Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yes, You Still Need Product Content

Understanding what types of content will resonate with potential buyers is a core part of every content marketer's job, but a recent study by LinkedIn indicates that B2B marketers and salespeople don't always provide potential buyers the kinds of content they want and need. This research suggests that we may not understand our buyers' needs and preferences as well as we'd like to believe. Or does it?

The LinkedIn study consisted of a survey of 6,375 B2B buyers, marketers, and salespeople at mid-sized to enterprise companies. Survey respondents were from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, and India. Almost nine out of ten respondents were manager level and above.

LinkedIn addressed several issues in this study, and I recommend that you read the full research report. In this post, I'm focusing on what types of marketing and sales content B2B buyers, marketers, and salespeople perceive to be most useful and effective.

In the LinkedIn survey, participants were provided a list of seven types of marketing/sales content and asked to choose the three types of content they thought are most effective. The following table shows the percentage of B2B buyers, salespeople, and marketers who included each type of content in their top three choices.

These results provide several important insights for B2B marketers. First, they indicate that B2B buyers have a strong preference for product-related content. When buyers identified the three types of content they preferred, the two most popular choices were product information, features, functions (35%) and demos (31%). There was a drop of eleven percentage points between the second most popular choice - demos - and the third most popular choice - best practices.

The LinkedIn study also reveals that B2B buyers and marketers don't agree on what types of content are most effective. For example, only 24% of marketers rated product information as effective, which is eleven percentage points lower than the opinion of buyers. And, there is a thirteen percentage point gap between buyers and marketers regarding the effectiveness of demos.

Do these findings indicate that thought leadership and educational content is less important than we have come to believe? I don't think so. In this survey, LinkedIn also asked buyers:  "What are the important factors in your willingness to engage with a vendor?" The top four answers were:

  • Understands by company's business model
  • Is a subject matter expert/thought leader
  • Provides valuable consultation, education, or tools
  • Knows my company's products/services
These choices strongly suggest that B2B buyers place a high value of receiving insights from their prospective vendors that will make them smarter and help them improve their business.

What the LinkedIn research really confirms is that B2B marketers and sales reps must have content that's relevant for every part of the buyer's journey. And, it serves as a reminder to marketers that product-related content still matters.

Top image courtesy of Andrea Balzano via Flickr CC.

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