With a seemingly endless list of content types and formats to choose from, today’s content marketers are like the proverbial kids in a candy store. But while kids (and their dentists) get overjoyed by all that sugary choice, marketers usually feel a little overwhelmed. In fact, when you consider all the factors that go into content selection—like buyer stage, persona, and even your chosen topic—the whole process can raise both questions as well as your team’s blood pressure.
That’s why we’ve put together this expert-level guide that outlines the top content formats you should be using, along with their ideal use case. We’ve even sectioned this guide by the different stages of the buyer’s journey, so you can handpick a bouquet of content for prospects gliding through your sales funnel. After all, personalizing your content types for different buyers is one of the key ingredients for a great content experience.
Content To Spark Awareness
Prospects in the top-of-funnel awareness stage are focused on gathering information. They’ve likely been experiencing a problem, or a pain point, and now they want some answers. Lean into that curiosity and create content that will educate and engage.
Informative Blog Posts
Blog posts come in many varieties (more on that later). But if your website is the bread, consider informative blog posts your butter. They’re the first place your prospects will go to get their questions answered, and they go a long way in proving your status as an industry thought leader. These blog posts should be free of any sales copy—the goal here is to assist without a motive.
Main benefits: Easy to execute, low cost, great for SEO, and highly shareable.
Ideal use case: Best leveraged at the start of your buyer’s journey. Blog posts can serve as the first items visible on your resource center, and can even be included in introductory emails to potential customers.
When it comes to information gathering, infographics take home top prize. Just like their name suggests, infographics are informational and graphical, which makes their content highly digestible. Plus, since they’re often branded for your business, any shares they earn (and they will earn shares) will win you extra brand equity as well.
Main benefits: Very shareable, easy to consume, and super engaging.
Ideal use case: To effectively communicate data about your industry—data that helps prove your business case and value. Feel free to share them across your blog, website, and even social media.
According to Google, how-to videos are the most-watched type of content on the internet. Why? Because amazing content always offers value, and what better value is there than answering a pressing consumer question? Video consumption is taking off, so hop on the plane and start incorporating it into your marketing mix.
Main benefits: Proves expertise, aids product adoption, and appeals to varying personas.
Ideal use case: How-to videos work great when teaching prospects how to best leverage your product. But they can also be useful when informing your audience about a divergent way of thinking. For example, if you run an accounting software company, you might create a series of videos like “How to File Taxes Without an Accountant.”
Let’s face it, your prospects are busy people. And that means they don’t always have time to sit down and watch a video or read a post. That’s why podcasts have become an amazing tool for content marketers looking to convey information to an audience that is always on the move.
Main benefits: Easy to consume, demonstrates thought leadership, and holds attention.
Ideal use case: Start a podcast if you’re looking to build up credibility and create a consistent forum for industry discussions.
You aren’t the only expert in your field. Sometimes, the best way to build your reputation is by collaborating with other thought leaders, and publishing Q&A articles or podcasts about your interactions. Interviews don’t just drive traffic to your site; they also create a crossover effect where you can tap into a peer’s audience.
Main benefits: Simple to execute, traffic amplification, and establishes credibility.
Ideal use case: Interviews are a great tool to answer your prospects’ most pressing questions by asking those questions to industry influencers. By regularly conducting interviews, you might earn yourself a spot on someone else’s podcast or blog.
Which of the following is the most-shared content type? A) quizzes, B) quizzes, or C) all of the above? Rhetorical questions aside, quizzes are a wildly interactive way to engage with your audience. They can also be highly educational while helping your prospects uncover information they didn’t know they were missing.
Main benefits: Interactive, educational, and highly shareable.
Ideal use case: Quizzes are a great way to test your audience to see how much they know. Once those knowledge gaps are uncovered, prospects will have a greater reason to click through your educational content.
Content to Aid Consideration
If the awareness stage is all about identifying problems and uncovering pain points, the middle-of-funnel consideration stage is centered on defining solutions. Since prospects aren’t quite ready to buy in this stage, take your foot off the “sales” pedal and present answers without an aggressive pitch.
Solution Blog Posts
We said it earlier: Blog posts come in many forms. Unlike informative blog posts, these solution blog posts don’t just talk about consumer problems—they dig into potential answers. They might appear as lists, like this “Top 10” example, which gently present your product as one solution. Or they can even appear as product review articles, which also point back to your business in an effective way.
Main benefits: Sell without being “salesy,” and great for building SEO backlinks.
Ideal use case: Create solution blog posts to present an authentic, no-holds-barred picture of the industry you play in. If you think your product is the best (and you should, or else you wouldn’t have made it), then highlighting the competition won’t scare you.
After a consumer identifies their problem through awareness-level content, ebooks help cut to the chase and present viable solutions in an engaging way. With better design and more forethought than a solution blog post, well-curated ebooks offer enough value to ask for an email address and expect a good answer.
