New content formats and platforms are cropping up by the day. Some tools enable marketers to implement interactive content in a more efficient way, while others create personalized content experiences that allow buyers to binge on a variety of assets in one sitting. The list of options and their unique capabilities goes on and on and on…

Should you stick to the tried and true white paper or walk on the wild side with a graphic E-book? (At Content4Demand, we call them gBooks.)

For a long time, marketers made their format decisions based on factors like timeline, budget and manpower. They also considered whether there were any hot new formats they needed to capitalize on. (Remember when infographics first broke into the marketing scene? You couldn’t stop companies from creating them like their lives depended on it.)

Whenever I feel tempted to follow this old approach, I try to remember this quote from author and content marketing guru Jay Baer:

Saying, ‘We need an infographic…’ is putting the modality cart before the usefulness horse. Instead, the process should be: We can answer this customer question. Is an infographic the best way to answer it?

Your format decisions should be guided by your target buyers and their:

  • Content consumption habits
  • Digital body language and browsing behaviors
  • Business goals and learning requirements
  • Goals and accomplishments
  • Device preferences

Taking these factors into account, you also need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my goals for this piece of content?
  • What role does this asset play in a specific campaign? Does it tie into a larger theme or story?
  • What is my demand type? (New Concept, New Paradigm or Mature Market)
  • Where are my target buyers in their learning and comparison journey?
  • What questions do my buyers have at this stage?
  • What information or messaging will educate and enlighten them, and eventually guide them to the next phase of their journey?
  • What format will help me tell this story in a compelling and effective way?
  • What data or intelligence do I want to collect in terms of buyer engagement and how they consume the content (downloads, time on page, video views, form submissions, email follow-ups, etc.)?

To fully illustrate what Baer means, let’s walk through the buyer’s journey, the questions your buyers are asking at each stage and, of course, our messaging objectives. I realize that each business will have different structures and phases for their buyer journeys, so let’s use Content4Demand’s model as an example:

  • Education:
    • Buyer questions: “Why should I make a change?” “What challenges or business issues I be aware of that may impact my future?”
    • Messaging tasks: Educate buyers and/or challenge existing views of a business problem. Loosen the status quo, if necessary, to set the stage for new thinking.
  • Definition:
    • Buyer questions: “Why do I need to change now?” “What changes do I need to make, and how can I make them?”
    • Messaging tasks: Build a case for change and instill a sense of urgency. Identify trigger issues that lead your buyer to commit to change.
  • Research:
    • Buyer questions: “What solutions are available to help me address business problems and disruptions?” “What features or capabilities will help me solve these problems?”
    • Messaging tasks: Encourage the buyer to explore possible solutions. Explain how your company offers a unique solution, given their established needs and preferences.
  • Evaluation:
    • Buyer questions: “Why should I select a specific solution?” “What makes the vendor or solution provider different from other players in this market?”
    • Messaging tasks: Guide the buyer toward an informed commitment to your solution.
  • Selection:
    • Buyer questions: “How can I know for sure I’m making the right decision?” “How can I win over internal stakeholders and other team members to justify the investment?”
    • Messaging tasks: Empower the buyer with tools, quantitative insight and analysis to validate the decision and realize the benefits. Provide resources to present and defend the buying decision among key internal stakeholders and/or influencers. Reinforce the decision with relevant, peer-based insights and success stories.

At the end of the day, your buyers’ behaviors, information needs and goals should ultimately drive your format decision-making — not the other way around. You need to ensure your formats align with the story you’re trying to tell and the insights you’re trying to share. This is the only way to ensure your content, as a single cohesive piece, resonates with your audience.

Do you have any additional tips for selecting the right content formats? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!