In Content Marketing, Substance Matters More Than Format


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Eccolo Media recently released some of the results from its latest annual B2B Technology Content Survey. The 2015 survey was fielded in October of 2014 and received more than 100 responses. Volume One of the survey report focuses on what types of content formats B2B technology buyers find most helpful in each phase of the buying process. Eccolo Media identifies four buying process stages:

  • Pre-Sales Phase – the potential buyer is unaware of the problem
  • Initial Sales Phase – the potential buyer is seeking to understand the problem
  • Mid-Sales Phase – the potential buyer is identifying possible solutions and evaluating potential vendors
  • Final Sales Phase – the potential buyer is finalizing vendor selection and purchasing a solution

Respondents to the survey rated the helpfulness of ten types of content during each phase of the buying process. The two types of content rated most helpful for each buying stage were:

  • Pre-Sales Phase – blogs and e-newsletters
  • Initial Sales Phase – white papers and case studies
  • Mid-Sales Phase – detailed tech guides and videos
  • Final Sales Phase – detailed tech guides and eBooks

The Eccolo Media surveys provide important insights about the content preferences of B2B technology buyers, and many of these insights apply to all types of business buyers. Other firms, such as DemandGen Report, have also published research regarding the popularity and usefulness of various content formats.

To build an effective content marketing program, you obviously need content resources in appropriate formats. However, format is not the most important factor that determines the effectiveness of marketing content.

Any content resource can be described using three attributes – the substance of the message embodied in the resource, the length of the resource (how long it takes a potential buyer to consume the resource), and the format of the resource. To be effective, a content resource must satisfy three requirements in the following order of importance.

Right Message

First, the substance of your message must match where the potential buyer is in the buying process and fill appropriate information needs. For example, when a potential buyer is in what Eccolo Media calls the Pre-Sales Phase of the buying process, he or she is unaware of the problem or challenge that your product or service can address. Therefore the substance of your message should focus on educating the potential buyer about the nature and importance of the problem or challenge.

Right Length

The second requirement is that the length of the resource must be appropriate for the potential buyer’s level of interest in the message substance. For example, when a potential buyer is unaware of a problem, your educational content is more likely to create engagement if it’s delivered in “bite-sized” chunks that the buyer can consume without making a big investment of time. As the Eccolo Media survey indicates, blog posts and short e-newsletter articles can work well for this purpose, but so can short videos or podcasts and infographics. As the buyer’s level of interest increases, he or she will be more willing to invest the time needed to consume longer content resources.

Right Format

The third requirement is to present your message in the right format. When it comes to format, the key to success is to package your message in multiple formats, so that it will appeal to potential buyers who prefer to consume information and learn in different ways.

The important point is that all three of these attributes – message substance, length, and format – play a role in content effectiveness, but message substance should be your starting point.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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