This is no time for B2B marketers to become complacent about content. With in-person events postponed indefinitely and many buyers working from home among a multitude of distractions, you have to make your content count now more than ever.
No one can predict what the future holds, but one thing is certain: B2B buyers will continue to rely on credible, trustworthy content to make purchase decisions. That means you need to create the dynamic, engaging content your buyers want and need — when they want it and need it.
Take a Virtual Trip with Your B2B Buyers
The freshly minted 2020 Content Preferences Study from Demand Gen Report offers a view into the trends among B2B buyers about the content they rely on when making a purchase. Overall, 67% of respondents said they rely more on content to do their product and service research and make a purchase decision than they did last year. Nearly half (47%) said they typically consumed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson about a purchase.
These savvy buyers want content from trustworthy sources, and they are relying more on peer-to-peer influence. Preferences for shorter-form and interactive content continue to grow. But the kind of content they want shifts as they move through the buyer’s journey.
As you might imagine, when B2B buyers are initially looking for information and trying to educate themselves, they prefer “quick-hitting content.” Here are the top four content formats buyers preferred when just starting out on the buying journey:
- Listicles: 87%
- Infographics: 72%
- Blogs: 66%
- Video: 62%
When buyers are ready to start evaluating their options, they turn to these four content formats most often:
- Webinars: 50%
- White papers: 37%
- Podcasts: 37%
- E-books: 34%
At the late stage, when it’s time to make a purchase, content formats overlap somewhat with mid-stage content:
- Webinars: 14%
- White papers: 8%
- Podcasts: 8%
- Video: 7%
What’s even more interesting is the diversity of content B2B buyers want at the early stages of the buyer’s journey. While short form and interactive formats earn clear preference, buyers seem willing to consume longer form content like E-books and white papers even in the earliest stages.
At the other end of the spectrum, B2B buyers made clear what they don’t want when they’re ready to purchase. They definitely do not look for listicles: 0%. Infographics also come in near the bottom at 3%.
Clearly, buyers want meaty content that helps them build confidence in their buying decision. Marketers also tend to engage credible industry experts for these late-stage assets, sources that help build trustworthiness in the information.
6 Steps to Move Carefully Forward
The survey results can serve as a helpful guide to moving forward with B2B content. Pair them with what I’m hearing from clients and colleagues on how to be sensitive to each other’s needs.
Show Empathy. We’re all struggling right now. Although our challenges may differ, this is a wonderful opportunity to recognize our buyers as humans — humans who may be apprehensive, afraid, stressed out or even angry. Don’t be afraid to address emotions in your content. I recently wrote a blog post on this topic that can help guide you on that path.
Let’s talk to our buyers as fellow humans and not as potential leads or deals.
Engage and Entertain. Just because the world seems a little topsy-turvy right now doesn’t mean that we have to be totally serious in our content. We can all use a little humor in our lives. Add some fun — especially in those early-stage assets — as long as it’s tasteful and relevant to your topic.
Build Trust. The content preferences survey showed that B2B buyers are leaning even harder on trustworthy, objective sources of information. Seek out industry influencers, internal experts, partners and customers to tell your story. With so much uncertainty in the business world, build confidence in the information you share.
Connect Socially. Another insight that came out of the survey is that “B2B executives are not only engaging content for their own research but are increasingly sharing it with their networks via email and social channels.”
The number one social platform remains LinkedIn, with 81% of respondents saying they share content with their network. With so many people working from home, it’s not a stretch to think that social media is a way for people to stay in touch and feel connected. Work with influencers with strong social followings to get your message out to your buyers via social channels.
Go Deep. Create meaningful content that gives buyers the information they need to evaluate solutions at the middle stage of the buyer’s journey and make a sound decision when it comes time to buy. Now’s the time for 60-minute webinars and 2,000-word white papers. At the same time, long doesn’t mean boring. Keep it lively and engaging.
Rethink Your Strategy. Your strategy may remain sound, but it’s vital that you review all the plans you made before the crisis to check for ongoing relevance and necessary tone adjustments. Read Toni Boger’s recent blog post on “3 Ways to Reassess Your Digital Content Strategy” for ideas on how to pivot in these chaotic times: Listen to your customers, keep an eye on your analytics and mind your tone.
You’re in the Spotlight.
As a B2B content marketer, you have a big role to play today. Give your B2B buyers the content they want, and use this time to create strong, lasting business relationships. Content can help overcome the challenges your business faces now. Listen closely to what your customers say they need, and do what you can to provide it.