Content remains a critical tool for marketers. To help you understand which content can help you sell to your customers, we distilled key learnings from some recent surveys and studies on business-to-business (B2B) content.
Content matters in the sales cycle
Customers see your content long before they talk to you. Only 25 percent of buyers revealed their interest in a product or service to the vendor early in the sales cycle. More than half of the respondents in one survey said that they viewed at least three pieces of content before talking with a salesperson.
Savvy marketers have a strategy for producing content that targets specific phases in the sales cycle.
Customers prefer certain B2B content types
The studies we looked at included a variety of content types, from white papers and case studies to podcasts and webinars. Customers have their own preferences, so most content types are beneficial to some portion of your audience. But marketing budgets are limited. To get the most bang for your buck, studies show that you should focus on these types of content:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Product and datasheets
- Interactive tools
Blog posts and white papers are widely read and frequently shared. Business customers report reading white papers frequently and at more points in the sales cycle. In a 2015 study, 83 percent of business buyers reported reading a white paper in the last year. Webinars took second place, followed by e-books, which 68 percent of buyers read.
Choosing the right content type is half the battle. It’s equally important to present each type of content when it’s most valuable.
When is B2B content consumed during the sales cycle?
Not all content is not effective at every point in the customer journey. The studies clearly show customer preference for different types of content at different stages. Based on our review, here’s when you should use each type of content:
Like all of us, your customers are inundated with content and have limited time. So keep it short, especially in the earlier phases. The further that customers move down the funnel, the more time they are willing to invest in content. Mid-size business and enterprise customers consume more content than do small business customers, and decision-makers spend more time with content than do influencers.
How do people find and share B2B content?
Most business customers find content through search. If you want to make it to the consideration phase with your business customers, search engine optimization (SEO) is critical.
Sharing is also a powerful tool. If your content is compelling, readers share it through email and, less often, on social media. LinkedIn is the top social media site for content sharing, followed by Twitter. Provide an easy way for customers to share blog posts and other content using all three methods.
Interactive content is increasingly important
More and more companies are creating interactive content, such as SlideShares, calculators, and assessments, among others. Interactive content takes more time and money to develop, but it also helps you stand out from the crowd: customers perceive it as more valuable. According to the B2B Technology Content Survey Report, “Seventy-three percent say a high level of interactivity somewhat or greatly increases the influence of content.” And, according to the Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Content Preferences Survey, “Buyers are increasingly relying on infographics, videos and other interactive content, such as ROI calculators and assessments, as they make their buying decisions.” Maybe that’s why marketers report moderate or high conversion rates for interactive content 70 percent of the time, versus only 36 percent of the time for passive content.
In the first two phases of the customer journey, you can use interactive content to help customers understand that they have a problem and that your product or service can be the solution. The key is to keep interactive tools general and helpful, while making customers aware of your product or solution. Also, give them a clear next step in their journey. Expect to see increasing uses of interactive content—and increased competition to develop new, more engaging and informative formats.
Most of all, be useful
Buyers want useful information that’s pertinent to their phase in the customer journey. In the early stages of the journey, they continue to report that too much content is marketing-focused and product-oriented, rather than general and helpful. Even further down the funnel, it’s important that your content stays informative and appropriately biased. Nobody expects a company to talk about its products or services without highlighting the strengths—but a pure marketing pitch is a big turn-off.
Not surprisingly, 97 percent of buyers gave more credence to peer reviews and user-generated content. Barring that, in the early stages, buyers prefer content that is backed up by research. So in the early stages, provide valuable information in a short, easy-to-digest manner. Keep it informative and useful, as you help prospects move through the sales cycle, increasing the product focus and level of detail at each stage.
And if you want help developing content or a content strategy for your company, reach out to us.