Bart De Pelsmaeker Bart is a digital marketing veteran and the founder of Readz, a platform used by brands of all sizes to create superior content experiences. His writing has been featured in Sparksheet, Business2Community, Skyword and other martech publications. He speaks regularly about tech and marketing, most recently at the World e-Reading Congress, American Business Media, and the Integrated Marketing Summit. Connect with Bart on Twitter @BartDP
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Content marketing sales funnel for B2Bs
If you were setting out on a journey through an unknown land, wouldn’t you appreciate the company of a knowledgeable and experienced tour guide? In the land of B2B, digital marketers are those tour guides, and the content strategy is their map. As buyers explore, marketers serve up several content snacks and a few full-course meals along the way. These content snacks (think: social media, infographics) are vital to curbing buyer hunger pains. However, the real sustenance comes in the form of white papers, digital magazines, case studies, ebooks and guides. Just as our meal preferences vary depending on where we are or what time of day it is, the same is true for content preferences, which vary depending on where the buyer is in your sales funnel. In 2015, Eccolo Media surveyed 100-plus decision makers about their interaction with various forms of content along the sales funnel. It concluded that each content type influences sales in a different way, is consumed on mobile devices to a different degree, and has its own set of expectations from buyers. As the diagram at the beginning of this article shows, each type of marketing collateral tends to flourishes in either the beginning, middle or end of the funnel. Let’s take a deeper look into each one.
White papers
The 2014 report of the same study found that white papers were the most frequently consumed content type to evaluate a technology purchase among buyers (49 percent). This number bumped up to 52 percent in the 2015 report, just behind product brochures and equal with email. However, while buyers find white papers to be useful, they also have some major reservations. In 2011, 65 percent of B2B technology buyers said they found white papers to be extremely influential. In 2012, that number dropped to 57 percent, and fell even further in 2014 to 50 percent. In 2015, only 33 percent of the respondents considered white papers among the most influential content types, although the study found it to be the second highest influential asset.
Why? Because buyers think that many white papers focus too much on vendor or product information, or, as one buyer put it, “too much marketing hype.” Instead, respondents say they want white papers that provide real insights and unbiased coverage of industry developments.

If you want to create leads that convert into sales through white paper marketing, I strongly recommend reading this guide "White Paper Marketing: 6 Proven Steps To Creating Leads Consistently" Where they most impact the sales funnel: Beginning. B2B technology buyers say they find white papers most helpful in the initial sales phase (“understanding the problem”) of the sales funnel, though they are considered useful in every phase of the buyer’s journey. Even after purchase, White papers are still likely to be consumed by the buyer. Mobile consumption: High. In 2014, buyers ranked white papers as the content type they would most likely consume on a mobile device (phone or tablet).
Digital magazines
Digital magazines are defined as “online publications delivering company news and exploring key issues and trends.” The asset has emerged as a powerful marketing content type in recent years, leading to their inclusion in the study for the first time in 2014. Although in 2015, only 35 percent of buyers said they consume them. However, that is expected to rise over time. In addition, 14 percent of respondents find digital magazines and publications to be influential. Where they most impact the sales funnel: Beginning. Buyers find digital magazines most helpful when they are starting their research process, as well as when they are creating their initial list of potential vendors. Mobile consumption: Low. 2014 data puts digital magazines very low on the list of marketing assets consumed on a mobile device, which is not so surprising considering the complexity of these features.
When asked what they look for in vendor content, respondents often used terms such as “easy-to-read” and “digestible.” This preference may explain why less than a quarter (24 percent) consume ebooks (which tend to be rather lengthy) to evaluate tech purchases. Similarly, only 7 percent of respondents in 2015 found ebooks to be among the most influential content. While the ebook audience is smaller, it is also more focused and willing to invest more time in learning about technology and vendors. Where they most impact the sales funnel: Beginning and mid. Ebooks, like magazines and white papers, are thought to be most helpful at the top of the sales funnel, in the “understanding the problem” and “identifying solutions, considering vendors” phases when buyers are trying to learn more about current trends and possible solutions. Buyers also find ebooks among the most helpful of almost all content assets (tied with tech guides) in the final sales process, when buyers are finalizing their purchase. Mobile consumption: Low. While ebooks lag in comparison to other digital content types in terms of mobile consumption, they are still accessed on phones and tablets. As the 2014 report notes, 35 percent of respondents say they consume vendor content on a mobile device—a number that is expected to increase in coming years.
