Every marketer has their favorite piece of content.
Sure, like children, you love them all, and you’ve invested a lot of time into most...but deep down you know that one has outperformed the rest.
Maybe it has the most views, or it’s the most downloaded piece on your site, or it’s proven to have generated the most quality leads.
I interviewed a group of marketing executives about their top-performing piece of content and looked for common patterns.
Detailed industry reports were a very common answer, whenever applicable. Anything highly researched and valuable to the reader—rather than the organization writing the piece—seems to explode.
You’ll pick up on those trends and more as you read these 16 marketing executives’ answers to the question:
“What single piece of content has produced the best results for your brand?”
1) Adam Fridman, Founder of Mabbly
One of Mabbly’s top-performing pieces of content belongs to advisory board member Andy Swindler, who often writes his thoughts and experiences after interviewing other marketing departments across Chicago.
Andy writes on local Chicago businesses and makes it easy for his interviewees to share his write-ups on social media.
Not only does Andy use link building to attract attention, he also sends the completed interview to his interviewees so they can post it on their social pages.
2) Andres Botero, CMO at Aria Systems
The most successful piece Andres and his team have ever put together is called “Recurring Revenue Management for Dummies.”
It’s one of those branded Dummy books with the yellow cover, available as both a physical book and a pdf.
Any brand that wants to produce a “For Dummies” book has to work with their publisher. It can be a lengthy process, because the tone of the book has to align with the other “For Dummies” books, and you have to follow their process.
But for Aria, it was well worth it.
3) Brian Kardon, Chief Marketing Officer at Fuze
Fuze’s most successful piece of content by far is a Gartner piece. It has a high perceived value because of the name brand, and if you had to buy the report you’d pay almost $1,000 for it.
It’s very, very detailed, a gated piece that has been their highest performing both in terms of downloads and in terms of influencing and sourcing deals.
It’s an annual report, and Fuze features it on their website above the fold.
4) Carl Tsukahara, Chief Marketing Officer at Birst
Birst is a SaaS company, so when people are serious about using their software they want to touch it.
Carl told me that anything drawing prospects to demo the product is their best bet.
Clearly, it’s hard to draw volume to that project because it’s time-consuming, but it does convert well. When someone engages with your product at that level, they’re probably very interested.
5) Deb Geiger, VP Global Marketing at Astea International
Deb listed a recent piece of content as her most successful. It’s on the topic of “first-time fix rates.”
It’s very specific to their industry; a lot of organizations have that pain point. When you’re delivering service it’s not just about showing up on time, but also being able to fix it the first time—especially when a piece of equipment is mission-critical to someone’s business and revenue.
Because it’s still a relevant pain point, with financial and customer-satisfaction ramifications, it’s performed well.
6) Janet Matsuda, Chief Marketing Officer at Nimble Storage
The top-performing piece of content for Nimble Storage has been the Gartner Magic Quadrant Report for General-Purpose Storage Disk Arrays.
People find the content to be highly valuable: they have to pay for it in other forms, but they’re able to get it free of charge on the Nimble Storage site.
Beyond that, Janet’s team has had success researching in particular areas, packaging their own data science team with research from outside organizations. Their research puts an emphasis not on the product as much as giving people insight so they can learn to do their jobs better.
7) Kara Walsh, CMO at The Muse
When asked about her top-performing piece of content, Kara pointed to her Employer Branding 101 ebook.
“It’s such a popular topic,” she says. “Leaders across companies have come to understand how important their company’s brand perception is for attracting talent. It’s beyond the head of HR; it’s also about your CMO, the CFO, the CEO. Everyone wants to be better at this. Everyone knows they need to be focusing on employer branding, but they don’t really know how to do it.”
8) Kraig Swensrud, Chief Marketing Officer at Campaign Monitor
The number one piece of content in the history of Campaign Monitor is called The Ultimate Guide to CSS. CSS is a standard term in the tech industry that stands for Cascading Style Sheet. It refers to how you stylize a piece of content on the web or an email.
The challenge in email marketing for so long has been, “How do I create an email that looks good in every inbox and on every different screen size?” When you combine the 30+ different inboxes and the 50 different screen sizes in phones, you get a number of permutations that will make any marketer’s head explode.
