What are the best content formats to use for online communications? As B2B content marketers constantly review and optimize their work, this question becomes ever more pressing as engagement rates drop and marketing budgets have to be justified.
Fortunately, we do have many content formats and channels to choose from for our B2B content strategies. But there are so many options that the abundance of choice sometimes becomes a problem.
So let’s step back and think more broadly. Of the three most fundamental types of content – in-person, audio, text, and visual – which content channel communicates best?
In-person communication is usually the most effective, but it is also limited. Traveling to conferences and meetings is expensive and time-intensive. It can become draining for some people if it’s done too frequently.
That leaves B2B marketers with text, audio, and visual communications.
So which one of these channels communicates best?
Research shows it is the visual channel that communicates best. But images paired with text communicate best.
Why Visual Content Gets More Engagement and Is Remembered Longer
As the video below explains, if a person hears a piece of information, three days later they’ll remember only about 10% of that information. If a picture is added, 65% of the information will be retained three days later.
So clearly, pictures aligned with text improve communication retention. If you’re investing thousands of dollars into a B2B marketing campaign, that’s a valuable piece of information to know, and it is even more valuable if you apply it.
This statistic correlates well with other research that is specific to marketing. In HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing report, marketers reported that social media content with a photo or imagery was most engaging.
Fortunately, most B2B marketers are already using visual content in their content marketing mix. 67% of the B2B content marketers surveyed in the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs 2020 B2B Benchmarks Budgets and Trends report said they use “infographics/charts/photos/data viz [data visualizations].”
Visual content for B2B content marketing is also particularly well-aligned with B2B marketers’ two primary goals for their content: Creating brand awareness and educating audiences.
But these are not the only reasons visual content complements existing B2B content marketing strategy and B2B content marketing programs. Visual content is also an ideal product of content repurposing. Most B2B content marketing programs have historically leaned very heavily on text-based content. Witness this in the “Content Types B2B Marketers Used in the Last 12 Months” chart cited above; 89% of B2B marketers produce blog posts and short articles.
So B2B marketers have ample amounts of text-based content. If they want to maximize their marketing budget, repurposing some existing text-based content into visual content can be a particularly strategic plan. This is especially true if these marketers choose to repurpose only their very best-performing text-based content into a visual format.
These are just some of the reasons to use visual content in B2B content marketing.
The question is… how to use visual content for B2B content marketing? What specific types of visual content can be created, and how can they be used to drive engagement and conversions?
To answer this question, we have gathered ten excellent examples of different types of B2B visual content marketing. Use these examples for inspiration, but also as proof of what can be done. Visual content marketing can take many forms, and can be used in many ways.
Charts and graphs.
B2B buyers are especially data-oriented, and have often called for the content shown to them to be more data-focused. Charts and graphs (and all other types of data visualizations) speak to this need.
One study from QuickSprout found that “blog posts with graphs and charts received the highest number of [WordPress] trackbacks. On average, they received 258% more trackbacks than blog posts with other types of images.”
Charts and graphs, like all images, can be especially effective if they are optimized for search engines. Simply adding an informative, keyword-rich alt tag will help, as will making each image’s file name descriptive and keyword-focused.
The important thing to remember with charts and graphs is that they work best when they are given context. At their best, data visualizations are used for “data storytelling,” a popular method of using several different statistics or data points to explain and verify a larger theory or how a particular condition or situation came to be.
If you work in B2B SaaS at all, you’ll be familiar with the web design and graphic design trend of using illustrations throughout marketing materials. Many B2B SaaS homepages like DropBox and Trello show these types of clean, flat-design illustrations.
Computer-generated illustrations can be included in this type of content format for B2B content marketing, but I want to place particular emphasis on hand-drawn illustrations.
Like this one from Happify:
Many B2B SaaS companies have employed hand-drawn illustrations throughout their content for some time. BuzzSumo used its brand illustrations to great effect for years. Google has been showcasing Google doodles for even longer.
Hand-drawn illustrations like this help content to stand out, but also help establish a recognizable visual “brand” to all content, even if it is just a blog post header image shared on social media. They do require the assistance of an illustrator, but there are quite a few platforms that can help you find an artist up to the task, like Behance, Dribbble, 99designs, and Fiverr.
User-generated content can include any content format – videos, text testimonials, and more – but here I am speaking specifically of visual user-generated content. B2C content marketers have used user-generated content to excellent effect for years, both in ads, in social media posts, and even on product pages.
B2B marketers can do the same, though they may want to be cautious about the legal permissions required to safely use content their audiences have created about them.
That said, even if it does require extra time to get approval from your company’s Legal department, the benefits of “UGC” can be worth the extra effort. User-generated content often performs exceptionally well for social media advertising and can be even more effective if it is included on checkout pages for B2B e-commerce, or on your company’s products and services pages.
Even adding a headshot to a testimonial is one way to leverage visual content. Adding a photograph of a person draws the eye into the text, and humanizes the information even more, like this example of a customer testimonial from KoMarketing’s website:
Let’s pivot from the user-generated content “real photos” supplied by your audience and customers to “real photographs” supplied by your staff.
