Understanding how buyers reach a purchasing decision is fundamental to developing successful online marketing campaigns. This is especially the case when companies prepare to introduce or rethink their content marketing strategies.
There are specific types of content that buyers are looking for with B2B marketing, but they can differ based on industry and the point at which a buyer may be in the sales cycle. Another issue involved in this discussion is how to balance quality and quantity of content. There are obvious push-and-pull factors that businesses experience when they're trying to ensure their content performs well in organic search, while also wanting to keep content fresh – both are influential in terms of search engine optimization.
How much and how often?
Before figuring out what types of content should be the priority, companies need to figure how well they'll be able to meet demand for quantity as well as quality.
Where a company comes down on the issue is truly a matter of perspective. There's an easy duality set up between the two concepts, with the forced assumption that the more content a B2B organization is asked to produce, the lower the quality of each article will be. This may not always be the case (1). There may be a mental block that some content marketers have that suggests it's more worthwhile to create fewer long-form articles that are more hard-hitting than developing several short blog posts that attack a single issue in a more concise fashion.
Here is one way that businesses can break down content marketing strategies:
- Get to the point: When creating an article for content marketing purposes, companies should try to address the audience's needs as quickly as possible. While a novella may benefit from some back story to provide readers with context, the visitors to an industry website or a company's blog will likely have some foundation in the topic being discussed. Consider the ways buyers use Google to search for information. They want to see the most relevant search results first, meaning the ones that give them the answer they're looking for.
- Keep in touch: Another reason why short articles can be helpful for B2B marketers is that it allows the business to populate its website with high-quality content on a regular basis. If an organization wants to give buyers interesting and informative blog posts to read, it can't sit on its laurels and expect visitors to fall in love with a single article and keep reading it over and over. Especially when a company has the hope to generate leads from content marketing, there must be a dedicated strategy for publishing sufficient collateral on a consistent schedule to help nurture leads.
In essence, producing a higher volume of content is a way for a company to keep a conversation going with its audience (2). This is even more important when companies use social networks to give their content new legs in a different digital environment and create greater engagement. When the articles stop coming, buyers may get the impression that the organization has run out of insight or input on a particular industry topic. With thought-leadership playing a bigger role in helping establish brands as authorities in a given sector, B2B marketers must dedicate themselves to regularly creating content that resonates with buyers and follow up any comments with responses. Again, a big part of content marketing is nurturing relationships and organizations can't do that by remaining silent for large expanses of time. A healthy mixture of long- and short-form content may be the most realistic answer for many organizations.
What kinds of content are most powerful?
After the realization that quantity doesn't necessarily preclude quality, it's important to figure out what content is most valuable for B2B marketing campaigns. For technology buyers in particular, 57 percent indicated they looked at product brochures and data sheets to research a purchase in the past six months (3). Meanwhile, an equal number – 52 percent – of these individuals relied on email and white papers to reach more informed decisions about the products and services they want to buy.
This suggests that buyers in the technology sector are driven to make decisions based on the technical aspects of a particular product. There appears to be less of a push for creating an engaging narrative, but the inclusion of a white papers into the marketing mix would also suggest these buyers are interested in getting a brand's perspective of the industry as well.
In broader terms, white papers and case studies continue to play an important role in the B2B buyers' purchasing lifecycle (4). While longer content like white papers captured the top spot, they fell in prominence between 2013 and 2014. Case studies, which tend to be a bit briefer, grew in popularity. This may be indicative of a growing trend in B2B marketing for shorter, more consumable content.
1. "Quantity versus Quality, Must I Choose Sides in My Content Marketing Strategy?"
2. "Choosing Sides: Content Marketing Quality vs. Quantity"
3. "Content Types Valued Most by B2B Tech Buyers"
4. "B2B Content Preferences Survey: Buyers Want Short, Visual, Mobile-Optimized Content"