If learning more about B2B content marketing trends is on your priority list, you’re in luck. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has recently put out its Annual B2B Content Marketing Report, previewing the outlook and top trends for 2017. The report, now in its seventh year, is full of highly relevant insights for anyone engaging in content marketing in the year to come.

On this week’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast  —  the marketing podcast from Salesforce  —  we’re interviewing one of CMI's leaders on this report's findings, discussing how B2B content marketing has evolved and what marketers can do to be successful with this strategy.

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You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few top tactics and trends for 2017 from our conversation with Michele.

1. Write down a documented content strategy.

“Marketers who are most successful have a documented content marketing strategy, they measure content marketing ROI, and they’re clear on what content marketing success looks like,” says Michele. “70% of people who have a documented content marketing strategy say their strategy is more effective than it was 12 months ago,” she says.

Despite the importance of having a clear plan for content marketing, “some people still don’t see it as a very important priority. This strikes me as completely crazy,” says Michele. As she explains, “If you don’t write down who your audience is, what your goals are, what your mission is, and how you’re going to serve people and get the content out there, it’s very difficult to be successful.”

That's your step-one content mandate for 2017.

2. Avoid perfectionism in your content strategy.

So, what should a documented content marketing strategy look like? It all depends on the organization, what matters to them, and what their resources are. “If you’re just getting started, I wouldn’t overwhelm yourself by trying to create a perfect, beautiful plan,” because that can lead to procrastination, says Michele.

Instead, “Put together a plan that identifies how content will be used to help with your overall business goals,” she shares.

3. Differentiate your story.

Also, take the time to figure out how you’re going to stand out from the pack. “I think it’s exceptionally important to talk about what your organization’s differentiated story is going to be. Ask: how are you going to communicate with people and what are you going to provide that no one else possibly can?

4. Put a ring on your content strategy: commit.

If you’re not going to fully commit to a content marketing strategy, don’t do it until you can. But if you're ready, commit. Whether it’s blogging, podcasting, or another kind of content, “Pick one platform where you’re going to build subscribers and deliver content consistently over a long period of time,” says Michele.

If you’ve done the work to differentiate your story and “you do these things, you’re going to see very good results within the next 12 to 24 months,” says Michele.

5. Use blogs and email — the workhorses for the B2B marketer.

52% of people said that blogs are still very critical to their content marketing programs. They aren’t anything new, but they work so well because they’re built for building an audience and bringing them back” says Michele.

Email, social media, e-books, whitepapers, and in-person events are also still critical. “People are trying new things like interactive media, but they’re not the workhorse of content marketing,” says Michele. In fact, “93% of marketers say that email is the most important channel for distributing content,” she says.

6. Maintain your focus, despite shiny objects.

Simplify your focus. Get clear on what one platform you’re going to use and how you’re going to build your audience. “If you have those basics nailed down, like email and a differentiated story, and you’re focused on building an audience over time, you can do really, really well,” says Michele.

As Michelle recommends, “Brands who focus on who their audience is, what their message is, and consistently do it over time create huge results and do great things for their customers.”

And that’s just scratching the surface of our conversation with Michele Linn (@michelelinn). Get the complete scoop on B2B content marketing in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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