Content marketing has officially gone mainstream at B2B technology companies.

Ask any marketer and they’ll usually tell you about all the cool things they’re doing with whitepapers, case studies, newsletters, blogs, and infographics.

That’s great, except that from their target’s perspective, all of this content is essentially the same thing. It’s heavily textual, static (i.e. the information doesn’t update, so the shelf-life is short), and often very anecdotal, selectively highlighting only successful customers or use cases.

Because of the ubiquity of content marketing, your audience is barraged constantly with this type of content, and it can easily grow fatigued. I can’t tell you how many newsletters arrive in my inbox every week that I delete before reading. Even if the content really is good, there’s so much fluff out there that it’s hard to tell what’s actually worth reading.

That’s where online assessments come in. They’re a great way to cut through the fluff and appeal to your target buyers.

In our recent text/video hybrid report on creative marketing tactics at B2B tech companies, we featured Hubspot’s Marketing Grader and Zendesk’s Benchmark tool as two extremely well executed examples of interactive B2B online assessments. Add to that list New Relic’s App Speed Index, which might have found its way into the report had they released it a few weeks ago.

Each of these tools stand out in my mind from typical B2B content for the following reasons:

  1. They’re interactive. In contrast to a one-size fits all whitepaper, these assessments immediately let the user know that what they’re about to read is going to be customized to their specific circumstances. It’s much more engaging than dry text.
  2. They’re targeted. If you focus your case-study on a specific segment, it’s great for prospects in that segment, but it’s irrelevant to everyone else. Allowing the viewer to self-segment based on different characteristics of their business gives the report both breadth and specificity.
  3. They’re full of information. A well designed assessment has minimal text filler and is heavy on the information. Usually, the majority of the information is collected from the customer base via an opt-in, which essentially makes it free. Anyone with a blog can write some hypothetical musings about customer service, but Zendesk has the data to back it up, and their readers know that.
  4. They’re real-time. As everyone in and around technology knows, the industry moves lightning fast. No matter how much data you cram into an infographic, if that data is static, its expiration date is shorter than a carton of milk. The benchmarking tools listed above extend their lifespan indefinitely by constantly refreshing with the most recent results.
  5. They’re viral. Assessments appeal to two emotions that I think are pretty close to universal: Competitiveness and vanity. People love seeing how their results stack up to the competition, so they’re eager to try it and quick to advertise positive results. If their metrics are poor, they’ll probably look for ways to improve them, which may include buying your product. Either way, your company wins.

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Online assessments certainly aren’t the only way to demonstrate your expertise or extend the reach of your brand, but in my opinion, they’re possibly the most effective. Using a little software combined with the proprietary data and expertise of your organization you can build something that is at once engaging, personalized, valuable, and timeless.

How many blog posts can do that?

Editor’s Note: For more examples of B2B marketing that stands out from the crowd see OpenView’s report, “Above and B2B-eyond: A Look at the Creative Marketing Tactics Leading B2B Technology Companies Are Using Online.”

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