Ever find yourself chasing content marketing fads?
One week, infographics are all the rage. Then you look up, and you’re left behind if you aren’t doing video.
Then you have to figure out what to do with classic mediums such as blogs posts and ebooks.
But what if there’s no clear answer for which type of content is most effective? What if it can be any or all of them?
I’ve talked to hundreds of B2B marketing executives, and I asked them to tell me the type of content that has been most successful for their brand.
Here’s what I’ve found: the answer is unique to every company.
It varies depending on several factors, including your product or service offering, your ideal buyers, and your sales cycle.
Here’s what 15 marketing executives said when I asked them to share their most effective type of content:
Aaron’s team, like many others, put out a lot of content: from videos, to blog posts, to simple social updates and beyond.
But infographics wrapped in a blog post are some of their best types of content. “Anything with data tends to do well,” he says.
Couple that type of content with the fact that they also activate such pieces at huge conferences, and you’ve got a successful formula.
Aria has a successful blog. In fact, it’s quadrupled in the last three years—now attracting about 35,000 unique visitors per month.
This proves that it’s possible to attract people to your website with quality blog content. And the best news? Those blog posts don’t need to be expensive to produce.
“At the end of the day,” Andrew told me, “I don’t really care about the medium of the content. It’s more about, ‘Is it useful?’”
Nuix is looking to build trust with their users over time rather than trying to get clicks and likes. All of their content flows through their blog, but whatever the format of the content, it must meet certain criteria:
“Is what I’m putting out there part of a journey for our buyer type? Does it give them information to understand their role better?”
As an integration company, most of what Jitterbit does is behind the scenes. You can think of it as plumbing for your technology stack.
In light of that context, the most valuable type of content for Jitterbit has been customer stories, especially in the form of short-form ebooks centered around specific themes or verticals.
Weaving in customer anecdotes into high-level stories has been effective for a product that isn’t as visible as others.
Cvent’s most effective type of content can be summed up in one word: video.
They’ve done online case studies and after switching the format to videos they’ve seen a massive uptick in views and conversions.
Because of that success, they’re using video as much as possible: for everything from case studies, to how-to guides, to animated help videos.
Astea is an enterprise-level software. As such, it’s usually a very strategic mission-critical business application for those who buy it.
This means that the sales process for Astea is typically fairly long. So nurturing and delivering value-added content is very important.
Case studies are the best format for providing that type of content. In seeking out case studies, organizations are wanting to understand the impact that others have been able to achieve as a result of that particular software.
Jennifer says that before you arrive at the best medium for content, you have to ask four key questions:
- Is the content truly helpful for your target audience?
- Is the content easy to consume?
- Is there data to support your statements?
- Is it related to what we do?
People say they create content to help their market succeed, but it’s not always their motive. And if you truly want to drive growth, what you’re writing about has to be related to what you do as a business.
The answers to those questions may lead you to blog posts, infographics, or some other medium, but asking those questions needs to come first.
Ebooks have been the most successful type of content for Kara’s team, simply because they have so many “legs.”
They’re doing multichannel campaigns to push two of their ebooks out, but they’ve also developed webinars with partners that pull from the content of those ebooks.
In addition to webinars, they can also build effective nurture campaigns leveraging the same content that was featured in the ebook.
While Velocify has done just about every type of content under the sun, Matt has found thought leadership research to be especially powerful.
He believes his team has done a good job of educating the market and providing insightful data.
It’s important for them not to simply sell their software, but to really understand the business and the profession and how they can improve it. Because of that meticulous attention to detail, Velocify’s research allows the brand to create exceptional content.
VersionOne content falls into one of two buckets:
- Big thought leadership programs
- Highly personalized content
An example of a thought leadership program is their Annual State of Agile report, where thousands of people participate in taking a survey. Thousands of others engage with that report throughout the year.
More personalized or segmented content is a newer focus for them, but has proven to be effective. Their level of personalization increases as you go up the tiers of their accounts.
They’ve even combined the two buckets, direct-mailing the State of Agile Survey to targeted decision makers with a personalized note and personalized URL.
Riadh defined effective content in a way that won’t surprise any content marketers out there: Anything that starts with putting the customer first and ourselves second is going to be more effective.
You see it in social media: anything you post about yourself is less interesting than something of general interest.
Since RingCentral operates in a fairly new space (cloud communications), anything case-study related or anything establishing thought leadership seems to be most effective.
People are desperate to understand the industry, and RingCentral has stepped up as a leading voice in it.
When asked which type of content has been most effective for Tangoe, Sidra gave a refreshing answer: she doesn’t honestly know.
Sure, you could measure content with downloads or clicks, but that doesn’t mean those clicks are actually buying the solution.
“You can’t trust clicks,” Sidra says. “ I’d rather have a piece of content only 100 people read but that inspires them to act rather than have 10,000 people not in our buying audience read something.”
The types of content that are most successful for you depends on how you’re defining success.
If we’re talking transforming views into leads, traditional types of content (blog posts, etc.) are best for Apptus.
To date, their most effective content has attacked the common way of looking at things. Apptus’ content challenges the way organizations are structured today.
This type of “in your face” content works best when it’s backed up by research or a client story.
Val gave me a different answer than anyone else for her most successful type of content: her monthly e-newsletter.
Val’s had a newsletter for many years, and if it comes out late she hears about it.
Those newsletters are based on blog posts from her organization, so you might say blog posts are most successful. But it’s not the individual blog posts that have resonated most with ideal buyers.
When she asks her customers how they heard about Content Rules, the first answer is always referrals, but the second is always, “I get your newsletter, and I get so many valuable insights.”
Vince has found case studies to be the most successful type of content for his organization. Specifically case studies with hard data and non-generic commentary have outperformed everything else they’ve done.
Case studies are successful because the marketing team can utilize them with other customers, incorporate them into presentations, and put them into webinars.
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to content, but it never hurts to see what’s effective for other brands.
At the end of the day, you’ll never know what’s effective until you test it.
Whether it’s video, case studies, infographics, or blog posts...test, iterate, and eventually you’ll have your finger on the pulse of the content that most effectively engages your buyers.
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show: a daily podcast dedicated to helping B2B marketers achieve explosive growth.