My preference for "vendor-branded" content was based on the idea that a primary objective of content marketing is to communicate your company's expertise to potential buyers and thus cause those buyers to view your company as a trusted resource for valuable insights and as a capable business partner. Logically, branded content seemed to be the most direct way to accomplish this objective.
Because of three recent research studies, I now have a different view on this issue.
The 2013 Research
Last year, the CMO Council published a white paper - Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field - that was based on a survey of more than 400 B2B content consumers. As the table below shows, survey respondents said they trust and value several kinds of third-party content 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.
The 2014 Research
The results of a third study published in March of this year provides even more compelling evidence regarding the effectiveness of "expert content." This research was commissioned by inPowered and conducted by The Nielsen Company. The Nielsen study involved 900 participants and consisted of a proctored, in-laboratory experiment combined with both a pre-experiment and a post-experiment survey.
During the in-laboratory portion of the study, participants were exposed to three types of marketing content pertaining to several types of products having a wide range of price points. Expert content included reviews and articles from third-party websites and blogs. User reviews were selected from the websites of major retailers or other online forums. Branded content consisted of content that was taken from the vendor's website.
The Nielsen study measured the impact of each type of content on three stages of the purchase decision-making process:
- Familiarity with a new product
- Affinity toward a brand or product
- Purchase consideration of a brand or product
The results of the Nielsen study clearly demonstrate that expert content is the most effective type of marketing content in terms of impacting consumers across the entire purchase cycle. Expert content lifted familiarity 88% more than branded content, it lifted affinity 50% more than branded content, and it lifted purchase consideration 38% more than branded content. While the Nielsen study involved consumer products, it is likely that the results would be similar in a B2B setting.
It's clear from these research studies that potential buyers are inclined to trust third-party content (particularly expert 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 a highly effective marketing tool. So, I'm now convinced that expert content should be an integral part of the content marketing mix at most B2B companies.