Main benefits: Drives email leads, shareable, and proves thought leadership.
Ideal use case: Since ebooks are both time-intensive and resource-intensive, you should plan carefully before starting to execute. Think of creating a series of awareness-level content that can funnel up to this high-value, gated asset. The more access points an ebook has, the more leads it will convert.
In the world of content, where education reigns king, consider webinars the royal scepter. Unlike a plain article, webinars offer deeper insights with influencer ideas and talks layered overtop slide deck collateral. The best part? They’re the gift that keeps on giving. Even after capturing leads during the pre-event sign up, webinar recordings continue producing results when engaged prospects come across them during the consideration phase.
Main benefits: Lead generation, producing effective collateral, and building credibility.
Ideal use case: Webinars are a great way to tackle topics that aren’t too high level, but aren’t deeply advanced either. They help to guide prospects from awareness to consideration by adding webinar CTAs to the TOFU content. Webinars can also be leveraged to partner with other brands/thought leaders to reach a different audience base.
As both marketers and consumers, we have this itch to know what’s going to happen. We want to get ahead of the curve, to get that little advantage over those playing the same game we are. Trend reports, like ebooks, work well in the consideration stage by offering a ton of value to readers in the form of solutions. The main difference? Trend reports aren’t lessons learned from the past; they’re ideas rooted in the future. Even if we aren’t fortune-tellers, trying to predict the future is a fruitful endeavour that can land you a surplus of leads alongside a uniquely competitive advantage.
Main benefits: Lead generation, highly shareable, and builds credibility.
Ideal use case: If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, it’s time to write a trend report. These are best launched around the end of the year, or as a new year is ushered in.
While e-courses can take on many formats, their purpose is universal: to educate prospects on a topic through a series of successive lessons. They thrive in the consideration phase by enabling your audience to self-nurture at their own their pace, letting them dive as deep or as shallow into a topic as they want. And if you’re searching for an amazing asset to generate emails, then look no further.
Main benefits: Lead generation, prospect nurturing, and proves thought leadership.
Ideal use case: If your product or industry embodies a steep learning curve, e-courses are a great way to simplify the process. If you want to connect your user base, you can also include a forum for “students” to share their experiences.
Content to Drive Decisions
As the name suggests, the decision stage is where buyers are ready to make a decision. They’ve understood their problems, listened to varying solutions, and now they’re ready to dole out their hard-earned money on a service or product—hopefully yours. In this stage, the aim is to build content that boasts your brand with zest—content your sales team can’t wait to share with prospects this deep in your funnel.
Business-Boasting Blog Posts
Besides being a tongue-twister, business-boasting blog posts serve the purpose of highlighting how your brand solves problems better than anyone else. They can appear as success stories, or can even be as boastful as a top 10 list on how your company solves problems the best.
Main benefits: Builds brand equity, and great for lead scoring.
Ideal use case: Although your blog should be filled with posts like these, you need to be careful about when and where they’re viewed. Having a business-boasting blog post on your main landing page can appear conceited in an early customer interaction.
White papers are fact-based, informational asset pieces, generally about six to eight pages long. They aren’t as fancy as brochures, nor are they as dry as technical manuals. They fall somewhere in between, delivering complex details about a product or service and how those features solve business problems. For the decision-stage buyer, they’re the perfect asset to help nudge them over the edge (in a good way).
Main benefits: Helps you reach decision-makers, and concisely wraps up your value proposition.
Ideal use case: White papers work as a great CTA on consideration-stage content pieces. Using strong CTA copy, prospects will be directed toward your white paper, where you can capture leads and inspire sales.
The best sales pitch in your arsenal is often the success stories of other clients. They prove to current prospects in your sales funnel that your product works. They show that their problems aren’t just relatable, they’re solvable. Appearing as videos or articles, case studies show the light at the end of the tunnel, and bring customers one step closer to that decision.
Main benefits: Builds credibility, cements client relationships, and entices sales.
Ideal use case: Whenever one of your clients achieves success with your product or service, document it. Not only does it help solidify that relationship, but case studies can really be leveraged at any point in the sales funnel to prove your value proposition in a tangible way.
When you call yourself “awesome,” it feels conceited. When someone else calls you “awesome,” it goes a long way in proving your value. Testimonials give your clients a voice while giving you tangible feedback to anchor onto your brand.
Main benefits: Builds credibility, proves value, and cements client relationships.
Ideal use case: Client testimonials might appear on your homepage, but they play a big role in building trust for your brand and encouraging prospects to make a decision.
Craft Your Content Experiences
With all these content types laid out before you, the content marketing candy store is open for business (metaphorically speaking). The key is to now select the candy that best suits your audience—the content that can guide your buyers from awareness, to consideration, and finally to make a decision. After all, that’s what content experience is all about.
If you have a cool examples to share, or questions, please comment below and let us know!