How Long should my Asset be? | Best Length for B2B Marketing Assets
I had a discussion last week with a new client about how long a proposed marketing eBook/whitepaper should be. Their initial reaction was that it should be fairly short with splashy graphics because their target audience was sales… and sales people have short attention spans.
I didn’t agree. Never mind that good B2B sales people demonstrate fairly amazing attention spans as they religiously follow prospects across multiple companies over the span of years while making complex sales. My reasoning was that the length of an asset doesn’t depend on your audiences’ attention span.
So what does it depend on? It depends on your goals for the piece.
In most cases, your primary goal is not to have prospects read every word of a piece. Or even any of the words.
Don’t believe me?
Fair enough, let’s take a look at how best to achieve our goals in the following common scenario:
Product: A fairly complex SaaS product that will require multiple departmental sign-offs and a six-figure annual contract with professional services to implement.
Primary targets: New prospects in Sales/Marketing operations (initiator), VP of Sales (approval), VP of Marketing (approval), IT (avoid a veto).
Initial Sales Step: Demo followed by a proof of concept.
Goals of the asset:
1. Get the prospects to give us their (real) contact info.
2. Provide a positive introduction so that the sales person can follow up on a warm lead.
3. Provide additional materials that the sales team can utilize in their sales calls.
Note : None of these goals include having the prospects read every word of your piece.
Let’s look at each one of these goals and see how length will impact the achievement of these goals:
Get the prospects to give us their (real) contact info.
I know what you’re probably thinking… surely it doesn’t matter how in-depth a given piece is for garnering the initial contact data. Most prospects won’t even know how long it is before they give us the contact info.
But, if you’re thinking this, you’re wrong. It matters. A lot. We’ve conducted several blind tests and every time we have significantly better (30-40%) initial conversion rates with more substantial assets than short fluffy pieces… even if we go out of our way to hide the fact that one-asset is a well-researched 22 page brand-neutral white paper and the other is a stale 2-page product handout.
Why? People can smell authenticity. Even over the internet.
No seriously, everyone gives their best when they know they are offering a quality product versus a piece of krap. People simply do a better job promoting good assets.
Plus, a good asset gives you more room to work with in promoting it. Better banners. Better landing pages. Better proof points on why prospects should give you their contact data to get this valuable asset.
Provide a positive introduction so that the sales person can follow up on a warm lead.
This is where a great asset truly shines. It’s also where we get the most push-back from clients thinking that they should produce an asset that prospects will read word-for-word. And, in some cases, like self-serve sales, this is what you want. But our agency motto is “We market hard-to-describe products for hard-to-reach-audiences.” These situations are almost never self-serve.
Let’s look at the introduction from a short fluffy asset compared to a longer, more authoritative one in a complex sale:
Our initiator (Sales/Marketing operations) downloads the four-page asset with splashy graphics and not much detail. Their takeaway is that we offer a solution that might solve their problem. But they know the problem is fairly complex and an off-the-shelf solution is likely going to need some professional services or customization for deployment.
Best-case scenario: they call right away.
Most likely scenario: they get distracted and forget about it.
Our initiator (Sales/Marketing operations) downloads a 22-page authoritative vendor-neutral description of the how to solve their problem. It seems weighty. They don’t have time to read the whole thing but quickly scan the headlines, executive summary, and a few bullet lists. Their take-away is that we have a solution for their problem and are apparently experts in this field. But it looks complex and maybe they don’t have the time to deal with this right now. Seems like a fail, right? But here’s how it plays out:
Best-case scenario: they call right away.
Most likely scenario: They don’t have time to read the whole thing right away, so they print it out and it sits on a corner of their desk. Everyday they come in, see the whitepaper/eBook looming at them and think that they need to put that on their to-do list. They don’t actually act on this.
Your salespeople contacts them and they pick up and browse the whitepaper/eBook— a conversation ensues and the prospect get enthusiastic as it becomes clear that you, the vendor, can actually solve this problem for them. It suddenly moves from a n overwhelming problem, to a solvable one. They hang up and pass the paper to their boss. Who also does not read the whitepaper but scans it and gives the initiator the approval they need to move forward. Eventually, the asset gets passed to IT, who flips through, grunts, and decides to stay out of it.
Provide additional materials that the sales team can utilize in their sales calls.
Neither a long nor short asset in this case makes a good substitute for true sales materials but the longer asset can be used as a content base to create multiple more sales oriented assets like sales presentations, diagrams, sell sheets, etc. The advantage of not giving a short datasheet or product brochure with your initial contact is that you can wait until they’re ready to evaluate and know to look for specific features.
The moral of the story
For the best results, make the asset the exact length the topic calls for. Don’t pad it, but do it full justice. If you’re going to err, make it more substantial rather than less. Don’t worry about whether or not your prospect will read every word of your deathly prose. That’s not point.
Remember, we’re not writing heartfelt fiction here. We shouldn’t care how many people read our work but rather how many people are motivated to actually do what we want them to do. Which is buy our stuff.