According to Semrush, 78% of organizations that saw positive results from investing in content in 2021 had a documented content marketing strategy in place. Furthermore, the same report reveals that 47% of companies plan to grow their content teams this year. And the latest research from Content Marketing Institute shows that a whopping two-thirds of B2B organizations plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2022.
Looking at the data, it’s evident that content marketing will play a crucial role in driving growth for your business in the coming years. But how do you go beyond basic blogging?
Most of the time, marketers turn towards content marketing with the goal of attracting buyers in the awareness stage of the sales funnel. But the truth is, there’s much more to a well-developed and well-executed content strategy than just attracting and engaging website visitors.
When used to its full potential, content can drive results (and conversions) at every single stage of the sales funnel. So, if you’re ready to step into the future (and do a bit of experimenting with various formats), here’s everything you need to know about using different content types to achieve excellent results at every stage of the sales funnel.
Different types of content
The effectiveness of the various available content types will depend on who you’re targeting and the stage of the sales funnel that person is in.
The best way to gain the trust of B2B customers is presenting real case studies and success stories or showcasing your knowledge and expertise through downloadable resources – such as e-books and whitepapers. In short, make sure to gain their trust in order to gain their business.
On the other hand, if your target audience consists of end consumers, producing use case studies may be over the top for your needs. Not that they won’t deliver benefits; however, the evaluation phase in the B2C sales funnel tends to be somewhat less complicated than when selling to enterprises.
When targeting end consumers, you can effectively inspire conversions in the mid-stages of the sales funnel by producing and distributing more traditional content formats, such as quizzes, blog posts, behind-the-scenes videos, and similar.
For the purpose of this article, we have created a list of four main content categories, and we’ll examine a few different types of content for each category.
- Downloadable resources (use case studies, templates, ebooks, whitepapers)
- Inspirational and entertaining content (curated inspiration, YouTube video, quizzes, behind-the-scenes videos)
- Educational content (how-to blog posts, podcasts, video tutorials)
- User-generated content (social media, product reviews, dedicated blog posts, video interviews)
Use case studies
If you’re trying to inspire conversions in the evaluation stage of the B2B sales funnel, your best bet would be to publish use case studies.
The reason for this is simple: in the B2B sector, the buying journey tends to be rather complex. When researching solutions to invest in, organizations go through a thorough product evaluation process. In part, this is because they’re committing to a long-term relationship with your brand.
Another factor is that they’re spending significantly bigger sums than end consumers. This, in turn, means that they’re dealing with larger amounts of risk as well. And, of course, there’s the fact that every potential purchase needs to be approved by six to ten decision-makers.
Fortunately, use case studies allow you to overcome these obstacles with ease and efficiency. There are several reasons for this:
- Use cases are a great way to address B2B audience pain points and show how a particular product or service can solve customer needs.
- Use case studies combine the power of narration with social proof. They tell success stories but are rooted in real-life experience and measurable data. Both are essential in pushing potential leads closer to conversion.
- Use case studies achieve something that product descriptions often fail to do: showing real-life product applications. This manages potential buyers’ expectations and inspires them to consider all the benefits they stand to gain from investing in your solution. And that includes the benefits that they may have overlooked during the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey.
On top of that, case studies are a more convenient way for potential buyers to learn about your products than traditional product demos or in-person meetings.
For inspiration on how to display this type of content format to streamline the B2B buying journey, make sure you check out the HubSpot Case Studies website section.
On this webpage, the brand essentially tells B2B customer stories. It describes its customers’ pain points and communicates the outcomes it was able to secure for those customers. Sometimes, the results are presented in the form of statistics; at other times, they’re purely descriptive.
However, what really makes the section effective is the number of customer success stories. This volume is crucial in proving that HubSpot holds a leading position in its market and has the proof that it can deliver results — regardless of the specific needs of its potential future customers.
Free downloadable templates are a super-simple and cost-effective type of content you can publish to reach audiences in the top stages of the buyer’s journey. They’re not just easy to create, but also highly efficient at solving consumer pain points, helping you present your brand in a positive light.
