What Makes Content Effective?

One of the biggest challenges in engaging small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) via content marketing is determining how to make your content compelling. To find out what SMBs want from your content, we recently surveyed over 500 U.S. SMB principals on their content preferences. The learnings might help you improve your SMB content marketing and lead gen efforts.


SMBs rank the topic as the most important aspect of content that would get them to register, or provide their contact information. This is ahead of the company that sponsors the content (i.e., your brand); the format (e.g., an infographic or whitepaper); and the design. Least interesting? The authors.

Previous Bredin research has shown that the topics that are most interesting to SMBs are technology (i.e., productivity); sales and marketing (i.e., revenue); law and taxes (i.e., profitability); and their industry (i.e., keeping current with their peers). Ideally, the topics you provide are both interesting to SMBs and relevant to your brand.


The most important attribute of content to SMBs is that it is “easy to understand.” Almost 3 out of 4 respondents rated that as important or very important.

This really means two things. First, it means addressing SMBs as informed peers who happen not to be experts on the topic at hand. Avoid using jargon, acronyms, technical terms and complex terminology; at the same time, be careful not to talk down to your audience. Your content should be actionable; it should provide tips that they can put to work right away in their business. The second implication is that the content design should support comprehension; avoid dense and complicated layouts in favor of simplicity and white space.

The next most important attribute for SMBs is that content is “written for someone in my industry” – with almost 2 out of 3 SMBs rating this as important. This attribute is much more compelling than “written for a company of my size” (54%) or “written for someone with my title / role” (48%). SMBs self-define by their industry, not their size, so to the degree you can make your content relevant to their industry, you will increase engagement.


The third most important content attribute is “contains interesting facts / anecdotes” (65%). This is consistent with SMB format preferences. SMBs are most likely to register for a survey or research report, ahead of videos, webcasts, case studies and articles. If your goal is lead gen, conducting a survey of SMBs and developing gated long-form content based on the data can be a great tactic.

Going viral

The ideal scenario for your content is that it takes on a life of its own by going viral, or in marketing-speak, goes from owned to earned media. When asked what would compel them to forward, “like” or share content, SMBs reiterate that they want “quality” content – i.e., content that is relevant, actionable and easy to understand. You can encourage sharing, of course, by asking readers to like or share your content, but the best approach is to develop content that helps them achieve their business goals.

Our report, Content Marketing for SMB Lead Gen, has many more insights on developing and promoting content that engages SMBs.

About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.

  1. Bolaji

    I am surprised at how high the telecommuting number is. That vast majority of small businesses have to support telecommuting which is by far the hardest type of employee to support using traditional client-server technologies. I suspect this is the driving reason why cloud based solution are so popular with SMBs. I would like to see the survey ask if they were migrating to cloud or hosted applications. I suspect the number would be very high.


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