As reported by in 11th Annual Industry Characteristics Study by the Custom Content Council, the U.S. content marketing sector is now a $40 billion industry. More and more companies take good content as the heart and soul of effective inbound marketing.

Marketo and Junta42 statistics show that B2B marketers set aside roughly 26% of their marketing budgets for content marketing. Generating higher quality B2B content ideas is rated as “highly important” in 2017 by a majority of B2B Marketers.

The “CMI B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” report states that 51% of surveyed brands plan to increase their content marketing budget by mid-2012.

And when we look back, we can see, it has grown significantly.

In a recently published study, called The 2015 Benchmark Report on B2B Content Marketing and Lead Generation, Starfleet Media charted what content pieces B2B companies focused on in 2015 to expect the highest payoff.

 

So, in today’s article, we take a closer look at the top 10 content pieces B2B companies use and expect the highest return. Of course, that means that those content pieces are properly produced and distributed.

1. Case Studies

A case study really is an extended testimonial on how a B2B product or service has helped a client in the real world. It’s told in the client’s voice but, unlike traditional testimonials, a case study explains the details of the story.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been living by and on stories.

Before our ancestors started communicating in writing, they had passed their expertise and experiences verbally through stories.

And while some people have become executives and other professionals, our hunger for good stories is just as strong as it has always been.

By the time buyers read your case studies, they’re more than interested in working with you. They just want to get more warm and fuzzy feelings about what it will be like working with you.

  • Length: 1,000-1,500 words
  • Effort level: Medium
  • Price: $1,500-2,000
  • Preparation time: 1-3 weeks
  • Position: Later in the buying cycle

Case studies are heavily branded with the company’s logo and other images. Stay away from stock images because they make case studies phoney.

2. White Papers

A white paper is a persuasive content piece, a seamless blend of facts, logic and stories to promote a certain B2B product or service in a low-key and non-pushy manner.

White papers can be very effective because, according to Eccolo Media’s 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report[1], they are the most read and circulated content pieces. What it means is that you can get exposed to several executives at the company that’s received your white paper.

  • Length: 12-15 pages or 3,000-5,000 words plus complementary illustrations
  • Effort level: Hard
  • Price: $8,000-12,000
  • Preparation time: 6-8 weeks
  • Position: later in the buying cycle

White papers are expensive to produce. Plus, if you add to this the initial “approach” pieces that initiate the download of your white paper and the follow-up pieces, you’re at $25,000 give or take a few cents.

White papers are very effective, but you have to think twice before you repeat Julius Cesar’s famous phrase “alea iacta est”, that is, the die is cast and then cross the Rubicon.

3 And 4: Your Own And Third-Party Webinar

It also depends on your buyers’ market sophistication level. Therefore, you need buyer persona, so you know that, based on education and other factors, what level of sophistication you can expect from your buyers.

These are the similarities, so now let see…

The Differences

When you host your own webinar, you’re both the host and the presenter.

You present your own materials to your audience that knows you well. It means if you make little mistakes, your audience is likely to forgive you.

When you host a third-party webinar, you offer your audience a new and often unknown presenter with a somewhat unknown approach and materials.

So, the overall dynamic of the program is somewhat different.

Just think back when you were in school and you got a substitute teacher for a class. The whole class dynamic changed. Sometimes quite a lot.

Nevertheless, webinars are great way of sharing your expertise in an interactive manner.

5. E-Books

An e-book is a highly visual guide or primer that boils complex concepts and systems down to their essence.

For instance, you can explain the complexities of a 4-stroke internal combustion (Otto) engine by comparing it to a human being.

  • Suck: Fuel intake or food intake
  • Squeeze: Fuel pressurisation or food digestion
  • Blast: Fuel combustion and conversion to movement or conversion of nutrients into energy for muscles.
  • Blow: Eliminating exhaust fumes or eliminating indigestible bits and bobs.

Some people say you should never offer full solutions because then your readers can solve their problems and they are not going to hire you.

But they will hire you because the tools and methodologies that you name in your e-book are unknown to them.

For instance, I can write a detailed book on how to make prosciutto and explain everything in detail.

Then you read some key sections in the book: The pig must be of the breeds of Large White, Landrance or Duroc and weight at least 140 kg. The pig’s diet must include whey from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

At this point it’s all irrelevant unless you live in one of the 10 regions of central-northern Italy where real prosciutto is made.

