Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why Third-Party Content Should Be Part of Your Content Marketing Mix

Two recent research studies have caused me to rethink my views regarding the role and value of third-party content in the marketing efforts of B2B companies. I have always argued that most of the marketing content resources used by a company should be developed internally or with the assistance of outside professional content developers. Either way, the "authorship" of the content is attributed to the company or to an executive or other internal expert. With third-party content, another person or firm creates the content and is shown as the author.

The ultimate objective of content marketing is to cause potential customers to view your company as a trusted resource for valuable information and insights and as a capable and reliable business partner. To accomplish this objective, most of the content you publish should be "yours." It must communicate your company's expertise and capabilities. As a general rule, third-party content just isn't as effective for those purposes.

While I still say that companies should rely primarily on content they create, I also now believe that many companies can benefit from using third-party content on a selective basis. My reasoning is based on two recent research studies that provide important insights regarding the types of content that B2B buyers trust.

The CMO Council recently published a white paper - Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field - that is based on a survey of more than 400 B2B content consumers. When survey participants were asked what types of content they most value and trust, vendor-created content came in last.

As the table below shows, survey respondents said they value and trust professional association research reports and white papers, research reports and white papers created by industry groups, customer case studies, reports and white papers written by analysts, and independent product reviews more than vendor-created content.

The 2013 B2B Content Preferences Survey by DemandGen Report showed similar results. In this survey, B2B buyers were asked which of four types of content they give more credence to. The table below shows that vendor-branded content doesn't fare as well as third-party content.

It seems clear that potential buyers are inclined to trust third-party content more than content created by potential vendors, and B2B marketers should take advantage of this inclination. Content authored by a third-party expert and sponsored by your company can be particularly effective for persuading a potential buyer to begin a relationship with your company. This type of sponsored content can include white papers, eBooks, and research/analytical reports. It could also include a webinar sponsored by your company and presented by a third-party expert.

Content that you develop should always play the predominant role in your content marketing efforts. There are several ways to make your content more trustworthy and credible to potential buyers, and I discussed this topic in an earlier post. However, the right third-party content used in the right ways can be a powerful addition to your content marketing program.


  1. David,
    I find this so interesting because ITSMA's research findings are so very different than the CMO Council and DemandGen reports. Our research finds that vendor-created content is both credible and effective. I suspect the difference is that we are interviewing primarily senior executives at large enterprises purchasing large, complex technology-based solutions costing upwards of $500M. Or perhaps it is because we don’t ask specifically about “whitepapers” which are losing favor.
    In our research, for the past three years, the top sources of information during the purchase process are:
    • Technology or solution provider websites
    • Technology or solution provider subject matter experts
    • Web search (e.g., Google, Bing)
    • Technology or solution provider sales people
    • Peers/colleagues
    When asked about credibility, the B2B buyers say:
    • Technology or solution provider subject matter experts
    • Technology or solution provider websites
    • Industry analysts (e.g., Gartner, Forrester, IDC)
    • Peers/colleagues
    I am starting analysis this week on the 2013 research results. It will be interesting to see what we find out this year. Stay tuned!

    1. Hello Julie,

      Thanks very much for your comment and for sharing the results of the ITSMA research. I can't fully explain the differences between your research findings and those of the CMO Council and DemandGen Report. I do, however, a thought. In your comment, you said that the ITSMA research focuses primarily on senior executives at large enterprises who are evaluating complex technology solutions that cost upwards of $500M. In these circumstances, wouldn't the vendor community be relatively small, and isn't it likely that some of the executives you interview have a pre-existing relationship of some kind with their prospective vendors?

      If a potential buyer has a positive relationship with a prospective vendor (even if the buyer is not a customer), I can see the buyer giving greater credibility to the vendor's content.

  2. I like the way you are thinking!

  3. Yes, all true. And it works! This is "content curation marketing," which is a form of content marketing that builds brand leadership, web traffic, and social media credibility. There are a number of good reasons to include curating content in your content marketing strategy:
    * Branding and Thought Leadership
    * Discovering Great Content
    * Increasing Inbound Links To Your Site
    * Optimizing For Short-Tail Keywords
    * Optimizing For Long-Tail Keywords
    * Updating More Frequently
    All of which provide value to your B2B marketing effort and/or your target audience.

  4. I'm seeing this same trend by B2B companies who are looking to rise above the clutter of "me too" content. 3rd party research, as the reports you've highlighted indicate, lend a bit more credence. However, they also provide an opportunity for B2B companies to leverage data to present a unique perspective or point of view. Some B2B companies conduct their own in-house research or will sponsor research from some of the analyst firms Julie mentions. Looking forward to hearing your 2013 findings, Julie.

  5. If you're talking about social media content, I think you are slowly getting there. What you propose is great for a major brand that is horrible at proper social media marketing anyway, but for the average SMB, a large percentage mix of currated content is a must.

    Social media marketing is about providing selfless, relevant value to your audience, not over promoting your content. In fact, if social media is the intent, the idea is to start conversations that build relationships. The average social network user runs from accounts that only or primarily promote their own content as it is in direct contrast to what provides real value and results. @fondalo