B2B Marketers Are Turning Away Prospects

Staircase and Way Out SignAccording to recent research from IDC, lead generation is a top B2B marketing priority, and in the next four years Sirius Decisions predicts 75% of all registrations will be captured online. (Sirius Decisions actually labels this as inbound marketing, however I use a more limited definition of inbound marketing.)

One of the primary ways B2B marketers capture leads online is asking prospects to register for content. Doing it effectively requires creating content prospects want in a format that is easy to engage with while capturing the information you need.

However, based on recent research from DemandGen Report, marketers are turning away prospects by focusing on the wrong content far too often.

Does Your Content Create A Barrier?

In the past year, 88% of people report using white papers for business research, followed by 73% for webinars. Ebooks, blogs and podcasts all follow and have been used by more than 50%.

Digging deeper, buyers show a significantly stronger preference for whitepapers.

  • White papers are rated “most valuable” more frequently than any other format (56% of those that rated white papers).
  • White papers have the largest spread between very valuable and little value. Respondents are 5x more likely to say they are the most valuable (30%) than to say they are the least valuable (6%). In contrast, the spread for ebooks, webcasts and podcasts is less than 3x.
  • Nearly half (47%) prefer text or narrative content formats while only 33% prefer more visual content formats.
  • White papers are by far the most likely format to be shared (70%), followed by case studies. Only 40% share webcasts.

Giving your prospects multiple options is important, and the research definitely supports providing both visual and textual content formats. However, marketers would be well served to continue giving the lowly white paper a prominent place in their lead generation plans.

Key Takeaway:
Include in-depth text-based formats in your content mix.

Informing Is Not Selling

Your content should solve your prospects problems, not deliver a sales pitch. Fully 75% of respondents, when asked how marketers could improve content, said drop the sales pitch.

Yes, marketers ultimately need to move towards a sale, but no one wants to be marketed or sold to. When we sense we are being sold, we start to tune out and much of the value your content could have delivered is lost.

Focusing on yourself, including selling, is one of the reasons so much marketing content sucks.

Key Takeaway:
Use your content to educate and inform, not sell.

In Summary

If you are not providing the information your potential prospects value in a form that is easy for them to consume, you are turning them away. Since 81% start looking for content through search, someone else’s content is just a click away.

Your Turn

How else do marketers turn away prospects? Share your opinion or experience in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

You can view the full slidedeck of results from DemandGen Reports here on Slideshare.

Photo Credit: Way Out by loop_oh on Flickr. Licensed Under Creative Commons 2.0 (BY ND).

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  • Hi Eric,

    Really like this post.  There is sub-story happening here – that is with the rise of content marketing there is a belief that content alone can do the job of sales.  It’s job is informing whereby I believe sales is poised to do just what buyers are asking for – once informed with whitepapers – then have the intelligent conversation on how to implement solutions to their problems.   Nice perspective.

    Tony Zambito

    • Thanks Tony! Yes, it seems content is simply “the answer” these days. I really like how you positioned content and sales: ensure buyers can have an informed discussion with sales about the solutions they need.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Eric,

    Like Tony, I also really enjoyed this post.

    Personally, I have always liked reading quality white papers, however, I had been under the impression that they were becoming less popular.  However, the data points you have contained here would challenge this assumption.

    The great thing now is if you create a great White Paper there are so many ways you can chop it up (Tweets, Slideshare Presentations, Blog posts, Webcasts, Infographics etc.) and have your bite sized content chunks all lead back to the primary paper.

    I’d be interested in yours and the wider community perspective on gating content – personally, I am very reluctant to hand over my personal information unless I am already convinced that either the content or Brand behind it is something I want consume/engage with – thoughts?

    • Hi Nicholas,

      Glad you liked the post. One thing I should point out, there was not any trending data in the study. It may be that white papers are less popular now than tney were five years ago (and instinctively I would believe it). However, even today they remain valuable to the audience.

      Gating: I believe marketers ask too often for too much. As a marketer, I understand the desire to gate, but I personally believe it creates nearly as many problems as it solves.

      I will have a post on registration with some data points behind it in the next week or so, stay tuned for more!

  • Hi Eric
    Interesting research! I do like to think that people/prospects will take the time to read valuable information.

    A thought:  a key role for social media is to help us really understand our customer’s perspective and problems. This will help us develop content such as white papers that are valuable. Too often we don’t listen and are focused on our products and services and that is how we end up with ‘content that sucks’.

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  • Thanks for sharing.   I am working on a white paper to summarize some research we did  earlier this spring on small business social media habits. 

    I have been debating on the format – webinar, power point, white paper.   After reading this I am definitely going to create the white paper first.  

  • Ffollow up campaigns, nurturing works best when it’s tailored to buyer role and stage. 
    Good networking
    and contacts can help carve a place for you but you have to make it work
    yourself through hard work.

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  • John Kreiss

    Content does not mean sales literature. It should be informative. The purpose is to give value to the reader, and gain credibility and trust as a result.