Content marketing is an enigma; there are no written rules, but plenty of marketers with strong opinions; it is deemed critical, yet tough to measure success.
This is not a surprising statement, but considering that 79% of B2B marketers currently run a content strategy (Content Marketing Institute, July 2020), it is one that needs direction.
The same research showed that just 7% of marketing experts think their company’s content is exceptional, the majority (43%) said it somewhere in the middle.
We reached out to senior marketers and asked them a simple question: “Please rate the importance of each of these 10 following types of marketing content in generating leads.”
Here are the top five in order of importance, alongside advice for producing the best examples of each where relevant (it should be said, having a settled, measurable structure needs to be in place first).
For more information about our marketing survey, download: B2B marketing after a pandemic: 8 key lessons for senior marketers.
1/ Thought leadership
It is perhaps thought leadership that encapsulates the enigma of marketing content most. It is considered vital – after all, it represents decision-makers talking directly to, well, decision-makers – yet marketers struggle to measure its success.
Edelman and LinkedIn have collaborated for the past three years to investigate the impact of thought leadership on business generation, and found similar issues.
The research revealed 48% of decision-makers spent at least an hour every week consuming it and 89% say it enhances their respect, trust and perception of an organisation’s capabilities.
Yet just 29% say they reliably gain value from the time they spend consuming it.
How to get it right:
Expertise matters – either have direct, hands-on experience of the topic, or prove an ongoing involvement by having consumed the latest trends and developments over many years
Ensure the content topic is well researched, discussed with others in the business and not well-trodden
If your topic is well-trodden, ensure your angle is unique
Keep language conversational where possible – video works best for this
Think long term – an engaging thought leadership topic changes with time; can you follow this up by updating annually to create a loyal following?
2/ Case studies
Ranked well about white papers, infographics and podcasts (more on that later), case studies make perfect sense in B2B marketing, especially in terms of lead generation.
A lot of content strategy centres on what you can offer, or intend to do, but not examples of what you have already done – and from an authority outside your organisation.
If a sales team are making a promise to, say, double lead generation, then sharing a well-written case study backing up that particular statistic, is persuasive.
Consider recent research by B2B Marketing, which found 66% of surveyed marketers stated that case studies were “very effective” at driving leads and sales.
How to get it right:
Always remember this is not your journey – although you are heavily involved – this is the customer/client’s story
Try to follow the classic three-act structure – the set-up (client), confrontation (pain points) and resolution (campaign results)
Data and statistics are the cornerstone of B2B case studies; where possible, back up all big claims with numbers
There are many formats supportive of testimonials – infographics, audio and video should all be considered, the latter two are great for creating emotive, deeper content
3/ Face-to-face events
Given this survey was compiled during the Covid-19 pandemic, a hankering for in-person B2B marketing content is expected.
Its importance is clear: according to the Event Marketing 2020: Benchmarks and Trends report, 85% of leaders and executives identify in-person events as critical for their company’s success.
While there is proven success in bringing together communities virtually, this direct human connection remains vital.
Content in this case can refer to anything from presentations and panel discussions, to post-event video highlights.
This format can be used across multiple marketing content strands, so the jumping-off point is using video as your go-to strategy.
The benefits of video content are manifold, outside of it being used everywhere within the media industry.
It has a way of demonstrating highly complex products or services in a way most of us understand, it has become the preferred way most users consume content, and boasts provable results.
In the 2020 State of Video Marketing Survey (Wyzowl & HubSpot), 87% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, while 86% of people want to see more videos from brands.
How to get it right:
Keep videos short (do not get obsessed with the differing platforms – the ‘less-than-two-minute-rule’ is a great start). But consider where it appears in your overall content strategy – the earlier it appears, the shorter the video
As video is traditionally more expensive than the written version, consider keeping it evergreen, re-purposing existing material and editing long-form into shorter chunks
Videos share the same values as all your marketing content – they need to be useful, relevant, timely, and professional
Be brave – don’t dismiss comedic, self-effacing content. If you do it right, people will remember the message
5/ Virtual events
Covid-19 has brought the prominence of online communication to the fore, and those without a virtual strategy have suffered.
While it is expected that face-to-face events will return next year, virtual symposiums, conferences and award ceremonies are not going anywhere (Event Marketing 2020 reveals more than two-thirds of event marketers say a hybrid solution will be key in 2021).
The study also reveals the majority (93%) of event professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward, and it makes sense – they cost less, reduce travel, open up a truly global audience, and are flexible.
6/ Best of the rest…
Outside of the top five, there were some surprises – white papers were only ranked 7th (are there so many, they have reached saturation point?) and infographics 9th (more useful to brand uplift and social than actually generating leads?).
Advert/display came in 6th, which backs up why more people are suggesting the current advertising model is broken, while more old-school flyers/brochures were 8th and the comparatively expensive (in terms of distribution) podcasts finished in last place.