B2B content marketing best practices: How to use third-party research
Third-party research is important in B2B tech content marketing. Discerning IT decision makers consume content with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s only natural. When we know that a company’s ultimate goal is to sell us something, we assume that the information they disseminate is self-serving.
Vendor-neutral, third-party research can validate your assertions and bring credibility to your content. However, when statistics aren’t skillfully used, content can become dull and difficult to read. Here are tips for effectively using statistics in your B2B tech content.
Statistics are useful for explaining why you’re writing about a particular topic. However, when writing short-form content, such as a blog post or an article, avoid using data in your lede/introductory paragraph—and definitely not as the first sentence.
Use your first paragraph to set the scene. Instead of throwing numbers at your reader—which are, by themselves, rarely engaging—paint a picture of what the numbers mean and how they relate to the content that follows. This is more likely to pull in readers, as they’ll have a better understanding of the implications of the statistics when you do present them.
As the second paragraph of your blog post or article, present the statistic with the appropriate citation. Ideally, you’re using vendor-neutral, third-party research. This is important for readers to know. At the very least, mention the firm’s name and link to the report. Consider also including the name of the research report. If the name of the report is long and clunky, then look for another opportunity to mention it. The concluding paragraph is a good place to do so. You can hyperlink it again so that it’s convenient for readers to check out after they’ve read your fabulous content!
In long-form content, such as a white paper or e-book, you can be a bit more flexible about how and when you present statistics. However, I am still hesitant to lead with numbers. A white paper might be more formal than your short-form content, but it should be no less engaging. Whenever possible, consider calling out statistics in pull quotes alongside the relevant paragraphs. This will give the data greater impact and make it easier to read.
If you use statistics in white papers and other content that you intend to be evergreen, be aware that the data will have a shelf life. You’ll need to revisit that content at a later date and update the data with current research (or delete it if you can’t find a replacement). This is well worth your time. The quickest way to negate the value of your content is to include outdated research.
Where to find third-party research for content marketing
That brings up another important practice: the collection of third-party research statistics and data. I have several recommendations in this regard:
Make it someone’s responsibility to scan press releases, newsletters, etc., on a regular basis (at least weekly) for applicable data.
Create a shared document, such as a spreadsheet on Google Drive, where this data is stored.
Encourage others to contribute to the document when they come across statistics during the course of their own day-to-day work.
Note when and where the data is referenced in your content.
You’ll save yourself time and effort by approaching data collection as a continual process, rather than when the need arises for third-party research. It will make updating evergreen content much easier, and your findings will serve as jumping off points for new blog posts and contributed articles.