The B2B Tech industry was one of the pioneers of what we now call Content Marketing. Before blogs and social media, technology vendors churned out whitepapers, even on (gasp!) actual paper, to help buyers research products and make purchase decisions.
With all that's changed in marketing over the past 20 years, very little has changed about the assets used to gather information on prospects. They might be called whitepapers (a term that's virtually lost any meaning today), eBooks, Executive Briefs, Buyer's Guides, and more -- and they may include content forms like video and webinars – but the basic concept is relatively unchanged (something we'll touch on in a future post).
In this post, we're going to take a look at asset titles using data from asset downloads across the QuinStreet B2B Tech audience over the first four months of 2018, as well as the two years ending in early 2018. I examined the Top 50 assets downloaded for each timeframe looking for patterns in the asset titles. Here's what I found.
First Four Months of 2018
|Used in Asset Title||Appearances in Top 50 Downloads|
Using numbers in asset titles
In this case, "numbers" refers to titles like Top 5…, Top 10…, 8 Ways..., etc. It does not include years, like "2017" (more on that later).
Using numbers remains a point of contention in the industry (but probably not for readers of this post). For some marketers and content creators, it still implies the content, brand, or product is being dumbed down, probably because the "listicles," as they're often called, gained popularity on sites like BuzzFeed , which didn't have a reputation for traditional content excellence. This is a fair point, or at least it was. For starters, BuzzFeed has developed some pretty good journalistic chops, but more to the point, using numbers in titles has a couple of important advantages, including:
It makes the content more skimmable for readers, which is important given today's short attention spans
It helps a reader determine the length and depth of the content
Using the name of an analyst firm in the title
Analyst firms play an important role in advising IT Decision Makers on their purchases. Unsurprisingly, assets with the name of an analyst firm in the title perform well. In this case, we're including titles that identify the asset as a well-known analyst product, such as Gartner's Magic Quadrant, even if the name of the firm itself does not appear in the title.
Using vendor names in asset titles
As a marketer, your job is to help move product, and it's a natural inclination to focus on the vendor and product name, because after all, that's what you're selling.
Remember two things:
As we think about the traditional sales funnel, you're narrowing down prospects as you go, looking for the buyers and weeding out (or hopefully nurturing) the browsers. The most downloaded assets will be aimed at early-stage prospects. It's a larger pool.
Early-stage prospects are looking for solutions to problems. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks about the papers they're going to download. Instead, they think about the problems they need to solve. Eventually, they'll be looking for vendors and specific products, but 71 percent of B2B researchers start with a generic search, not a vendor or product name. See Myth No. 3 here: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/
Using "Buyer's Guide" in asset titles
Makes perfect sense, right? You're providing guidance to buyers. Buyer's Guides (or Buyers' Guides) can involve a vendor-neutral review of available products, or they can focus on features and attributes that need to be considered when planning a technology investment. Are you concerned that "Buyer's Guide" is becoming like the term "whitepaper"? That it's applied to so many things, it's starting to lose any real meaning? I'm right there with you.
Let's look back two years to see if anything has changed in the data.
Past Two Years
|Used in Asset Title||Appearances in Top 50 Downloads|
The use of numbers in titles still leads the way, but vendor names and buyers guides are nowhere to be found. I also added to the list assets that use a year (e.g., 2017) in the title, because there were assets that offered guides to certain products or trends for the coming year.
I Promised You Five Things. Here They Are.
There's still a lot more to explore in this data and elsewhere, but for now, here are five things to consider.
1. Don't be afraid to use numbers. In addition to my points above about skimmability, there's a demographic consideration here too. Increasingly, your audience is accustomed to content in this form. Say what you want about BuzzFeed and the content on social media networks, but if you don't remember a time without pervasive listicle content online, then there's nothing unusual or dumbed down about it.
2. Use caution with your vendor name. For early stage prospects, pushing a vendor and product name in the title might scream "sales pitch!" That doesn't mean you can't discuss your brand and products in the content, however. We're focusing on titles here.
3. Analyst content performs. You don't need me to tell you it can also be expensive to procure. One thing you'll notice about analyst content is that it often includes the date in a prominent place like the title or right at the start of the paper. That can affect the shelf life of the content, and unlike content from other sources, you often can't easily or inexpensively re-purpose analyst content due to licensing. Let your budget be your guide on how you use analyst content.
4. Timely content is good, but it doesn't last forever. Vendors that used years in the headline, such as "2018 Trends in…" got about six months' worth of life from those assets, with downloads declining by spring/summer of the year mentioned in the title. Advice: Use such pieces in the fourth quarter of the previous year (planning any 2019 trend pieces yet?) and then re-purpose them and tweak the title for use later in the year.
5. What about questions? People who studied journalism, and are of a certain age, will recall being taught not to use questions in headlines. The thinking went that a reader browsing a newspaper (a paper one) would read the headline, answer Yes or No in their head, and move on. But there were a pair of assets in the Top 50 for the past two years that had questions as the title. That got me thinking: If you ask a reader a question in an asset title, and they answer Yes or No in their head and move on, then they probably weren't a great prospect for you anyway. If they clicked, you might be on to something. Maybe questions in titles are worth a test.
And one more thing: If you look at the data above, it's clear that most of the Top 50 asset titles didn't include numbers, analyst firms, years, or anything else discussed here. You can't go wrong with a short, descriptive title that tells readers what to expect from the download.