Learning styles and the secret to better B2B marketing

We’re all different, and the content we create needs to reflect that

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We’re all different, and the content we create needs to reflect that

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What sort of learner are you? If you wanted to understand how a clock worked, would you rather watch a video and look at diagrams (visual), listen to a lecture then have a group discussion (auditory), read an explanation (read/write), or take it apart (kinesthetic)?

This breakdown into Visual, Auditory, Read/write and Kinesthetic is known as VARK. It’s a common approach in teaching – where understanding the best learning style for each student can transform their achievements in the classroom.

And what is B2B content marketing about, if not giving audiences useful information they didn’t have before? Sounds a lot like teaching to me.

Multiple learners, multiple styles

Good B2B marketing will consist of a variety of types of content, from blog posts and reports to videos and events. So we are already catering for different learning styles – but are we getting the proportions right?

Research suggests that hands-on learning is the most popular way to learn, followed by read/write and aural. Visual is the least popular.

What does this mean?

Firstly, kinesthetic’s position as number one clearly creates a challenge for the modern digital marketer. It may be that you need to increase the strategic value of hosting events or consider using virtual reality technology.

Secondly, the fact that aural learning is as important as read/write is also worth noting, particularly in relation to the growing popularity of podcasting. Screen readers are getting better but are still unnatural to listen to. Perhaps we’ll soon be creating sound files for each blog post. A ‘listen to this article’ option is bound to be popular with the millions of headphone-wearing commuters. Indeed, you may be listening to the audio version of this article right now.

Ultimately, the good news is that most learners favour a combination of styles – so you’re unlikely to lose your audience completely if you haven’t ticked all four boxes.

It’s worth pointing out that there is also debate about how much impact these preferences have on what is actually learned. An article in The Atlantic puts forward the case for the prosecution – essentially, that we may be misidentifying ourselves as a particular type of learner. But, crucially, it does not challenge the fact that we still think of ourselves as having such preferences.

Give your audience the choice

The sense in mixing up the ways you present content is clear. But the switched-on B2B marketer will go one step further and give their audiences more of the type of content they want, and less of what doesn’t match their preferred learning style.

First you need to know the preferences of who you’re reaching – i.e. your mailing list. Analytics and systems such as Eloqua may help show you what type of content an individual is engaging with most. Alternatively you could simply ask the question as part of your sign-up process, or add a mini-survey to an email or webpage.

The macro-insight into audience preferences you get from such surveys should inform your overall content planning.

You can also start a form of personalisation, giving individuals the content in the form they want. Let them know you’re doing it and they’ll thank you for it – or at least be grateful that their needs are being considered.

Conclusion

As we’ve already established, B2B marketing comes down to informing or teaching an audience. It’s also about inspiring loyalty and gaining trust for your brand.

Getting smart about methods of content delivery boosts engagement and shows you to be responsive, thoughtful and innovative.

That’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Miles Kendall