Raise your hand if you’ve ever produced a piece of content – whether it was a video, a blog post, a white paper, etc. – that just didn’t get any traction at all. You spent a lot of time (and money) producing the content, and it was a great, customer-focused piece – but it just didn’t get any views and didn’t generate any traffic or leads.
Believe me, we’ve all been there.
And even when our content failures are few and far between, overall, most of us who oversee content marketing feel like we’re not succeeding. As the CMI and MarketingProf’s annual B2B Content Marketing Trends Report shows, only 42 percent of marketers feel like we are being effective at content marketing.
The Nielsen Study
So what ingredient are we all missing to help produce a content marketing strategy that clicks with consumers and builds our brands?
This is exactly what we set out to identify in a new study that we commissioned with Nielsen. Our goal was to determine which types of content were needed at different stages of the consumer’s decision-making process so that we could develop a content marketing strategy that pairs the customer with the right content at the right time. We commissioned Nielsen to do a live, in-lab study to measure the effectiveness of the following types of content:
- Expert Content – Credible, third-party articles and reviews.
- User-Generated Content – Reviews from users, like product reviews on Amazon.com or Yelp.
- Branded Content – Any content developed and owned by the brand.
These content types were measured for their lift throughout the following stages of the consumer buying cycle:
- Brand Familiarity
- Brand Affinity
- Purchase Intent
We decided to do this as an in-lab study because, in order to determine the real impact of content, you need to make sure the consumer is actually reading the content. Online surveys in this realm are easy for respondents to click through without reading the content, and answer questions based on their existing opinion, not their opinion after exposure to the content.
Credibility & Trust Are King
Several key findings from the Nielsen research indicate that the credibility and unbiased nature of the content were critical for consumers:
- 85 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out expert, trusted content – credible, third-party articles & reviews – when considering a purchase
- 69 percent of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase
- 67 percent of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing
The Nielsen research showed that expert content – articles from credible journalists – was the only content type to exhibit a strong lift in all 3 areas of the purchase cycle. It provided the most familiarity lift for 7 out of the 9 products, the most affinity lift for 5 of the 9 products, and the most purchase intent lift for 6 of the 9 products. On average, expert content lifted brand familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews; it lifted brand affinity 50 percent more than branded content and 20 percent more than user reviews, and it lifted purchase intent 38 percent more than branded content and 83 percent more than user reviews.
So, what does this mean for our content marketing strategies?
A Content Mix Focused on Credibility is Key
As you can see from the chart above, it’s not as though branded and user-generated content didn’t have any impact – they certainly do. But what the Nielsen data clearly shows is the need to begin with credible, third-party content in order to establish trust with the consumer. Then, once that foundation of trust is established, the usage of branded and user-generated content becomes more effective.
This is something that we learned first-hand over a year ago when we first launched our company. Back then, we did what so many other well-meaning startups do – we created a big, expensive, well-produced video. And we did it right. We hired a great video team, we got big customers like Samsung on board to sing our praises, and we focused on what our solution could do for the customer. The video looked amazing, and our employees and investors loved it.
But unfortunately, not many other people ever saw it. That video received less than 1,000 views and resulted in absolutely $0 in revenue. So how could it be that such a great piece of content had so little impact?
The answer is simple – we didn’t have any credibility with our audiences. We put so much time and effort into creating a video that said all the things we wanted to say about ourselves, but we hadn’t thought about the fact that we didn’t have the credibility to say those things yet. We still needed to put the hard work into establishing trust with our audiences.
As a result, we spent the last year focusing our efforts on PR and developing relationships with the press and influencers in our industry. This has led to a lot of press coverage, invitations to speak at conferences, etc. and has given us the ability to show customers what the experts have to say about us, instead of what we have to say about ourselves.
So the next time you’re frustrated by the performance of your content, don’t just spend more time and money producing more content or promoting your existing branded content. Instead, take a look at the most valuable content you have at your disposal – the credible articles & reviews written about your brand – and leverage that to help increase your credibility and trust with your audiences. By utilizing a mixed content strategy that layers in credible third-party content, your own branded content, and user-generated content, you’ll see greater interaction with all your content and a much stronger impact throughout each stage of the funnel.