By now, content marketing has become an integral component of most SMB marketers’ programs, since it’s a cost-effective way to engage SMBs across the whole sales cycle.
However, many marketers still struggle to use content to generate leads at scale. To help them improve their content marketing lead gen efforts, we recently surveyed over 300 U.S. SMB principals. The findings are instructive; there are some great learnings on how content can drive leads.
Contact preferences: Content rules
When asked how SMBs want marketers to contact them, they choose “An email with a link to marketing content” most frequently for both the first (41%) and second (49%) outreach. They choose it second (37%) for a third touch, after “An email with a discount, promotion or special offer” (40%).
The best lead gen format is…
Case studies, at least from ads. When asked how likely they are to read or view registration-required content from a banner ad, 44% chose case studies, followed by whitepapers and articles (tied at 43%), and surveys or research reports (42%). The order is slightly different if you ask about gated content on a site; there, SMBs prefer surveys or research reports (35%), webcasts (34%), case studies and white papers (tied at 32%), and articles (31%).
The most important content attribute to motivate signup is…
The topic. 62% of SMBs rate that as the most important reason they would sign up for content. After that, they are most swayed by special offers (49%), the company sponsoring the content (31%), and the format (25%).
So what topics do SMBs care about?
Technology. 54% of SMBs go online often or very often to find content on that broad topic. After that, they are most interested in news and trends about their industry (52%), law and taxes (51%), marketing (48%), and financial planning and management (39%).
SMBs are most likely to sign up for content on…
Your site. 32% of SMBs are likely or very likely to sign up for content on a marketer’s site, followed by “Elsewhere on the Internet (e.g. news sites)” at 26%, Facebook (23%), and LinkedIn (22%).
…and provide this contact info
SMBs are most willing to share their industry (56%) in exchange for downloadable content, followed by their email address (45%), company name (43%), and title and name (tied at 42%). Least likely to provide? “Have budget approval to buy a given product / service” (27%).
What SMBs want in your content
SMBs most want content that is easy to understand (75%). This means both writing clearly and avoiding jargon as well as not talking down to them. It also means having a clean, easy-to-comprehend design / layout. The second most important attribute is “In a format I prefer” (66%), followed by “Written for someone in my industry” (65%) and “contains interesting facts / anecdotes” (63%).
Where SMBs view your content
Despite the prevalence of mobile devices, SMBs still consume content on the big screen. The majority (68%) of SMBs read marketing content on their desktop or laptop 75% to 100% of the time. Conversely, 71% of SMBs view marketing content less than 25% of the time on their smartphones, and 79% view marketing content less than 25% of the time on their tablets (e.g. iPads or Surfaces).
The benefits of lead gen content
Lead gen content has the virtue of not just generating leads: it can enhance brand perception and boost sales. 56% of SMBs agree that “By providing my contact information, I give permission for the sponsoring company to contact me,” and 30% want to be contacted by that company. Almost half (47%) agree that “I am more likely to do business with the sponsoring company after reading or viewing their content.”
…and the winner is: Apple
SMBs rate Apple highest in terms of developing effective marketing content, at a 38% top-two box score. The runners-up are Microsoft (37%), Google (36%), Chase Bank (34%), and Adobe (33%).