In space, they say, no one can hear you scream.

It can feel a bit like that for content marketers too – projecting content into the vastness of the web can be like shouting into the void. But if you want to get better traction with your content, you need to understand how buyers use that content, and how influential it is in helping buyers decide what to buy.

The Buyersphere Report 2015 looked into this and aimed to shed a little light on what kind of content types exerted most influence over buyers during the buying process. We divided content into two types:

1. Facts – pricing information, product details, technical specifications etc.
2. Opinions – advise or recommendation from individuals.

It was no surprise that facts (more specifically, pricing and product details) were very popular. After all, who buys something without knowing what it does or how much it costs?. But it was also fascinating to see the relative effect of the 4 types of content we included as sub-divisions of ‘opinion’. We plotted these in the 'astronomy-themed' infographic you can see above (and view in hi-res here) and they tell an interesting story. Horizontally, it plots usage (ie how much buyers used a certain content type) and vertically, it shows influence (whether it made a difference to their decision). So we see 'pricing information', for example, as an outlying star in the top right. For us, however, the key constellation is composed of the four stars that represent opinion. Those content types are described below:

Interview with company expert. The most widely sought content type. A third of buyers interviewed sought information of this kind during the buying process. Whether it was influential because it helped advise them on their choice, or whether it simply supported the credibility of the supplier is not clear, but buyers find them useful.

Customer testimonial. Everyone loves a case study, right? Apparently not. Testimonials were not as influential – or as widely used – as vendor-generated material during the buyer process.

External analyst. The most influential content type, with 1 in 5 respondents giving it a rating of 10 out of 10 for influence. These analysts include the likes of Gartner and Forrester, Aberdeen Group etc. Clearly, a professional opinion carries a lot of weight, as opposed to…

Peer review. This category encompasses the many independent, heartfelt, but often unqualified opinions made available on social media to anyone who’ll listen. Whereas buyers see a lot of value in the professional view of the external analyst, it seems that the amateur equivalent is not as compelling.

Of course, this is not to say that you should do one thing and not the other. The Buyersphere Report is based on responses from many sectors and companies and we cannot expect it to solve our own, specific marketing problems for us. But it does give an overview, and should inspire us to investigate which of these types works best for us.

For example, do your testimonials have credibility? Are there enough of them to cover all sectors and make them relevant? It’s no surprise they exert little influence if they don’t tell a story relevant to your customer's situation. And are you making best use of external analysts? What do Gartner, Forrester and the like say about you and your sector? Even if they don’t mention you by name, they clearly carry alot of weight, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use their content as a basis for your own.

And finally, get the most out of your company experts. Get them talking, get them in front of a camera. Incentivise them any way you can because getting expert information out of your own business is not just better value, it works. (And if you want to learn the techniques that will help you tap into the content that lies deep within the organization, check out our Content Fracking infographic.)