What’s Working in B2B Content Strategy

I just finished reading the DemandGen Report 2013 B2B Content Preferences Survey and was floored by just how much good information is in there — some surprising, some not so surprising and some just downright insightful. B2B marketers really need to check this out, as content strategy and creation continue to dominate the B2B marketing landscape. The Content Marketing Revolution is definitely taking root, as “…many buyers say they are overwhelmed by the amount of content available to them.” There were, however, a few areas of particular interest in the study.

TRUST

In addition to being overwhelmed by volume of content, respondents are also “…more concerned about finding trustworthy content that focuses on hard data and demonstrable value, rather than still-typical sales messages.” I definitely feel the pain here, as a pet peeve of mine is when a piece of content cites non-sources such as “numerous studies” or “studies say” without actually sharing any examples. Almost 100% of the respondents indicated they are placing a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the content they read, with peer reviews and analyst reports scoring as the most trustworthy and branded (or co-branded) content not scoring nearly as well.

WEB

Never underestimate the importance of your website. Once again, the two most used sources for research are general web search and vendor websites. A really great insight from the study was an emphasis on the importance of search engine optimization. SEO continues to play a crucial role in reaching and influencing B2B buyers. The difference today is the role that content plays here, both in affecting search rankings and in educating early-stage B2B buyers.” What’s the use of creating content if no one can find it? Consider that when hiding content behind forms or when you skip optimization steps in creating content or posting it to the web.

SOCIAL

Only two social networks are showing signs of increased usage in B2B circles since last year, and they are likely not the ones you would think: LinkedIn and SlideShare.  “Twitter fell a bit in terms of its value to B2B buyers this year versus 2012, but not as much as some other social media channels. In fact, Facebook and Google+ were virtually tied for last place on this count;” which is interesting, but here is what might get some social media proponents up in arms: “…whatever their merits in other areas, neither currently plays a very significant role for B2B buyers seeking out content to guide their purchasing decisions.”

Like most B2B marketers I have suspected this, but sometimes wondered if lack of visibility into social interactions or reporting limitations prevented me from understanding the true value of Facebook, Twitter or Google+ for Demand Generation. The value for nurturing engaged prospects and customers is much more clear in social, but based on these results in looks like we need to earn their trust first before they will look to our social channels while researching.

EMAIL

Almost 80% of respondents use email to share content. The next closest contenders? LinkedIn and Twitter are where 40% of respondents regularly share content, but who said Email was dying? Consider how many nurture programs utilize email as their primary delivery mechanism (in addition to how many people share the content they like via email) and it seems that the Enterprise needs to pay closer attention to deliverability, mobile email rendering and email content itself. You never know who might get your piece of content shared with them via Email.

READABILITY

The four content formats people like to consume most? White papers, eBooks, webinars and case studies. But respondents don’t like how we design them, with 65% of them looking for less text and more graphics and 62% looking for less product information and more educational information and benchmarking with statistics from reputable sources. “Show readers your research…vendors need to use more data and research to support their content.” In other words, don’t talk about yourselves so much.

In conclusion, if you use content to generate leads you need to read this study. On top of the actual supporting statistics for the topics I discussed already, there was interesting discussion on gated content vs. ungated content, what people are willing to share in exchange for their personal information, mobile formats and usage and some interesting breakdowns by title and industry.

Another killer survey from Demand Gen Report.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 is Vice President, Demand Generation, ANNUITAS

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