Credibility is the single most important attribute of great marketing content. Effective content must also be relevant and valuable, but if potential buyers don’t see your content as credible, they won’t give you credit for relevance or value. Here are two ways to increase the credibility of your content.
Several recent research studies have contained both good news and bad news regarding B2B content marketing. First the good news. It’s clear that content plays a vital role in B2B buying decisions.
- In the 2017 B2B Buyer’s Survey by Demand Gen Report, business buyers were asked why they selected the winning vendor over others. Seventy-five percent of the respondents said that the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their choice.
- In a 2016 survey of business decision makers by Edelman and LinkedIn, 45% of respondents said that thought leadership content had directly led them to decide to do business with a company.
Now for the not-so-good news. Numerous studies have painted a rather bleak picture regarding the level of engagement that content is producing. For example:
- In a 2016 survey of business executives by The Economist Group, respondents reported that, on average, they engage with only about 25% of the thought leadership content they see every day.
- A 2016 study by Beckon found that the amount of content published by brands had tripled in the previous year, but that customer engagement had remained flat. The study also found that just 5% of the total content produced garnered 90% of the total customer engagements, meaning that 19 out of 20 content pieces generated little or no engagements.
There are several possible explanations for this disappointing level of content engagement. One is that the tremendous growth in content volume makes lower rates of engagement inevitable. In The Economist Group study, 82% of surveyed executives reported that the volume of content available has made them more selective in what they consume.
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Another possibility is that buyers simply don’t see much value in much of the content they encounter. In the Edelman/LinkedIn study, respondents said they gained valuable insights from content only about 44% of the time.
Credible Content is Essential
It’s also clear that lack of trust is undermining the impact of content. In a recent survey of technology buyers by TrustRadius, survey participants were asked to rate the helpfulness and trustworthiness of 12 sources of information used in buying decisions. Respondents ranked vendor or product websites and vendor collateral (ebooks, case studies, webinars, etc.) as the least helpful and trustworthy sources of information.
The reality is, most business buyers are conditioned to treat the information they receive from potential vendors with a healthy dose of skepticism. They recognize that prospective vendors have an agenda that is likely to cause most vendor-supplied information to be suspect. In essence, most business buyers presume that vendor content is biased and not altogether trustworthy. The challenge facing B2B marketers is to develop content that can overcome this presumption.
The single more critical attribute of effective content is credibility. Yes, great content will be relevant to the buyer’s interests and needs, and it will provide the buyer with useful and valuable information. But if prospective buyers don’t see your content as credible, they won’t give you credit for relevance or value.
Credibility, like trust, cannot be manufactured, but there are some steps you can take to increase the credibility of your content. Here are two of the most important.
Make It Authoritative
Credible content is authoritative. Therefore, it’s important not to fill your content with unsubstantiated claims or assertions. Marketing content doesn’t need to read like an academic journal or a legal brief, but the main points you make should be supported by sound evidence, preferably from recognized and reputable sources.
Business buyers have repeatedly made their preference for authoritative content clear:
- In its 2017 Content Preferences Survey, Demand Gen Report asked survey participants what recommendations they would make to improve the quality of the content provided by B2B vendors. Seventy-six percent of respondents said use more data and research to support content.
- In a 2016 survey of senior business executives by Grist, survey participants were asked what qualities they find most valuable in thought leadership content. The third highest ranking attribute was content that is evidence-based and contains robust data. The survey also asked participants what turns them off about content. Forty percent of respondents said unsubstantiated opinions.
Make It (Mostly) Non-Promotional
Credible content is primarily non-promotional. This is a particularly important attribute for content that’s designed for early-stage buyers, many of whom will quickly dismiss content that contains even a hint of self-serving promotion.
Once again, B2B buyers have made their preference for non-promotional content clear. In a 2017 survey of business buyers by the Content Marketing Institute and SmartBrief, survey participants were asked to identify the most desirable qualities of the content they use to make buying decisions. The third most important attribute identified by survey respondents was content that “is more educational than promotional in nature.”
“Promotional content” normally refers to content that’s about a company or its products or services, but the term “promotional” describes the tone of content as much as the content subject matter. Content can be highly promotional in tone even when it’s not about a company or specific products or services. And, it’s possible to develop company- or product-related content that’s not overly promotional.
One key to keeping your content non-promotional is to avoid hyperbole. The dictionary definition of hyperbole is “an exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally.” Example: “There was enough food at the party to feed an army.” Unfortunately, marketing content often contains claims or assertions that border on being hyperbolic, and most buyers will instinctively view such claims or assertions as lacking credibility.
In most cases, content will be more persuasive if it is less promotional. When I develop content resources for clients, I have a simple way to determine if a resource passes the promotional “smell test.” I ask myself this question: If an independent and respected journalist were writing an article about this topic, would the tone and content of the article be similar to my resource?
Keep It Real
B2B buyers have spoken, and they’ve made it clear that they want vendors to provide content that is credible, relevant, and insightful. Potential buyers will see your content as more credible if you make it authoritative and non-promotional.
Image courtesy of Ron Mader via Flickr CC.