In the race to create ever-more content, we’re churning out 500-word blogs and 140-character tweets. While these are quick to develop and publish, I’d argue that long-form content remains a critical part of great marketing.
People want to read & absorb
As marketers, we’re often guilty of assuming that potential customers just want to glance and scan, rather than read and absorb.
I recently conducted in-depth interviews with senior B2B IT buyers to uncover their content needs and preferences when making purchasing decisions. I discovered that their time is short, they find it hard to find trusted information and the proliferation of content has them tuning out.
Few read blogs and fewer watch videos. They’ve given up following news sites, though they will monitor news relevant to the industry they’re working in.
Any time they spend on social media is usually outside working hours and limited. They prefer to snuggle up on the train or sofa with a meaty white paper, authoritative research report or an industry-relevant case study.
Relevancy is the key trigger for their effort – they don’t have the time or inclination for lightweight, superfluous, sponsored or biased information.
Content consumed must relate directly to projects they’re undertaking or planning – or offer insights into future trends so they can ‘keep up’ and inform their strategies.
Depth & relevancy build a case
Given B2B buyers are prepared to invest time in learning relevant stuff, if you want ‘cut through’ to get their attention you must take the time to offer them true value. It’s unlikely you’ll impress them that you’re relevant in short form alone.
Long-form content such as white papers, articles, expert opinion pieces, in-depth case studies, buyers’ guides and eBooks are your opportunity to provide the evidence, reasoning and business benefits behind your overall value proposition.
You can include solid research to support your thinking within long-form content, develop arguments and discuss pros and cons. There’s also room to provide examples of the challenge – using real-life scenarios to illustrate the problem (and your solution).
When you want to influence and engage potential buyers who are unaware they have a problem, you’re not going to be able to do it in 300 or even 800 words.
You can expend these in just stating the challenge they’re facing – before you even get to back it up with references to current research or discuss possible solutions.
Likewise, if you’re addressing buyers who are aware they have a challenge and are looking for a solution, you’ll need well-qualified arguments to persuade them yours is the right one.
They’re not going to be satisfied with a case study – however relevant to their industry or situation – if it glosses over the selection and implementation process. They want to know details of how it was done: the specific business challenges, how the solution integrated with existing systems and processes, and the specific productivity gains or cost savings.
Short-form might hook them in, but you’ll need long-form to close the loop.
Measuring the value of long-form
Long-form content gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your innovative thinking, the experience and thought leadership of your people, and solid proof that you have all bases covered, understand the challenges and provide prove you can deliver the right solution to real-life challenges.
Long-form that offers value also gives you the right to gate it and thus identify its consumers. If you’ve automated content delivery and integrated web analytics, you’ll be able to track who’s clicked on it, where they came from, how long they spend reading it and where they go next.
Long-form is a lead quality generator. While 100s or 1,000s may click on your blogs, the dozens that absorb your long-form content are pure gold – ripe for turning into qualified leads for your sales team to pursue.
Getting the content balance right
Tweets can direct your audience to longer-form content that could make a serious impact. Brief blogs can trigger ideas but may be ultimately unsatisfying unless they link to more in-depth information or advice.
And of course long-form content gives us inspiration and material for those blogs and tweets we publish on a regular basis.
Discoverability is better
As search engines have evolved, they’ve come to value long-form content. Google looks for content that is unique, high-value, sticky and fit for purpose. Topical authority is king when it comes to the ‘new’ search, and Google has confirmed that long-form ranks better.
Additionally, the longer your digital content, the more likely it is to garner backlinks, which further improve your footprint.
Many B2B marketers feel pressure to deliver quantity of content to keep up with the speed of the web and the attention economy. But, if you take the time to produce quality long-form content, it can support your immediate needs as well as your long term goals: to engage, identify and move potential buyers along the journey.
Learn more about how we use long-form content marketing to help our clients achieve better customer engagement.