When presenting the free template as a DIY tool that your audience can use to solve a pain point, make sure you also point out a better solution — your product/service, which is the more effective and time-saving alternative to the free resource.
For an exceptional example of a brand doing just this, have a look at the Weekly Meal Plan template page from Ultimate Meal Plans.
While it does give users a free downloadable resource that meets their exact needs, this brand also points out that it offers a service that can help people save up to two hours on meal planning every week.
Then, it presents them with a 14-day free trial offer and several additional educational resources. By doing this, Ultimate Meal Plans ensures that the downloadable content offers value. Moreover, it also utilizes an opportunity to introduce its service in a way that doesn’t come off as an aggressive sales pitch.
If you have a bit more time on your hands (or a more generous content marketing budget), ebooks are the better alternative to templates.
This is not just because they provide more value to the reader: ebooks also give brands more space over which they can prove their expertise on a subject.
For instance, Upwork chose to partner with HubSpot (an authority in the marketing industry) to create a free ebook. The resource aims to teach marketers how to work with freelance designers to complete projects more quickly, get higher quality results, and stay within their allotted budgets.
What particularly stands out about this downloadable is that it’s a gated resource. So, Upwork has the opportunity to utilize it for two purposes:
- to provide potential clients with a unique value,
- to capture new leads, which the company can then contact by email and slowly educate on its paid products/services.
If you’re looking to prove your expertise to professional customers – that is, if you’re searching for content formats that serve the awareness stage of the B2B buyer’s journey – then conducting original research is definitely something you should consider doing.
According to data from 2021, research/survey reports and whitepapers fall among the most useful content formats for analyzing B2B purchases. In fact, more than 40% of decision-makers stated that they consider whitepapers to offer the most value when making buying decisions.
To ensure that your potential customers recognize that value, you first have to ensure that the data:
- is concise,
- comes from credible resources,
- is beautifully presented,
- is optimized for consumption on both big and small screens.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind about publishing whitepapers to raise awareness about your brand and products.
Although putting content behind a gate allows you to generate leads, you have to remember that the precondition for people giving you their contact information is to show them that you have original and relevant data to offer in return.
To guarantee that your whitepapers actually generate new leads, make sure you follow in the footsteps of brands who’ve perfected this content format, like the Sendinblue Industry Benchmark page.
Focus on topics relevant to your target audience. Display the data in a way that’s easy and convenient to consume. And, of course, create compelling previews that will encourage web visitors to fill out your forms and download the resource.
One of the easiest ways to engage your audience through content is to create curated inspiration collections — especially on social media.
Data shows that the average person spends more than 2 hours on social media per day. So, utilizing this distribution channel to publish content that will inspire potential buyers (not necessarily to purchase but to start thinking about pain points that might need solving) makes for an easy-to-execute strategy.
For example, you may choose to accomplish this via Instagram. If you check out the Grovemade Instagram page, you’ll see that this brand regularly shares aesthetically pleasing desk setups, inspiring followers to make their work environments as beautiful as possible and, hopefully, do so by investing in some of the brand’s products.
High-quality YouTube videos
Producing content and distributing it on YouTube is another excellent way to build brand awareness (or loyalty), especially if you take into account that YouTube is expected to reach the mind-boggling number of 2,854.14 million users by 2025.
To stand out on the platform, you will have to put extra effort into production quality. After all, there’s a huge amount of content being uploaded to YouTube every hour. So, standing out really does depend on proper keyword research, tags, length, and even your posting schedule.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to do YouTube content right, check out DJI. This brand’s channel is filled with promotional videos and short films that don’t directly sell the brand’s products. They simply serve as works of art meant to entertain and inspire content creators and film lovers. These are all people who might, in the future, become DJI customers.
You could also choose a more interactive approach to entertaining content by producing engaging and original quizzes.
While most brands overlook this content format, a deeper look into it reveals that it offers some pretty spectacular benefits. According to research from 2016,
- 81% of marketers agree that interactive content grabs readers’ attention more effectively than its static counterparts.
- 79% think that interactive content has reusable value.
- 75% see nongated interactive content as a way to improve lead nurturing.
