A majority of B2B marketers plan to reshuffle their strategies and prioritize the development of short-form content in 2019, a move largely motivated by buyers’ changing content preferences.
But aligning content with buyer preferences isn’t as simple as tweaking the marketing budget or creating a few more social posts. Today’s B2B marketers find themselves struggling to maximize business value, while using social, video/multimedia and gated content assets to engage audiences on a meaningful level.
The solution? Integration. By integrating short-form and long-form content in a hybrid content strategy, B2B marketers can increase the business impact of their content investments and engage buyers in more creative ways.
What Buyers Want — and What B2B Brands Need to Give Them
Buyers (including a growing number of Millennials) want content they can consume quickly. That’s why 69% of B2B marketers believe their audiences now prefer video/multimedia content over written content, according to Walker Sands’ recent “Future of B2B Content 2019” report.
In response, marketers are adjusting their strategies and emphasizing the development of short-form content assets. When asked to identify the types of content assets they plan to produce more of this year, the greatest number of marketers pointed to social (72%), site content (65%), video/multimedia (63%) and blog posts (49%).
But here’s the wrinkle: It’s not about going all-in on social, video and short form. B2B marketers need content to achieve specific outcomes for their brands, usually in the form of topline business improvement. Social, video and short-form content help drive topline business improvement by rounding out the content ecosystem for brands’ integrated marketing initiatives.
Sure, buyers prefer content they can digest on the fly. But they also want content that is useful and relevant (i.e., content that helps them make smarter decisions). For some buyers, especially buyers further down the sales funnel, long-form assets offer the most value. The tricky part is convincing prospects your long-form asset offers enough value to justify the time it takes to consume it.
So, successful B2B content strategies use a hybrid mix of long-form (often gated) and short-form content. Even more importantly, savvy B2B marketers identify opportunities for long-form and short-form assets to play nice together, working in tandem to increase both the impact and reach of the brand’s most important messages.
Here’s what it looks like in a real-world scenario: Like most B2B brands, your company needs content to do more than raise brand awareness. Content has to generate actual revenue. So, you develop a killer data report, create a landing page on your website and gate it with the intention of capturing solid leads for the sales team. So far so good, right?
Maybe not. It’s a competitive information marketplace out there. How are buyers going to find your data report? And if they find it, how are you going to convince them it’s worth downloading and reading?
That’s where social, video and short-form content shines. To extend the reach of your report, you need a social campaign. Since social video generates 12x more shares than images and text combined, you also need a snackable video. Social videos offer opportunities to engage audiences with creative content that summarizes your data report and channels them to the landing page. To round out your campaign, you might even consider other types of short-form content (e.g., blog posts) to engage audiences.
The result? A larger number of more qualified prospects download and digest your data report. Short-form content distributed across multiple channels allows you to communicate the personality of your brand in potentially fun and creative ways, but it also drives the right people to the convertible asset you’re counting on to generate topline business improvement.
At the end of the day, no single category of content is capable of moving the revenue needle on its own. Instead, growth-conscious B2B brands know they need a hybrid approach — a sophisticated mix of long-form and short-form content distributed across a range of owned, earned, shared and paid channels to convert content into business improvement.
Hybrid Content Strategy: Tips & Takeaways
Going forward, hybrid content strategies will separate successful B2B marketers from the rest of the pack. Brands that cultivate relationships between short-form and long-form assets will achieve stellar business results from the content they create; those who don’t, may struggle to demonstrate ROI from their content investments.
A few final pieces of advice to keep in mind as you create a hybrid content strategy for your B2B brand:
- Content quality counts more than ever. Quantity of content isn’t enough. Whatever content you produce — social, video, blogs, long-form assets — must be high quality and relevant to its target audience.
- Identify goals and business outcomes. You can’t create an effective piece of content unless you understand the business outcomes it needs to deliver. After you identify the outcomes you hope to achieve, you can strategize the development of other content to help get you there.
- Consider partnerships to diversity your content. Nearly all B2B brands (98%) plan to work with content partners this year because they believe external partners are more adept at developing a diverse range of content types and can produce content more quickly than internal teams.
Sophistication is a hallmark of maturity and B2B content is feeling growing pains. But while the sophistication of B2B content strategies is experiencing a steep growth curve, so are the rewards.
Yes, content is still king. But a hybrid content strategy that combines an optimized and orchestrated mix of short-form and long-form content is the new key to the kingdom.
As vice president of editorial content for Walker Sands, Tim Morral brings nearly two decades of editorial and content marketing experience to the team.
From nuanced brand storytelling to the development of attention-grabbing owned media assets, Tim guides teams and clients in the creation of content that drives revenue and delivers measurable business improvement. A firm believer that great content generates real value, Tim helps B2B firms achieve clarity and amplify the volume of key messages in crowded markets.
Tim currently resides in Rochester, NY. He holds a bachelors in economics from Dickinson College and a doctorate in transformative leadership from Colgate-Rochester Crozer.