Case studies
The 2015 survey found that case studies are consumed by 42 percent, an increase of 6 percent from the year prior. Over the past few years, marketers have tried to spice up their case studies by presenting them in new formats, but this may not be working to their advantage. The technology buyers surveyed say that they greatly prefer traditional, written case studies rather than those presented as audio, video, or PowerPoint slides. In terms of their influence, case studies are right behind white papers as one of the most influential content assets (31 percent). Where they most impact the sales funnel: Beginning and mid. Buyers say case studies are most helpful in the beginning phase (“understanding the problem”), although many also find them useful in the middle phase (“identifying solutions, considering vendors”) of the sales cycle. Mobile consumption: High. Buyers ranked case studies second (just behind white papers) when it came to content types they are most likely to consume on a mobile device.
Data sheets & product brochures
In 2014, data sheets and product brochures were the second-most popular content type with buyers (used by 46 percent), and in just one year they moved to the top of the list as the most consumed asset to evaluate a technology purchase, at 57 percent.
When it comes to their influence, buyers found them to be the most influential asset (at 39 percent), with a 6 percent lead above the next ranked content type. Where they most impact the sales funnel: Beginning and mid. Data sheets and product brochures tend to come into play during the “understanding the product” phase, and some buyers find them most helpful during the “identifying solutions, considering vendors” phase. They are also commonly consumed after the purchase has been made. Mobile consumption: High. Data sheets were the fourth most consumed content type on mobile devices (after white-papers, case studies, and video).
While video is perceived to be less influential to product decisions than the other content types mentioned (at 17 percent), it is among some of the most consumed content on the list (at 35 percent). In an increasingly visual world, it is shocking that video consumption for evaluating tech purchases has fallen from 59 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2012 and then to 35 percent in 2014 and 2015. Where they most impact the sales funnel: Beginning and mid. Buyers reported that they most want video to feature a relevant topic and have a high production value. Humor is also highly rated, suggesting buyers want to be entertained as well as informed. For these reasons, it is not surprising that buyers think video is most helpful during the initial and mid-sales phase of the sales funnel. Mobile consumption: High. Video and multimedia files are the third-most consumed content on mobile. Take note content marketers: According to B2B Marketing, video is the most successful media type for B2Bs, and some predict that 74 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2017.
Detailed technology guides
The study defines detailed technology guides as providing “in-depth descriptions of product features and functionality, or step-by-step instructions for implementing a technology solution.” They are consumed by 35 percent of buyers during the purchase evaluation, consistent from the previous year (36 percent), and are used in many of the same ways as data sheets and product brochures. They are among the top most influential content types, at 23 percent. Where they most impact the sales funnel: Middle, end, and beyond.
Technology guides are the most useful content asset in the mid-sales phase and have higher value than almost all content types (tied with ebooks) in the “finalizing vendor” phase. Detailed tech guides are also heavily consumed after the sale is completed. Mobile Consumption: Mid. The length of many technology guides leads buyers to read them mostly on desktop computers or on hard copy print-outs.
Other findings from the report
The study also found that most buyers (48 percent) consume two to five assets before going on to make a purchase. For this reason, it's important that when you think about content consumption rate as well as influence when creating content. Two to five assets is not a lot, so make every content asset count. In addition, content consumption doesn’t stop after a purchase has been made. The report shows that 80 percent of buyers said it was important or very important to receive ongoing content after they have made a purchase. After the purchase, buyers are most likely to consume thought-leadership content (36 percent), followed by technical support and updates (30 percent). Basically, the job never ends (sorry). Be sure to continue producing relevant, valuable, and quality content for all stages of the buyer’s journey and your customers will be more likely to make future purchases.
So, which type of content should you serve up on a platter to your prospective buyers? Ideally, all of them. They all have a place in your marketing mix along the way to the end of the sales funnel and beyond. Creating the right type of content available at just the right time is crucial to nurturing your buyers all the way to the end of the sales funnel. Keep in mind that the further down the funnel they go, the more you have invested in them and the more valuable they become.
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content-marketing-tools in B2B
How B2Bs Can Shorten The Path To Sales With Content That Influences
By Bart De Pelsmaeker
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