Need Content? 20 Formats to Consider

Need Content? 20 Formats to Consider
Michele Linn - Wed Aug 26, 2009 @ 09:03AM
Comments: 114

ContentContent makes the world go round, doesn't it? B2B marketers know they need content, but sometimes it can daunting to decide what to produce. To make your job a bit easier, I've compiled a list of 20 types of content to consider. This can be a good list when you need to brainstorm new content, and it's also a reference to use when you are trying to think of things to include in your content marketing and lead nurturing programs. I'm sure you've thought of and used many of these, and not all of these content types will work for every situation, but hopefully you'll pick up a few new ideas.

White Papers
We write about white papers a lot on Savvy B2B Marketing because they are pieces that have a lot of power if written well - and they are very much requested by the IT audience (and others). In the recent TechTarget Media Consumption Report, white papers were the most widely used online content type that IT professesionals used to evaluate new technology.

I'm a big fan of eBooks. They're still relatively new to the B2B marketing scene, and they're a fun alternative to the white paper. For inspiration, check out some of our favorite eBooks. And, if you want to create your own, I highly recommend Jonathan Kranz's eBook on creating eBooks.

Workbooks and Toolkits
Workbooks and toolkits are similar in nature to the eBook, but they walk readers through a process and often include things such as forms and checklists. They are typically pretty "meaty" and have a lot of appeal.

Research reports
You can share research via white papers and eBooks, but I call this out specifically because it is a bit different. In my previous life as a marketing manager, I used to hire firms to do research, and my results were great: prospects love research, and the finding can be a gold mine for marketing. My only caveat: consumers are wary of research, so make sure your sample and the way your survey is conducted is statistically meaningful.

Buying guides
Buying guides are subset of white papers but they specifically walk prospects through various things to look for when choosing a solution (of course, your competitive advantages are subtly highlighted). These are a great tool for later in the buying cycle.

Case studies
Customer testimonials are some of the most powerful types of content around, and there are a lot of ways to present this information. In a future post, I'll provide some specific examples.

Checklists and action plans
Another way to present your content is through checklists and action plans. It's one thing to read how to do something, but it is a nice touch to provide your reader with a handy checklist that walks them through specific next steps. Also great for the audience who doesn't love to read.

Is your industry fraught with a bunch of terms that may be unfamiliar to someone who is beginning to seek out a solution? If so, your prospect may appreciate a cheat sheet of common terms.

Q&A and FAQs
Are there common questions or objections that your sales team frequently encounters? Consider pulling those together and providing them as a reference to prospects. Ideally, you'll have different questions based on the audience and point in the buying cycle.

If you are trying to get your name out there, consider writing an article that you can pitch to a trade pub, an online newsletter or any of a number of other places. Also think about the articles that you and your colleagues have written when you are looking for content to include in lead nurturing programs and on your website.

Blog posts
Never underestimate the power of a blog post. If your company has a blog, point people to specific, relevant posts as part of the follow up or lead nurturing process. I do this all the time with my clients, and it works great.

If you have a newsletter that is relevant to your audience, you can ask them to opt in, or you can point them to the archives. Like blog posts and articles, if there was a specific topic discussed in a previous issue that is especially relevant to a certain type of prospect in a certain point of the buying cycle, consider pointing them to that.

Do you have an audience that doesn't love to read and would shy away from anything text-heavy, such as an eBook or white paper? Try a slideshow. Slideshare is one popular site where you can post PowerPoint slides that people can easily flip through. For one example, check out this presentation by ClickInsights: Tips on how B2B marketers should do Content Marketing.

Along the same lines as a slideshow, you can also create a webcast. Live events are great lead generators, and the recorded versions can have a long shelf life. Consider repurposing content from a white paper, eBook or presentation at a trade show or another event.

Of course, podcasts are another popular way to share content. One great format is to interview experts in your field who are of interest to your audience.

Videos are very popular as well and should be a consideration in most content marketing plans.

Interactive applications
Online applications are more involved, but if you have the resources, these are great option. If you want to see some examples, HubSpot has some "grader" tools that are fun way to drive people to their site.

Microsites are web pages that include information about specific things. They likely include a lot of the info included here, and they are a great content source to point prospects to.

