Buyers’ preference for credible content is growing. That’s one of the key findings in DemandGen Report’s recently published 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report, which revealed over two-thirds of buyers are more inclined to trust peer reviews and user-generated feedback, while 60% say they give credence to content authored by third party analysts and publications. The report also divulged what types of content buyers are consuming during the research process, finding 78% of buyers looked at case studies and 67% viewed third party analyst reports before making a purchase decision.
The findings aren’t unexpected. Without proof, “marketing talk” is just that—talk. Buyers want to see evidence that your solution works before they decide to purchase, and in most cases your company’s own claims aren’t going to cut it. We know marketing content is much more compelling when it’s supported with customer evidence—94% of surveyed marketing and sales professionals consider content sourced from existing customers to be “very” or “extremely” effective—but what’s the most effective way to create voice-of-customer content?
Below, we explore the pros and cons of three approaches.
1. The in-house approach
With the right resources on hand, building a voice-of-customer program in house can yield good results. This approach will require internal team members to manage the program’s multiple steps, from gathering customer feedback (typically via survey, interview, or anecdotal evidence from the sales team), to writing and publishing case studies and testimonials, producing videos, and so on.
If current team members have the bandwidth and required skill sets, this can be a relatively low-cost approach to creating customer content—generally limited to the employee’s hourly wage multiplied by the hours spent on the task. However, the quality of the content output can be highly variable depending on the skill sets available on the team. Creating content in house can also be quite time consuming, particularly for the more labor-intensive assets like long-form case studies, videos, and white papers. A survey of TechValidate users found 77% of people spent over a month on each case study—and 32% spent 3 months or more! Not ideal when you need customer proof right away. Another drawback is the finished content will not be associated with a third party, which can weaken its credibility.
Pros: Low capital costs, doesn’t require evaluating and selecting an external vendor
Cons: Significant labor effort, results can vary based on skill sets, no third party validation
2. Third party research or analyst firm
Companies with budget available but without the talent on hand to produce content in house often opt for services provided by third party research and analyst firms. While they come with a steep price tag, third party analysts will generally create high-quality, thoroughly researched reports that can be repurposed into multiple content assets.
To kick off a project, marketers will typically need to collaborate with their company’s internal analyst relations team, which will require briefing the team and waiting to receive a proposal back from the analyst firm. A typical output for the project will be a single report or whitepaper, which can take several months to be completed and will run you anywhere from $15,000–$60,000 or more.
Pros: Lower labor requirements for the marketing team, the benefit of third party verification of content
Cons: High capital costs, long time frame, little control over content
3. Customer content automation
Newer to the scene than the more traditional approaches above, there’s now software available that enables you to automate customer content creation. The technology streamlines customer feedback collection and helps you churn out lots of content based on the resulting data, effectively reducing the time and effort needed to get customer proof. This method will require you to design a survey to gather quotes, customer sentiment, and a mix of numerical and anecdotal evidence to fill your content with the customer proof points you need to establish credibility.
This approach will enable you to generate a larger volume and wider variety of content in less time than an in-house team or third party analyst. For example, a typical content automation project will take about 30 days from the kick-off call to the publishing of dozens to hundreds of pieces of unique content. Compared to outsourcing to a third party analyst, it will require slightly more input from the team to ensure questionnaires are tailored properly, and to publish selected content pieces from the results.
Pros: Ability to generate hundreds of customer content pieces from a single outreach, faster and lower effort than in-house approach, provides third party validation
Cons: Requires some effort from marketing team to develop survey questions and select content to publish (approx 7-15 hours per outreach project)
Choosing the best option
With several options available to you, the right approach will come down to a few main factors. Ask yourself: what is my budget? Did I need this content, like, yesterday, or is timeliness not critical? Do I have talent and resources available in house? Considering your company’s individual situation and weighing the pros and cons of each option will help you determine which approach will be most effective for you.