Making a meal of it: Why longform content can now go the full course

Balancing short and long form content to drive leads along the customer journey

Posted by Kristóf Kovács and Daphne van Loon on September 11, 2019

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For years, the general consensus in the social media age has been to opt for “snackable” content that can be quickly understood and leaves little to the imagination. With short attention spans and a wealth of other content feeds vying for their attention, the aim is to hit the reader over the head with something that shocks, surprises or amuses in the form of short videos, memes or controversial tweets. This is effectively scroll-stopping content that forces us to look.

In the business world, we are told that nobody has time to read longer reams of text anymore and that the focus of a marketing communications campaign should be on single key insights that the reader will consume, digest and take home with them. After all, this is the single take-away that your prospect will use to remember your company, which could in turn flick the switch that leads to fruitful future collaboration! But there is plenty of data to suggest that long form content actually performs very well. For example, serpIQ performed an in-depth study into how content ranked in Google searches in terms of length. Researchers found that the average text length for those in the top 10 positions was more than 2,000 and those that took the top spot on a regular basis had more than 2,450 words on their pages. So thorough detail and analysis can certainly aid ranking.

Reaching the real decision makers

A snackable content strategy makes total sense when advertising a report or promoting yourself at a trade show. But it also underestimates your target audience. There are much longer journeys that customers follow when consuming information and you need to be present on diverse platforms and in various content forms.

Particularly within the industrial technology B2B space, key decision makers are highly technical and require far greater detail than the snackable scraps they are being served up before reaching a conclusion. They will have seen your market defining insight but now want the analysis that backs it up and places it within the context of the market as a whole. Where is the scientific support to back the efficacy? What is the analysis that has been done to demonstrate the market potential? What does the new product offer compared to the predecessor or competition?

It is also a matter of timing of course. For many decision makers, available time and therefore attention spans will be short during a pressured time of year, when only the headlines of snackable and actionable content will be read. But there will be other occasions when things are quieter and they will have more time to digest something more detailed, complex and thought-provoking. After all, they owe it to their stakeholders to get the full picture of the marketplace before reaching a firm long-term conclusion.

The need for “long reads” and “evergreen” content

Technology advances are allowing for an evolution in how internet content is consumed. Industry executives who in the past would have read print scientific journals, books and market reports to reach their conclusion are now using their tablets to delve far deeper into their subject of interest. Rather than having to sift through a long report from behind their laptop, they can scroll through a detailed text at their convenience, while on the train, on a plane, or just on their couch at home.

This market dynamic means that a whole platform has opened up online for “long reads” of so-called “evergreen” content that remains relevant, where the length is often more than 5,000 words. By standing the test of time, this type of interesting and relevant content that does not date is necessary in order to be found online by search engines.

Long form content could be packaged in the form of a detailed blog, a white paper or an e-book, where the author sets themselves down as a thought leader within their space.

For the marketer, this evolution presents an opportunity to shift their online marcoms strategy. Rather than a one-off piece of content, they can now use the same basic content for a multitude of communications channels at a very limited expense. But they will still need to draw attention to it. After all, if nobody reads your thorough analysis, what was the point of posting it in the first place?

Short form platforms boost long form success

Report promotion has traditionally come in the form of e-blasts, online link banners and supporting press releases that will hopefully take the reader back to the original document. But there is a role for short form content here, particularly through social media platforms.

It is only recently that industrial technology B2B marketers are truly waking up to how valuable an integrated social media strategy can be. And when it comes to promoting your evergreen content, this is the way to go. If you have already established yourself as an influencer within your industry community, drawing attention to your latest thought leadership blog through a carefully considered tweet or LinkedIn post can easily cause it to trend. When backed up with a personalized summary statement that speaks to that LinkedIn group, the chances of success are even greater. But you need to think wisely about how to approach the marketing process. Scan your report in detail (particularly the abstract and conclusion) and extract the most valuable and digestible nuggets that can be served as an inspired snackable treat for your followers. Make a short, pointed statement featuring a surprising and supporting statistic that backs up your conclusions. Then tweet and (within reason) repeat!
Several months down the line, a major issue has happened on the marketplace that goes fully in line with your conclusion. This is your opportunity to draw attention to your evergreen content once again. Let the reader know that you were ahead of the game and effectively predicted this, without going overboard.

Online trade media publication

Successful online trade media platforms will draw far bigger and more diverse readers than a company could ever hope for itself. Their independence will also serve as a seal of approval that your content is valuable and worth reading, rather than being a mere industry sales pitch.

Having a good relationship with prominent media within your space is essential to getting the message out about your evergreen content. Why not select a key trade editor and offer an exclusive interview in the runup to publication that summarizes the conclusions? How about suggesting that a publication publishes the report (whether in its entirety or a summary) on one of their platforms, linking the original report back to your own site? Why not send out a press release on the day of the report’s publication that includes links to it?

Media platforms will often do much of the social media lifting for you, by tweeting their coverage around your report. You can often just sit back comfortably and retweet!

The benefits of a well-thought-out trade media approach can often come in the form of short term snackable news story pieces, or social media posts. But there is more long term potential for evergreen content too. If your insights are strong enough, they could be featured and sourced as supporting data in third party coverage and analysis for months or even years to come.

There are so many avenues that could be explored when it comes to online trade media exposure. Remember that if your content is strong enough in the first place, the cream will rise to the top!

Still plenty of space for the long form

Although attention spans are generally getting shorter and shorter, you still need long form content that offers detailed analysis and that can serve as an evergreen source of thought leadership on your subject. Technological evolutions in the form of how content is consumed, distributed and targeted are giving the long form a fresh breath of life.

Long form content will help you achieve higher conversion rates by:

  • Helping you to get more shares online
  • Allows you to offer the additional detail required to explain a complex theme
  • Being a great platform to get your message out to CEOs and other C-Suite members
  • Positioning your brand as an authority or thought leader.

Different content formats in line with customer journeys

A successful marketing communications campaign requires different content formats that need to be developed in line with the diverse touchpoints on the customer journey and the related channels/formats that it encompasses. Correlating the benefits of short and long form content requires a carefully balanced approach. This is where a specialized B2B industrial technology marcoms agency like EMG can come in to support your strategy.

Each audience and industry demands a slightly different approach and expertise, but at EMG we can target and structure content for all needs, through a blend of short and long form content. Whatever part of a customer journey you are looking to address, we can help you develop the right marketing communications snack or full meal. Feel free to reach out to us for more information

 

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