Kraig says the guide is so successful because they’re not blabbing about content that’s only important to them; it’s content that directly addresses a real pain point for millions of marketers around the world.
9) Kristen Dunleavy, Content Marketing Manager at Movable Ink
Movable Ink’s choice is their quarterly Lookbook.
It’s pretty simple, displaying five contextual emails, and it does really well because it gives a good glimpse at a high-performing email. People want to know what the phrase “contextual email” looks like in action, and they can with this ongoing piece.
The other high-performing series they have is called “How to Build a Better…” One of the pieces in this series was titled “How to Build a Better Newsletter.” It did exceptionally well, because so many marketers are trying to build a better newsletter. Topics with a wide appeal can absolutely shine.
10) Martin Doettling, Chief Marketing Officer at Swrve
Martin says that whenever they submit industry reports based on their data, they get the most consumption.
This is because Swrve is sharing insights that no one else has. The more you can dip into the data and make it tell a story, the more helpful your content will be by far. You’ll find across the industry that people are just hungry for data.
Matt had a hard time landing on just one top-performing piece, but he eventually decided on Velocify’s Ultimate Contact Strategy.
It’s a piece of content that goes through the best timing and sequencing for when your leads should be contacted.
It performs really well as far as downloads, viral sharing, and how often it’s quoted in articles.
12) Peter Herbert, VP of Marketing at VersionOne
In terms of how many people engage, VersionOne’s top piece of content is the State of Agile Report. It’s an industry-wide, well-established piece for understanding how agile has progressed in the market.
However, if we’re looking at the company’s target accounts, the content that performs best for them are personalized landing pages with personalized content.
For example, if they create a landing page with assets for financial services, engagement with that content is about 50% better than when they promote generic content in exactly the same way.
By speaking to each segment in a language they understand, they get a very significant increase in engagement.
13) Robin Saitz, Chief Marketing Officer at Brainshark
Robin’s team has done several pieces with well-known brands, including a GE case study, a Forbes research report called “The Power of Enablement,” and an eBook from Wiley called “Sales Enablement for Dummies.”
All of them did very well because they were tips-oriented: giving real-world examples and actionable advice on how to improve sales effectiveness.
In many cases, the content also included data and proof-points from respected companies that had overcome sales productivity obstacles – speaking to issues that prospects faced and building trust with buyers.
14) Sören Meelby, Vice President of Marketing at Apptus
Apptus had a case study with the equivalent of Amazon in the Nordics—obviously, it was a hit.
Previously, the company featured in the case study had a non-behavioral search engine on their site. When this company installed their behavioral search engine, they saw an 80% increase in conversion and 18% decrease in search exits.
This case study was the best piece of content for Apptus, because it was such a tangible display of the results their product can drive.
15) Steve LaPedis, VP of Marketing at Zyme
Zyme’s top-performing piece of content is something they have just started doing but have seen great results from.
It’s always easier to convince people to buy from you if they know you, and Zyme has noticed that a lot of their customers leave to go to companies in the same space. They also consider ex-employees customers.
Steve’s team sends them information, letting them know that “While you were at [company name] we helped you reduce inventory by 43%. Would you like to do that at your new company?”
They’ve started to see success with this new campaign. “The open rate is three times higher,” Steve said.
16) Tim Geisert, Chief Marketing Officer at TwentyEighty
You always have to think about the customer.
Tim’s team knows from their data that 40-something percent of their potential buyers have some form of dyslexia. It means those buyers are much more visual and their attention span is shorter.
So they’ve shifted their content in order to give their buyers something they can easily consume.
Highly visual pieces, with numbers in the title, are powerful.
That’s not the same for every business, but Tim’s team has figured out what their audience wants and what makes them tick, so they know how to break down barriers to educate them in the best way possible.
When it comes to marketing, what you put in is often what you get out.
Extensive research into relevant data and legitimate pain points in your industry is often the way to create something that thousands of potential buyers will want to consume.
And yes...it’s OK to love one of your content children more than the rest. :)
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show: a daily podcast dedicated to helping B2B marketers achieve explosive growth.