Content marketing is huge today. As my friend Paul Dunay said “Companies are in an arms-race around content.” And Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer found “Companies look for content at EVERY stage of the buying process.”

I’ve been on my soapbox, talking about the importance of story-telling. (I’m still struck by the number of B2B sellers lacking customer-focused content today. It’s shocking how bad most companies are today.)

Prospects consume content in every stage of the buying process, so lead generation depends on content.

B2B Manifesto The formula is simple – great content = sales leads. And the opposite is true – no content, no leads.

On the Stories that Sell blog, it said “When it comes to customer success stories and case studies, real research comes few and far between. Not many have tried to measure the impact of stories on the sales process.”

Yet, Eccolo Media is about as close as anyone gets to measuring the impact of stories.

For the past three years, the organization has spearheaded a B2B Technology Collateral Survey, basically asking buyers of B2B technology what marketing materials they consume during the decision-making process.

The 2010 survey report offered insight specifically on how influencers and decision-makers use 5 different types of collateral: white papers, case studies/success stories, podcasts, video, and brochures/datasheets.

Here is what they found:

  • 67 percent recently consumed customer stories – Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said they consumed case studies/success stories in the preceding six months, coming in #2 after white papers
  • Nearly 80 percent say case studies/success stories are influential – Seventy-nine percent said case studies are moderately to very influential.
  • More prefer written – Sixty-five percent said they prefer a written case study while 33 percent prefer video and two percent audio testimonials. Savvy companies today create both to appeal to different audiences and different times in the sales cycle. (Editor’s Note – Publish content in text, video and audio to engage as broad an audience as possible in their preferred format.)
  • Longer stories are trending – In 2008, respondents preferred two-page case studies. This year, 37 percent prefer four pages, 35 percent said two pages or less and 28 percent said six pages. Clearly, they want detailed stories.
  • Survey says…
    “In general, the larger the company, the longer they prefer their case studies to be, with the largest percentage of respondents from small companies (33 percent) preferring two-page case studies, the largest percentage from middle-market firms (40 percent) and large enterprises (39 percent) preferring four-page case studies.”
  • More download/print customer stories than last year (vs. reading online) – In last year’s survey, 84 percent said they read case studies online. This year, however, 74 percent say they read online. The rest download/print them to read.
  • They share case studies with colleagues – Eighty-seven percent share customer stories with at least 1 other person, with some sharing them with up to five or more.
  • Video and audio are being embedded and clicked in written case studies – Sixty-six percent said they have consumed case studies that have video and audio links embedded in them, which is higher than for any of the other collateral types in the survey. Moreover, 93 percent said they clicked to that content.
  • Corporate websites are the #1 source for case studies – The greatest percentage of respondents indicated they obtained case studies from company web sites, compared to receiving them from colleagues, sales reps, a direct response campaign or through social media.
  • They consume case studies early in the cycle – Forty-nine percent consume customer stories for the first time during the pre-sales exploration phase, with 34 percent during the initial sales process.

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