I’ve been watching an interesting pattern develop recently.
On one hand, Netflix, Uber and other on-demand consumer brands have “consumerized” the B2B buyer’s content-consumption habits. Anyone who’s been to a marketing conference in the past couple of years has heard a talk or two about this, and content hubs that allow users to consume content on their own terms have proven to be successful.
A lesser-discussed trend is that B2B buyers have become choosier and more skeptical about content. They’re looking for very specific types of information from certain trusted sources, and this can vary by buyer type.
It can be easy to overlook or misinterpret this shift in the shadow of the more-content-is-better mindset, but research shows that the change is very real and impacting how content programs perform.
If you run a content hub or are planning to build one, looking at granular content-preferences data for your target audience is a valuable step to take before planning or choosing content for the hub. Tightening alignment to target-specific preferences will contribute to higher and more insightful engagement numbers on the back end and improve user experience on the front end.
Changing and Varied Buyer Preferences
First, let’s drill down on some year-on-year differences in content preferences for senior-level marketing buyers to understand how quickly preferences can change. A growing number of these buyers want content from people they know and places they trust.
In 2018, 78% who responded to Demand Gen Report’s Content Preferences Survey said they place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of content sources than they used to. When asked the same question in 2019, 97% of respondents agreed. In the same survey, 92% said they give the most credence to peer reviews and user-generated feedback, and 95% said they prefer content from industry influencers.
Our experience as B2B content specialists verifies this information — and not just for marketing roles. The number of influencer programs Content4Demand executes for our clients has mushroomed in the past two years, more than doubling each year and spanning marketing, healthcare technology, fintech, cloud services, enterprise software and more.
The takeaway: Your content hub should have a lot of influencer content, as well as content that draws from trusted, industry-specific resources.
It’s also important to understand buyer preferences by high-level role, or — if applicable — by specific industry sector. For instance, in an Engineering.com survey asking engineers about their content consumption by channel in the past 30 days, only 36% used social media, and 29% cited “print.”
These are not the results I would expect from a survey of marketing executives, but these details are valuable for anyone planning a smorgasbord of content for engineers.
And again, I can personally vouch for the veracity of these findings. Our clients in technical fields often require a print option for content assets, and we have found we need to apply a curve when assessing influencers in technical fields, because their social media participation and engagement numbers are lower than in professional services, marketing and other non-technical fields.
The takeaway: Hard-copy reading and sharing is still relevant among engineers, so supply this option and measure it. Focus on only relevant social sharing and promotion.
A Valuable Lesson From OSIsoft
A recent webinar PathFactory presented featured Kellie Vahlsing, Global Director of Digital Demand Generation for OSIsoft, a data-infrastructure solutions provider for industrial operations.
Vahlsing’s story starts with a technical website for customers that wasn’t scalable, provided no insights and masked hard-to-discover content. Because selling more to existing clients is an important revenue stream for OSIsoft, everyone was looking to her to find a more effective way to engage customers and qualify them for sales.
Fortunately, her story ends with a digital hub where users are consuming more content and spending more time with it. Additionally, the hub has spurred a 25% increase in MQL conversions, a 3.5x increase in conversions in 30 days and a 16x increase in opportunities over eight months.
Of course, Vahlsing and her team did many things right to win those successes, but the thing that impressed me most about their story was how much importance they placed on user experience. They created five separate tracks of content to educate and guide users through the new hub, all with intuitive titles like How to Search for Articles and How to Download Products.
Of course, this was a transition for a known target audience, but taking care to align the content offerings to what users would be experiencing as they transitioned to the new hub was a smart move. Engagement with this content set the stage for more engagement and better conversions when OSIsoft posted a subsequent product-specific content track.
The takeaway from the OSIsoft story — and this post in general — is that understanding what’s important to your target audience on a detailed level is more important than even in content marketing, especially as more marketing teams are using hubs alongside or in place of nurture programs.
B2B buyers might want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to content consumption, but they still want someone to plan ahead for them so that they can reach their destination quickly and easily.
Want to take a deeper dive into content hubs? Check our our previous posts, Why You Need a Content Hub and The Netflix Takeover: B2B Buyers Demand Consumer-Like Content Hubs.