- And 66% of marketers say they’ve seen positive changes in engagement thanks to interactive content tactics.
But, perhaps the biggest benefit you stand to gain by publishing quizzes is that these represent one of the absolute best ways to collect data about your customers and their pain points.
For an example of a brand that utilizes quizzes precisely for this purpose, check out the La Roche Posay Routine Finder page.
With its Find Your Routine quiz, this brand generates new leads, provides web visitors with actionable tips on how to improve their skincare routine, and (perhaps most importantly) measures consumer interest in new types of products.
Customers who feel emotionally connected to a brand not only spend more money with that company, they also tend to choose them over competitors with whom they have less of a connection.
A terrific way to “humanize” your brand and get your audience to invest emotions in the company is to leverage your biggest asset: the people that work with you. Generating relatability is a super effective way to tell your audience that you’re more than a corporate entity; you’re the sum of the awesome people that make up your organization.
Behind-the-scenes videos are an incredibly effective way to generate these positive buy-ins. They’re easy to produce, by definition don’t need stellar production values, and they can also be a lot of fun to make.
The key is to not make the content seem overly-scripted. You want to seem sincere. You want the authenticity of a day at work to shine through.
Custom apparel company Real Thread uses its Instagram profile to great effect when it comes to behind-the-scenes content. The brand clearly has a terrific sense of humor when it comes to its operations – something that’s very evident in the video content their employees frequently produce.
Detailed how-to blog posts
One of the easiest ways for you to utilize your industry know-how and deliver unmatched value to your existing customers is to identify topics and processes your audience needs help with. Then, you can produce written content that educates your buyers and ensures they have all the information they need to properly utilize your products.
For SaaS brands, this could mean putting together a detailed onboarding process delivered through email. Or, for e-commerce brands, it could simply mean writing articles that teach buyers how to properly use their newly purchased items.
If you check out the Sola Wood Flowers website, you’ll see that this brand has a dedicated School section. In this section, Sola presents readers with a rich knowledge base that’s filled with instructional articles. They teach customers how to use the brand’s products to create breathtaking crafts without feeling overwhelmed by the process.
Podcasts are another excellent content type to play around with. Particularly seeing that more than 20% of all internet users listen to podcasts at least once a month.
Because listeners often consume podcasts outside the home (64% listen in the car, 49% while walking, 43% at a gym, and 37% while riding on public transport), this format allows you to reach consumers that would otherwise be inaccessible with written content.
Like all content that’s effective at engaging its audience, podcasts need to prioritize listener value over brand promotion. While it may be super tempting to make your company and its products the main focus of every episode, your audience will find much more value in content that tells interesting stories in an objective way.
For an example of a brand that’s gone all-in on this approach, look no further than inbound marketing experts, Hubspot. The Hubspot Podcast Network is a content marketing beast that delivers incredible value for its massive audience. And it does so without ever clumsily making Hubspot the headline story. Their objective is to educate and inspire their listeners, not promote their products. This is what has their audience coming back repeatedly.
If you’re going for maximum impact with your educational content, then video tutorials are the absolute best format to invest in.
When producing and distributing video tutorials, remember that you don’t have to go for the same production quality as when trying to inspire or entertain your target audience. In fact, as long as the video delivers unique value and actionable tips, it’s a great investment.
The benefit of video tutorials as a medium for marketing content is that it’s somewhat more justifiable to produce content that prominently features your product or service. While providing actionable tips and direction should still be your primary objective with the video, it’s generally a far more suitable platform for mentioning your product than a podcast.
For an example of a brand that produces top-quality video tutorials while at the same time using the content to create brand awareness, take a look at Ahrefs. The SEO specialists have a spectacular selection of video tutorial content on their blog, most of them prominently featuring their flagship product.
What makes these videos helpful is that it delivers value despite featuring the Ahrefs product. Sure, its involvement in the tutorial is difficult to miss, but it’s not been awkwardly shoved into the content in a way that compromises the quality of the material.
When it comes to employing UGC, the absolute easiest way to do it is via social media. You could ask your customers to tag you in their posts. Or, you could search for and use hashtags to identify UGC that’s related to your brand.