Besides, the book would have no credibility because I’m not Italian from the Parma region.

  • Length: 25+ pages
  • Effort level: Medium
  • Price: It depends which part(s) you can do in-house.
  • Preparation time: 1-2 months
  • Position: Early in the buying cycle as an “eye opener” piece

Keep your e-books problem-solution focused. Find an expensive problem in your target market, and offer a practical solution without holding anything back. The bigger the problem, the more valuable your solution is perceived.

6 And 7: Your Own And Third-Party Infographics

An infographic is a short, visual presentation of key ideas or research about a specific topic. It looks like a poster that allows viewers to take in the essence of the graphic in one visual gulp. Wherever it’s possible, it uses images instead of text.

Infographics is data-driven, hence data-sensitive, so it’s important that you do your research and get your data and starting information right. Therefore, make sure you start with the end in mind

  • Length: 2-3 pages
  • Effort level: Medium to hard
  • Price: $750-$1,000, add $750-$1,000 for graphics, add $500-$750 for research
  • Preparation time: 3-6 weeks
  • Position: Middle of the buying cycle to further open readers’ eyes.

Be careful with chartjunk as it can make a pig’s ear of your overall message and make your readers more confused than a drunk squirrel in a forest fire.

It’s vital in every document, but especially with infographics that you match a writer and designer, so they enjoy working together. The end product will vividly reflect he quality of their collaboration.

Every business has its own infographics footprint.

Here you can see 50 great examples of data visualization.

8 and 9: Your Own And Third-Party Research

Research is an almost 100% left-brained cerebral “Just the facts ma’am” type document without almost zero emotional and persuasive elements.

By the time people read your research materials, they’ve already gained a reasonable level of momentum inside your sales funnel. They are on their ways towards decision-making.

They are usually read by subject matter experts who, when on the job, have about as much sense of humour as a tyre iron.

  • Length: 25+ pages
  • Effort level: Medium to hard
  • Price: It depends which part(s) you can do in-house.
  • Preparation time: 2-4 months
  • Position: Early or in the middle of the buying cycle to support and validate previous “eye opener” pieces.

Research pieces can be very effective because they demonstrate that you’re up to date with the latest and greatest of your industry and can offer the attest “best practices”.

The Differences

Own research is called primary or field research.

This is the process of digging up unknown data and information. This information is related to the content that you create.

Third party research is called secondary or desk research.

It’s the process of summarising and synthesising existing research results which usually come from various credible sources on an “as is” basis.

Content Type #10: Buyer’s Guide

The buyer’s guide is a late stage document, especially for people who know they want to engage external help, but since they’ve never done it before, they don’t know how to engage high-calibre professionals.

  • Length: 25+ pages
  • Effort level: Medium
  • Price: It depends which part(s) you can do in-house.
  • Preparation time: 4-6 weeks
  • Position: Late in the buying cycle to help buyers to make the final selection from a group of potential sellers.

Buyer’s guides work if the buyer and your firm are more or less on the same wavelength.

If your firm is a premium provider but the buyer is a dyed-in-the-wool price buyer, then your guide can be as futile as trying to avoid freezing to death through a heated argument.

But if the buyer is still a price buyer, the problem is in your content. The content should have conditioned the buyer either to buy into buying value or dropping out of your sales funnel.

But for properly prepared buyers, the buyer’s guide is a nice way of putting the dot on the i. and then looking forward to working together.

Summary

The evidence is overwhelming that when it comes to marketing, inbound marketing is really the bee’s knees.

Many companies try cold calling and other interruption-based methods, but the market has voted as to what it tolerates and what it doesn’t.

Yes, it’s possible to get clients with cold calls just as it’s possible for a blind hen to find a worm. But the poor bird remains skinny, perpetually hungry and her next meal is as uncertain as a dog’s dinner.

Oh, before you leave, let’s look at one more important consideration.

Should you gate content behind a registration a page. Opinions differ:

David Meerman Scott in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, believes it’s better to leave content ungated, so 20-50-times more people will download it and circulate it in among their friends and peers.

In Let’s End This Gated vs Ungated Content Battle Once And For All, Edward Dennis of Core DNA clears up the confusion between gating and not gating content.

[1] Eccolo Media 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, Eccolo Media, Inc. October 2011. www.eccolomedia.com.