Knowledge base
Do you have a place on your website where you store support info and answer common questions? If you are providing content to people to help them select vendors, this could be a powerful source of info.

Not surprisingly, prospects love to see how something works, which makes demos another great piece of content to offer later in the buying cycle.

What other types of content do you use in your B2B marketing efforts?

Related articles:

Read more Savvy B2B posts from Michele.

Comments: 114


1. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Wed Aug 26, 2009 @ 09:56AM

Wow, this is an impressive round-up of excellent options! When choosing among them, readers may want to keep the following in mind:

* What are your audiences' reading habits? You'll want to match their learning styles, rather than impose your own.
* What resources do you have? Money and time are factors, of course, but there are also issues of talent (who can write/create what?) and distribution -- do you have places lined up where you can share ebooks, white papers, articles, etc.?
* Don't forget SEO impact! A glossary is not only handy for your readers, but by its very nature, it's automatically loaded with keywords that help drive traffic to your site.
Great work, Michele!

2. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Wed Aug 26, 2009 @ 03:48PM


Thanks for the positive feedback. I have been getting a lot of questions from clients about the type of content they can create, so this was a helpful list for me to put together, and I hope it can help others, too.

There are definitely things you need to consider when choosing which kind of content to create, and you started a great list. I'm a big proponent of making the content match the needs of your reader and where they are in the buying cycle, but you make a good point about SEO and budget as well.

If you don't know what type of format your reader likes, you can always reuse content in various formats: an eBook, a webcast and a podcast, for instance. My only recommendation is to let prospects know that these cover the same content. For instance, if I am using this content in a lead nurturing program, I wouldn't point them to the eBook one week and then the podcast the next. Instead, I would let them know they can digest the content in one of three ways.

As always, thanks for the insights!

3. Thierry Roullier   |   Wed Aug 26, 2009 @ 05:05PM

Regarding demos, it is interesting that Marketing loves to provide flash demos of the products, because these demos are onsistent, risk free and usually well put together, while the sales force is hesitant to use them, thinking the prospect will not like to see a "fake" demo. Anyone having success with flash demos?

4. Gail Nelson  |  my website   |   Thu Aug 27, 2009 @ 03:55AM

Great roundup! BurrellesLuce serves PR pros, so we offer one-page tip sheets for download and at conferences. Subjects range from how to pitch a journalist via email to SEO for news releases and measuring media coverage.

5. seamus walsh  |  my website   |   Thu Aug 27, 2009 @ 05:49AM

Great post! I consider polls and survey's to be a valid content formats. Why? Because the can be topical to a search, provide results for peer analysis and most important because they engage the client when they visit your site. The benefit to you is that they allow you to find out what is keeping visitors/prospects/clients up at night and allows you to probe buying intentions. Polls and surveys should not be overlooked and should be in addition to any other content format.

6. rebekah donaldson  |  my website   |   Thu Aug 27, 2009 @ 10:10AM

Hmm -- honestly I think the thing to ask is WHAT WORKS and what's a waste of time based on reports from thousands of other savvy marketers? (IMHO busy CEOs and VPs need recommendations/ advice/ priorities overall.) And I think the best source for that is the MarketingSherpa <a href="" target="_blank">B2B Lead Generation Handbook</a>

7. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Thu Aug 27, 2009 @ 12:39PM

@Thierry: That's an interesting question. As one point of refernece, the TechTarget Media Consumption Report referenced in this post found that 37% if IT professionals used demos to evaluate new technology, which is about the middle of the pack of the tools they eveluated. I wonder if the majority of IT pros don't use them becuase they don't like them or they aren't available. I'd love to get other thoughts on this.

@Gail: One-page tip sheets can be very effective.Thanks for chiming in.

@Seamus: I like polls and surveys as well, but I would put the same caveat I included uncer the category of research reports: make sure the sample and the way the poll is conducted is statistically valid.

@Rebekah: I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all approach for all prospects at all points of the buying cycle; it absolutely makes sense to create what works for your audience . I also think marketers need to be open to new ideas becasue as marketing evolves, the type of content propsects respond to well can evolve as well. Thanks for sharing your experience with what works well for CEOs and your source for this kind of info.

(Note to readers: As an FYI, the Lead Gen Handbook Rebekah references is not a free download; it costs $700.)

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