This type of B2B visual content is more casual than the formal, more traditional photographs of your business that would typically be taken by a professional photographer. These photographs are basically employee-generated visual content. This type of content can do well on social media, particularly on Instagram.
So why would you want to ask employees to start photographing themselves and their teammates at work? Because while stock photos are convenient and look polished, they are often far less compelling than “real life” photos, especially if those photographs are taken by your company’s staff.
Here’s one example of a photograph taken in a company office by an employee who is leaving the firm. There is a poignancy to this photograph that a stock photo could never achieve.
This may be exactly why “real” photographs perform better than stock photographs: We have become trained to sift through ads so often and so deftly that we can almost subconsciously tell a stock photograph from a real photograph as we scroll through newsfeeds. We have learned to filter out ads.
Using a photograph taken by an employee at your company, which looks like a social media photo taken for a personal account, interrupts this filter. Even if it’s only for just a second, a B2B buyer’s eye may stop to consider what looks like someone’s personal post. If your messaging is just right, that one-second pause may be enough to engage the buyer and compel them to click through to your ad’s landing page.
The photographs used in these messages don’t have to look like they’re done by a professional photographer. Certainly, keep the photos professional in the sense of maintaining decorum, but perfect lighting and studied camera angles are not necessary, and may even suppress engagement.
Summarize text-based content into micro-infographics.
This is one of the best opportunities for repurposing text-based content. Here is the process:
- Select a few of your top-performing blog posts
- Highlight 5-10 key facts, sentences, or statistics from each post
- Ask a designer to convert the text into visually-compelling information
Here is an example of what this can look like:
Notice that this is not a full infographic. It doesn’t need to be. But after you have excerpted the information and made it into a visual representation, you will have enough images for several dozen excellent social media posts, which will further amplify content that is already driving business. And these visual elements can also be added to the existing blog posts.
Scroll-triggered animations, also known as ‘parallax’ scroll animations.
Content can be many things. It does not necessarily have to be blog posts or white papers. A product features page or a company’s home page also has content, and that content can be animated to appear more dynamic and interesting.
This can be done with what are called scroll-triggered animations, or “parallax” animations.
Google’s “How Search Works” page is an excellent example of this type of animation. For every aspect of how search works, Google presents a headline, a few lines of summary text, a link to a page dedicated to this topic, and an interesting animation that illustrates how the feature works.
Here is just one section from “How Search Works”:
Animations like this often require a skilled developer and a designer to create an effective animation that both communicates well and that works on every device and platform, but there are also a few WordPress plugins like Scroll Triggered Animations that can make implementing these types of visual presentations easier.
Infographics have long been one of the most-used and most effective visual content formats available. At KoMarketing, we’ve created dozens of infographics and used them in our marketing extensively.
Infographics can be repurposed from existing content, like a particularly in-depth blog post, an ebook, or a research study. They can also be developed as a completely new content project. If you happen to know of a series of statistics that can tell a particular story, or that can show the state of a particular aspect of your industry, an infographic may be particularly well-suited as a content format for that information.
For more information about infographics, see our blog post, How to Create an Infographic From Start to Finish in 5 Steps.
These are an upgraded version of the standard infographic. They often allow the user to change how the infographic looks based on the user’s inputs. Or they allow users to adjust the data in certain ways (to view changes year by year, for example) so the information is presented based on what the user is most interested in.
Quartz’s This is every satellite orbiting earth interactive infographic is an excellent example of how engaging this type of visual content can be.
Pinterest is more attuned to business to consumer companies, but there are quite a few business to business companies that do well on this platform. The most successful of these seem to have “pinterized” their strategy and the look of their content in a way that complements the platform’s feel while still attracting B2B buyers.
Squarespace’s Pinterest page is an ideal example of this “pinterization” of a B2B brand. Their Pinterest page has the distinctive look and feel of Pinterest, and SquareSpace seems to be consciously demonstrating how their product can help Pinterest’s audience.
Cisco’s Pinterest page offers a template for how to organize your content on this platform. Note how they have organized their visual content into Pinterest boards for blog posts, infographics, customer quotes, and videos.
Not all visual content has to be created by a graphic designer. Just as somewhat amateur photographs taken by employees and customers can lend authenticity, writing out quotations, statistics or anything else can help to “stop the scroll” and capture attention.
One of the best examples of this are hand-written notes on napkins or post-it notes. These don’t take more than a minute or two to create, and they often attract more engagement than a more professionally designed graphic would get.
This example, from Sima Dahl, is part of a series of quotes written out on napkins. It’s an interesting, creative way to create a series of messaging points.
Visual content fulfills many of the needs B2B marketers have right now:
- To get more engagement from their content
- To make their content more memorable
- To repurpose existing content, thus optimizing their budgets
- To provide more content formats to attract different types of B2B buyers
If your B2B content strategy has not yet prioritized visual content, it may be time to do so now.