But, to see the best results, make sure that the content you repost serves your brand and your audience, especially in the evaluation phase of the buyer’s journey.
For an example of a brand that has a great approach to sourcing UGC from social media and using it to help potential buyers make purchasing decisions, check out the Tokyobike homepage.
At the bottom of its product pages page, this brand includes a few Instagram posts that show the bicycle in action. The result is a more immersive description of the brand’s bikes. Plus, the social proof gives potential customers a taste of what they’ll be getting if they decide to purchase — a bike they can use to go on adventures but that also offers timeless style for city commutes.
If you want to get even more out of user-generated content, consider the fact that 72% of buyers believe user-submitted testimonials to be more credible than brands talking about their products. So why not add a splash of UGC to the product reviews you display on your website?
If you’re after some inspiration on how to do this organically, you could do something as simple as allowing customers to upload photos with their reviews. This is the direction Dress Forms USA takes. And, as you can see below, the result is a spectacular instance of social proof, made even more convincing by the user-submitted photo.
Dedicated blog posts
If your goal is to convince leads that they need your product and service, one excellent way to achieve that effect is to use your company blog to tell customer stories.
Despite being considered the most basic type of content you can create, blog posts are still a super-effective content type to invest in. After all, surveys show that as many as 92% of businesses chose to produce blog posts between 2020 and 2021, testifying to the potential (and cost-effectiveness) of the written word.
During the evaluation stage, your customers have already become aware of your brand, product, and the benefits you offer. And, it’s time for them to start exploring outside sources of information to verify the truthfulness of your claims.
Most likely, this will mean that they will start looking at social proof to gauge the trustworthiness of your business. They will seek out additional resources to verify the information you’ve provided.
Now, the great thing with the “standard” blog format is that it can allow you to present potential buyers with this info without them having to leave your website (and potentially become the customers of your competition).
Skillcrush has absolutely nailed the format of the dedicated blog post meant for the evaluation stage of the sales funnel.
This brand has found a way to turn its testimonials into next-level customer stories. They created an article around a happy customer’s story, complete with information about the person’s pain points, links to their social profiles, screenshots of their portfolio, and a video of the person telling about their Skillcrush experience.
And, just to see how well Skillcrush utilizes customer stories to optimize the B2C buyer’s journey, note how it includes dozens of these types of blog posts on its website. This ensures that every single potential lead has the opportunity to read a testimonial that relates to their personal experience, and discovers content that has the potential of convincing them to convert.
Do you prefer to move with the times? In that case, it may be time to join the growing number of brands investing in video content or, more specifically, video interviews.
Wyzowl’s research shows that 73% of people will choose a short video to learn about new products, while text-based articles are the go-to for a much smaller 11%. The video format is an excellent choice to convey customer stories.
They offer the unique benefit of conveying customer stories while upholding the principle of transparency. Since they allow your happy clients to share their experiences in their own words (without any sneaky editing), video often comes off as more authentic than written text.
Also, it’s worth noting that customer stories in the form of video interviews ensure the information you present to potential buyers is relevant to their experience. Relatability alone exponentially increases their chances of converting into customers.
To see an instance of excellent execution of utilizing video interviews to share customer stories, check out the Bay Alarm Medical homepage.
In the example below, this brand’s interviewer asked customers about their experiences using the medical alarm device. What stands out isn’t just the relatability of the situations that led the users to finally invest in a medical alarm: it’s the candidness of their answers, with one happy customer plainly saying that it’s “really stupid not to get [the product].”
Choose your content types wisely
As you can see, there are very few limits as to what you can achieve with a versatile content marketing strategy.
The key lies in having a clear idea of your marketing goals and understanding your audience’s needs. Once these two conditions are met, you can go as wild or as traditional as you like. What matters is that you always deliver value and that you measure your results so that your future endeavors can be even more successful.
Travis Jamison is an entrepreneur turned investor. After selling a couple of businesses, he shifted his focus toward investing. He was disappointed by the lack of options for entrepreneurial-type investments – like buying websites & investing in small, bootstrapped businesses, so he started Investing.io to provide a home for other entrepreneurs turned investors.
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