How B2B Buyers Engage With Content: 4 Insights

April 11, 2018

Half of B2B buyers say they now rely more on content to research and make purchase decisions, and most are placing a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source of the content, according to the 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report [download page] from Demand Gen Report. Here are 4 takeaways from the study, which is based on a survey of almost 170 B2B marketing and sales professionals.

1. Buyers Increasingly Favor Credible Content

As buyers lean more on content for purchase decisions, they’re looking for that content to come from trustworthy sources. In fact, fully 78% say they’re placing more of an emphasis this year than last on the trustworthiness of the source, and 65% said their consumption habits have changed to prefer credible content from industry influencers.

Considering that half are finding themselves overwhelmed by the amount of content available, providing highly credible and trustworthy content can be one way for marketers to stand out.

The types of content that buyers are most likely to frequently give credence to are: content authored by a third-party publication or analyst (64%); and peer reviews/user-generated feedback (also 64%).

Although fewer will frequently trust other types of content, most at least occasionally give credence to content that is branded directly from a vendor, authored by a third-party publication and sponsored by a vendor, or co-branded and sponsored by a vendor.

2. Blogs, Webinars and Podcasts Among the Preferred Formats

B2B buyers display a range of content preferences that vary by the stage of the purchase, along with the activity in question.

Blog posts continue to be a strong performer, emerging as the content type that buyers are most likely to share with colleagues. In fact, the proportion of respondents saying that they consumed blog content during the research process increased from a year earlier (from 66% to 71%).

Meanwhile, webinars prove to be valuable to buyers, particularly in the mid-stage of the purchase journey. Almost half said that webinars are among their most valuable formats for the mid-stage, making them as important as third-party/analyst reports at that point.

The importance of webinars to B2B buyers is also highlighted by the finding that they are the content format that buyers are willing to spend the most time consuming. An impressive 64% of respondents said that they typically spend 20-60 minutes reviewing content when it’s in webinar format. That was about double the share of respondents (33%) willing to spend that much time with the next-most time-consuming format, third-party/analyst reports.

Another display of webinars’ impact is that three-quarters are willing to share information about themselves and their company and register for them, putting them on par with white papers as the top content formats for which buyers will share information. (Previous research from Demand Gen Report confirms that B2B marketers are finding success in generating qualified leads through webinars.)

In other highlights related to content formats:

  • Infographics are considered the most valuable content format in the early stage of the buying process, but are also the content type that buyers spend the least amount of time with;
  • Podcasts are also very important at the top of the funnel, with almost two-thirds finding them valuable then (aligning with LinkedIn research suggesting that some decision-makers tune in);
  • ROI calculators, case studies and assessments are the most valuable content types in the late stage of the buying journey; and
  • Case studies (79%) top white papers (71%) and blog posts (71%) as the most commonly consumed type of content overall in the past year to research B2B purchasing decisions.

3. How to Improve Content: Use More Research and Data

Buyers surveyed as part of the report had several suggestions for improving the quality of content offered by vendors. But once again, as with last year, the top recommendation was to use more data and research to support content, with three-quarters of buyers strongly agreeing that this would help.

Other recommendations that many buyers strongly agree with include:

  • Making content easier to access, through fewer form fields or single-click registration (65%);
  • Providing more benchmarking data (63%);
  • Adding more insight from industry thought leaders and analysts (62%);
  • Making content more mobile-friendly (41%); and
  • Making content easier to share (40%).

Considering that only 38% of buyers consume more than 5 pieces of content before engaging a salesperson (trends point to earlier engagements with salespeople), it’s important to make the content as valuable as possible to the buyer.

4. Bundle the Content by Industry

Finally, one other recommendation given for improving content is to bundle it: half strongly agreed that packaging relevant content together would improve the quality, as it would expedite the research phase. As part of this, half also recommended focusing less on product specifics and more on value.

When packaging content, respondents would like to see B2B vendors organize the content on their websites most by industry. Many also would like to see the content organized by business role and by specific vertical, but few care to see it bundled by organization size or by geographic region.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The report is based on a survey conducted in Q1 2018 among 168 B2B marketing and sales professionals generally director-level and above, from a range of industries including business services/consulting, software/technology, and tech/enterprise IT. Close to 4 in 10 work at companies with annual revenues of at least $50 million.


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