Content marketing isn’t uniform — and neither is your audience.
Your target audience might include practitioners ranging from the fresh beginner to the pro with decades of experience (not to mention the decision makers). Then, within those groups, some prefer viewing the broader picture, some thrive on digging into the technical details, and some live for playing with practical step-by-step guides. Some are video aficionados, while others prefer to read at their own pace.
To top it all off, sometimes they’re trying to solve an immediate challenge, other times they’re just poking around a new technology, and then there are times when they’re ready to whip out that purchase order and sign on the dotted line.
The trick is to have varied content so you can meet each one of these needs at the right time.
With a variety of content formats ready to go, you can cater to these varied preferences at every stage of the marketing funnel. Let’s explore several content types and learn how they boost your engagement at each step of the buyer’s journey.
Effective Content Types for Engaging Technical Audiences
Written content and videos include many content types, each playing a specific role in your content marketing efforts.
According to a Content Marketing Institute survey, 53 percent of business-to-business (B2B) marketers say case studies and customer stories, shared in written or video format, deliver some of the best results. These personable tales help demonstrate an organization’s real-world effect on customers as the audience imagines how the product or service would help them.
Almost as many B2B marketers — 51 percent — say thought-leadership ebooks and whitepapers are the best way to reach their audience. These enlightened pieces help highlight an organization’s expertise, building trust as the audience learns a new concept or perspective. Plus, these longer pieces are often accessible through exclusive access, requiring an email address, which generates leads, for example.
Short articles are popular, too, with 47 percent of B2B marketers touting their effectiveness. These standard pieces help readers quickly find the information they need and can rank well in searches. They’re a bite-sized introduction to a technology or solution.
Research reports are another favored content type for 43 percent of B2B marketers. These in-depth pieces often compare technologies and offer statistics, giving readers insight into how solutions compare quantitatively. Plus, they’re quotable in other organizations’ articles, boosting search engine rank and increasing exposure (like the Content Marketing Institute’s report linked above).
Posts, longer articles, data visualizations, brochures, product data sheets, interactive content, audio, and live streams can also play a role in your content marketing strategy. Each form plays into a different distribution method and can suit a separate level in your marketing funnel.
We’ll focus on ContentLab’s specialty here: written content. This diverse group of marketing formats includes articles and blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, and many other forms of rich written content. High-level and hands-on content are the two main types.
Hands-on content usually involves detailed step-by-step tutorials and nuanced explanations. These detailed articles guide readers through a solution with detailed instructions — and possibly code samples — or get deep into the technical details. This approach satisfies the learn-by-doers and geeks of the world, ensuring they have ample information.
High-level content, in contrast, takes a narrative-driven approach. These engaging blog posts, news articles, and thought leadership pieces draw the reader in through storytelling, helping them gain a broad understanding of a topic or technology.
Let’s explore both types of content in greater detail.
The Value of Hands-On Content
The immersive nature of hands-on content offers readers in-depth, practical experiences through detailed tutorials to build a project or learn new skills. This type of content draws in readers who love to learn by doing. It’s especially beneficial in the evaluation stage, helping potential customers experience your product’s features for themselves and know that you’re there to support them with helpful advice.
Building a Project
One type of hands-on content helps readers build a project. It’s one thing to tell a reader that your product has this or that function. Creating a project enables them to experience your product’s value and utility for themselves.
This type of content lets readers delve into a product or concept in-depth. A hands-on approach like this fosters deeper engagement with your readers as they better understand your technology’s abilities, crucial in the decision-making stage.
Say, for example, your organization offers a Python SDK with some unique capabilities. You can guide your reader through coding a handy Python application that uses your solution, offering a practical demonstration of your product in action.
Learning New Skills
Most developers and IT professionals love learning about new technologies and honing their skills as they take their knowledge and experience to the next level. An article focusing on helping readers learn new skills introduces them to fresh concepts and solidifies their existing knowledge. It’s invaluable in the awareness and decision stages of your marketing funnel.
Unlike high-level content, an article that guides readers through actionable steps helps illustrate use cases for your product while promoting skills development. Your readers gain a better idea of what your solution can do, making it an appealing choice when choosing options for the organization or rolling it out at an enterprise level.
For example, you can use this article type to help readers discover a lesser-known feature of your product that saves development time or to introduce a fundamental skill that will help them get the most out of using your solution.
The Role of High-Level Content in Shaping Perceptions
The narrative-driven approach of high-level content plays a vital role in the awareness stage. It shapes audience perceptions and boosts interest as they learn about new concepts, your organization’s approach to an industry challenge, or novel perspectives on industry changes.
Not every developer or decision-maker wants to rummage through the gory details and break out the DevOps tools to tackle a new project, at least not all the time. When they’re at the wide end of the funnel, just starting to explore their options and poking around to discover what’s out there, high-level content helps them find the information they need.
High-level content can be more engaging than hands-on content and is, by nature, more accessible to a wider audience, including newer technicians and less technical decision-makers. A technical overview, thought leadership piece, product spotlight, or concept overview helps catch your audience’s attention.
When someone’s not quite ready to start coding and testing a new technology, a technical overview offers just the right mix of in-depth explanations without the step-by-step guidance of hands-on content. This type of content helps readers thoroughly understand how the technologies work and interact without overwhelming them with code and implementation details.
Imagine your organization offers a cloud-based solution. Your technical overview might discuss at a high level how your solution functions and mention how it integrates with popular tools via a standard technology.
A technical overview helps introduce and illuminate technical concepts. This content marketing tactic piques the reader’s interest in an approach to their technical challenge. A technical overview sets the stage for more detailed exploration in later funnel stages when the reader is ready to burrow into your hands-on content.
Thought leadership content helps establish your brand authority and expertise. This type of content tends to explore industry trends and emerging technologies from a broader perspective.
In addition to letting readers know you’re knowledgeable and influential in your industry, thought leadership pieces help influence their thoughts and perceptions of a specific topic. Say, for example, your reader contemplates moving from on-premise infrastructure to distributed computing. Your expertise in that area helps them decide when that’s an appropriate move and which technologies they should explore further — maybe even yours.
Product spotlights are often the reader’s next destination after the technical overview. Once the reader has an idea of the approaches and technologies, they’ll start to explore the various product options.
These articles focus on demonstrating the product’s value and benefits in a relatable context. They let the reader know what the solution does and highlight its use cases. For example, a product spotlight might offer details about a specific cloud solution’s compatibility with existing systems and where it helps the most.
Spotlight articles help guide the reader’s decision-making, helping them determine which solutions to try for themselves.
Unlike hands-on content, a concept overview takes a broad, introductory approach to a topic. It provides foundational knowledge about technologies or approaches, offering readers an overarching view they can build on later.
This content type often discusses general information applicable to a wide range of products and services. Then, it can gently introduce your own product or service without an intrusive sales pitch.
Say your article discusses the benefits of moving some infrastructure to the cloud. Your reader gains the knowledge they seek and learns, in passing, that your organization offers a relevant cloud solution. This soft approach makes a concept overview crucial in the early stages of audience engagement.
Each member of your technical audience is unique, and each day finds them at a slightly different point in their decision-making process. Incorporating a mix of content types into your marketing helps effectively reach your audience despite their diverse learning and engagement styles. You cater to the dabblers and the get-their-hands-dirty developers, whether they’re just starting to explore a technology or getting ready to make a purchase.
That said, it can be challenging to create these nuanced content types when your day is already jam-packed with marketing initiatives. When you need help honing in on the ideal content types to pique your audience’s interests, reach out to ContentLab. We’re ready to assist.