Companies have always had limited credibility when it comes to hawking their own wares. Even branded content that would appear to be informational and educational in nature will likely be assumed to have a hidden agenda.
It’s a different story, however, when the messages and content are coming from independent third-party sources.
That is certainly the case with B2B content marketing. The value of a whitepaper, eBook or other content asset naturally diminishes if it is perceived by the target audience to be nothing more than thinly-veiled marketing collateral. That explains why third-party gated content assets tend to generate significantly more downloads, and also produce higher-quality leads, on average, than company-branded content assets.
That is not to say that branded content assets can’t be successful. Some companies have been extremely effective in utilizing in-house content creation to rise above the noise and fill their pipelines with qualified leads. The more high-quality content a company can produce and distribute the better, and marketers should strive to publish as much of their own relevant and compelling content as possible.
Ideally, however, a B2B content marketing strategy should also include some percentage of third-party content that prospects may view as less biased and more objective. Good examples are licensed benchmark reports from market research firms and, of course, sponsored buyers guides such as Smart Decision Guides. The resource pages on the websites of companies that have enjoyed extraordinary success with B2B content marketing generally feature a nice mix of both internal and external content.
B2B companies need to establish an authoritative voice. They need to demonstrate thought leadership. And they need to educate the marketplace in a way that aligns sufficiently well with the customer benefits their products or services deliver. While branded content assets can be instrumental in helping them achieve these objectives, marketers should also associate their companies with third-party content assets that might be perceived as less biased and more objective.