Which pieces of content are most valuable to B2B technology buyers and at which stage of the customer journey? What matters to buyers from different generations and how do they differ? These and several other questions are answered in new studies from IDG Enterprise and Arketi Group, which surveyed IT decision-makers and B2B technology buyers.
Content Types and Purchase Process
The value of content marketing is brought to light in the IDG Enterprise report, based on a survey of 1,000 IT decision-makers, which indicates that virtually all (96%) rely on content when evaluating products and services. Almost 8 in 10 reported having registered to receive tech-related content in the 6 months prior to the survey, with an average of 6 information assets downloaded during the purchase process (7 for enterprise organizations).
For buyers involved in various stages of the purchase process for major enterprise IT products and services, product testing/reviews/opinions (83%) and product demo/product literature (83%) are the information types most commonly relied on overall. More than 7 in 10 similarly rely – at some stage – on tech news (77%), how-to content/information (74%), case studies (74%), vendor presentations (73%) and analyst research (73%), per the report.
It’s worth pointing out that vendor presentations are high on the list. Last year, research from SiriusDecisions found that buyers’ most important content asset is a sales presentation.
Valuable content from vendors can help spur more research, per the IDG Enterprise report. By far the two most common actions taken in response to finding helpful content are researching the product (72%) and visiting the vendor’s web site or contacting the vendor for more information (68%). Beyond those common actions, almost half register to receive related content if it’s available (46%) and add the vendor to their short list or consideration set (45%).
As for registering to receive information? The main drivers continue to be access to content that can help the buyer make more informed buying decisions (53%) and access to research-based content (50%). Over the past couple of years, though, other drivers have become increasingly important: recommendations from friends and colleagues (36%, up from 19% in 2014); the opportunity to receive relevant, targeted offers (25%, up from 14%); and access to videos (25%, up from 14%).
When it comes to video content, 90% say they use some type to educate themselves during the purchase process, with the product and service evaluation stage being the time when it is most-used. The most popular types of video content vary by purchase stage, but typically in that evaluation stage, in-depth product reviews (50%), webcasts/web shows (41%) and industry research tech analyst reports (40%) are the most commonly accessed, per the survey.
Much as with video content, the various content types relied on most during the purchase process differ with the stage of that process. Below, a list of the top 2 pieces of content for each stage (see the above chart for the top 5 from each stage).
- Determining business need: 1) Feature article about trends, strategies, management; and 2) Technology news.
- Determining technical requirements: 1) How-to content/information; 2) Product testing/reviews/opinions.
- Evaluating products & services: 1) Product testing/reviews/opinions; 2) Product demo/product literature.
- Recommending & selecting vendors: 1) Product demo/product literature; 2) Product testing/reviews/opinions.
- Selling internally: 1) ROI tool, calculator, other assessment tool; 2) Product demo/product literature.
- Approving & authorizing purchase: ROI tool, calculator other assessment tool; 2) Product testing/reviews/opinions.
Finally, while not among those top 2 types, events are also an important consideration. (They’re consistently rated the most effective tactic by B2B content marketers.)
According to the IDG Enterprise study 52% of IT decision-makers prefer in-person communications for receiving strategic advice, as opposed to 43% preferring email and 5% a phone call. Among various event types, events with attendees at the buyer’s title level or above (27%) and trade shows/events where buyers have the opportunity to interact with vendors (25%) are the ones that are most increasing in attendance frequency among IT decision-makers.
How Does the Buyer’s Age Influence Tech Purchases?
Last year, a survey from IBM found differences in B2B buyers’ top research sources when breaking them out by generation. A new study from Arketi Group – based on a survey of 262 buyers mostly from enterprise organizations – offers some additional data on how the different generations approach buying. (Google says that Millennials are now the largest cohort of B2B researchers.)
For Millennials (born 1980-1993), the top sources of information used when making a tech purchase of at least $10k are: industry analysts; vendor face-to-face meetings; and vendor websites. Those are actually fairly similar to the top sources for Boomers (born 1954-1964): industry analysts; internal colleagues; and vendor face-to-face meetings. For Gen Xers (born 1965-1979), though, face-to-face meetings aren’t in the top 3, supplanted by tradeshows and conferences.
The generations also show some similarities when examining content types across purchase stages. For example, industry analysts are the most popular top-of-the-funnel influence for each generation, vendor websites are a top-3 middle-of-the-funnel influence for each, and vendor face-to-face meetings are a top-3 result for each when it comes to the final funnel influencers.
However, there are some unique content types for each generation:
- At the top of the funnel, Millennials are the only generation to place case studies or customer testimonials within their top-3 types, with Gen Xers relying comparatively more on vendor websites and Boomers on web searches and industry/professional online communities or forums;
- When researching available solutions (middle of the funnel), internal colleagues are the top source for Millennials but aren’t a top-3 source for either of the other generations; and
- In the final phase, Gen Xers name case studies or customer testimonials their top influence, while these don’t make the top-3 for Millennials or Boomers.
About the Data: The Arketi Group data is based on an online survey fielded in late 2015. Of the 262 respondents, the majority (60%) were with organizations with 1,000 or more employees. Approximately 31% were in senior management, 47% were in middle management, and 12% were executives or C-level. Respondents spanned multiple industries including telecommunications, technology, education, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, government and business services. Respondents by age cohorts included 31% Baby Boomers, 39% Gen X and 30% Millennials.