By now, we all know content is KING – especially when it comes to B2B organizations. But what type of content makes sense, when? Which channels perform best to disseminate the content? And why are B2B customers consuming so much content?

Depending upon the source, at least 70% of customers read three or more pieces of content from, or about, an organization before they even reach out to a salesperson. Of those, nearly 20% are consuming more than seven pieces of content. At first this seems at odds with everything we’ve been hearing about how “we’re all too busy” and “no one takes the time to read anymore,” but, thinking about it in terms of their customer journey, aligns it all perfectly. Different content is appropriate for different stages of a customer’s journey – helping to answer their questions and meet information needs that arise at these various stages and helping to guide their decision-making process.

CATEGORIES OF CONTENT

It comes as no surprise that the most credible type of content is third-party endorsements, peer reviews and even co-branded content; in comparison to content generated directly by a brand.

Various sources cite blog posts, press releases, educational emails, “how to” guides, thought leadership articles, intro videos, and case studies as the most appropriate (and useful) content for customers in the early stage (Awareness) of their buying process—general research and information gathering.

When the customer is a bit more invested and through the initial discovery phase (Engagement), they find webinars, explainer videos and comparisons/analyses valuable.

And, once deep into the journey (Conversion), customers are willing to dedicate the time for longer-form content such as white papers, technical articles, research reports, and even books.

Your communications plan should include different types of content appropriate to each stage of a customer’s journey – helping to answer their questions and meet their information needs as they arise at the various stages. Since the ideal type of content may not always be available, this also serves as a good reminder to always balance a sales message with education/information that the customer believes has inherent value.

 

CHANNELS

Even after you have developed the right content, customers won’t always just find you. There needs to be a concerted effort to distribute this content so that it is discoverable by the desired target audience – when they’re ready for it.

Social media, and in particular LinkedIn and Twitter, outperform other channels in the B2B space. Targeted emails – particularly those that educate and inform – are still highly effective as part of a broader content marketing strategy.

When it comes to capturing an audience vs. generating one, SEO and Paid Search are also important tactics. Knowing that 81% of B2B purchases start with a web search, it’s important to be there when the customer is searching – capturing organic or paid traffic to your brand’s site.

Knowing that content direct from a brand is less credible than other content, customers tend to be more receptive to native placements than other types of ads. Customers appreciate getting to know a company via articles rather than advertising. Native is the best of both worlds, in this respect.

Customers want to stay current with industry trends, want to research new products and services, understand how to approach a business challenge and, of course, make the right purchase decision. Content should be tailored to each of these objectives. Developing and aligning content to appeal to customers at all stages of a customer journey is key to your marketing.

So, content is indeed still king – a variety and a volume of it – distributed in different ways.