crafted case studies position your brand as a credible, experienced partner that delivers on its promises.

    Val Razo of Val Razo says that “with the rise of social proof, B2B buyers also seek out peer recommendations so we can expect the demand for B2B case studies and reviews. This means your in-house B2B content creators should be ready for networking and establishing relationships with users to obtain more testimonials for your brand.”

    What Makes In-House Creators Stand Out (with Examples)

    Authenticity, experience, unique case studies… what is it that makes an in-house creator really stand out?

    Here’s what our respondents had to say when we asked them this question:

    Creating Content That’s Fun and Informative without the Techie Jargon

    Creating content that is easy to understand can improve your company’s brand image by making it more user-friendly and approachable.

    This is particularly important in B2B industries, where many sub-niches are perceived as complex or inaccessible. And finding an in-house creator who can create content this way and avoid techie jargon can be a huge advantage.

    Michele Nieberding of MetaRouter talked about this characteristic and mentioned his favorite examples:

    “I really like Jon Taylor and Phil Gamache from Humans of MarTech. They create a really amazing podcast that is fun and informative. It’s not all techie jargon: Unlike some marketing podcasts that drown you in tech specs, Humans of Martech focuses on the real people behind the marketing tech. It’s more about the folks making it all happen.

    They bring in marketing experts to share their knowledge and help you level up your marketing career in this ever-changing world. AI taking over marketing? They got you. Thinking about robots taking your marketing job? This podcast tackles hot topics like fancy new AI tools and how they might actually help you out in the long run. Short and sweet. No long, drawn-out episodes here.”

    Following Trends but Also Adding Their Own Unique Impression

    A good in-house creator doesn’t just follow trends blindly – they also critically analyze current trends to understand their relevance and the potential impact they can have on the brand.

    This allows them to select which trends can be used to showcase the brand’s values and meet audience expectations. In other words, they’re adopting the trend strategically instead of just copying what everyone else is doing.

    Mike Falahee of Marygrove Awnings says that “Farah Mehri is a great creator in the home-improvement space because she adheres to trends while also making her own unique impression, and that’s something I respect. Not to mention, she offers an array of home improvement options fit for any home and budget, which is something we also pride ourselves on doing.”

    Understanding the Bigger Picture and Sharing Actionable Tactics Based on Tested Discoveries  

    While it may seem obvious, understanding the bigger picture plays a huge factor in determining the success of your in-house creator. Yet, it’s not easy to find those that really see beyond just temporary trends.

    And that’s not enough – your creators should also be able to share actionable tactics on how to move forward. You’re not just looking for innovation, but you also want them to translate abstract ideas into executable steps that your business can follow.

    Amanda Nativdad of SparkToro mentions Rand Fishkin as an example of this:

    “It has to be Rand Fishkin. He is, perhaps, the only person who is authentic and transparent through all his ups and downs. He sees — and communicates — the big picture trends while also giving you the tactics to move forward.”

    Another thing you should look out for here is that the creator uses strategies and tactics that are based on their tested discoveries.

    Andrei Tit of Ahrefs says that Tim Soulo is a great example of this since “he doesn’t have a scheduled cadence and posts legit findings of his own tested discoveries.”

    Authenticity and Quality Writing Skills

    When your creator knows how to write content that resonates on a personal level with the audience, it can lead to higher engagement rates, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth. That’s how powerful authenticity can be.

    Authenticity also sets your business apart from competitors who might pump out generic or overly polished content that feels disingenuous.

    Daniela Nocker of Precis Digital talked about how important this is and shared a great example:

    “Definitely Dave Gerhardt, the founder of Amazing writing skills, and inspiration on basically everything B2B on an ongoing basis, and the cherry on top is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously which is super refreshing. Absolutely love his content!”

    Stay on Top of Your B2B Content Metrics and KPIs with Databox

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    Filip Stojanovic

    Filip Stojanovic is a content writer who studies Business and Political Sciences. Also, I am a huge tennis enthusiast. Although my dream is to win a Grand Slam, working as a content writer is also interesting.

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