This is what B2B customers want to see

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By Rieva Lesonski

Does content drive B2B purchasing decisions? Looking at the data in NetLine’s (a lead generation company) 2023 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report, the answer is yes. Collected from 38,000 B2B professionals, the report shows that the more B2B content your target audience consumes, the more likely they are to make a purchase decision.

Frank Strong, a PR and marketing consultant, analysed NetLine’s behavioral and survey data related to B2B content and buyer intent. The three findings Strong finds most significant are:

  • The consumption of B2B content continues to grow.
  • The consumption of B2B content is closely linked to purchasing decisions.
  • The size of the B2B content consumed indicates a purchase intent.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Contents

The consumption of B2B content continues to grow

While Strong says there is some industry concern about “content shock and content fatigue,” demand for B2B content continues to grow, with consumption rising 18.8% in 2022, according to the report.

The report shows which specific content formats attracted the most users last year:

  • e-books: attracted 33% of all registrations (people who signed up to receive the content), but 10% less than in 2021
  • Guides: an increase of 75.4%
  • White papers: 21% more
  • Cheat sheets: 16.1% more

And who consumes the content? The top 10 industries that increased their content consumption the most were:

  1. Information Technology
  2. executives
  3. Human Resources
  4. Company
  5. Engineering
  6. Education
  7. Finance/Accounting
  8. Marketing
  9. sale
  10. Medical health

Strong believes there are three main reasons for this increased demand for content. According to Strong:

1. Content is weak. “A lot of B2B content is weak. It was written to please executives rather than connect with buyers. It’s really hard to argue that their sales approach to content won’t resonate with potential customers, so you have to fail the content to create a learning opportunity.”

2. Content is old. “Content is getting outdated. Things change faster and faster, so new content needs to be developed to stay current. Consistency is more important than frequency.”

3. Different people need different types of content. “Not everyone learns the same way. When I was in grade school, I struggled to understand algebra, and I got by with a C. The next year I had a new teacher who explained things in a different way, and it clicked for me and caught up with me. That also happens with B2B content.”

The consumption of B2B content is closely linked to purchasing decisions

The NetLine report starts on a positive note, saying that in the seven years that this report has been produced, they have learned that “consumption of content is directly related to future investment. [It] leads directly to investments in the next 12 months. The more your audience consumes, the more likely they are to make a purchase decision.”

In addition to the 12-month purchase intent cited by 33% of respondents, 18.8% say they plan to “make additional investments within the next six months”.

Based on this data, Strong advises B2B entrepreneurs to use the NetLine study as a benchmark and “look closely at their downloads”. Since it’s already Q2, he says, about 20% of the people who downloaded your offerings are likely to make a purchase decision before the end of the year.

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The size of the B2B content consumed indicates the intent to purchase

Strong says the report offers clues so you can “figure out what content indicates registrants are close to a decision.” The NetLine report says there is a “clear correlation between a user’s choice

size and their willingness to buy. The “content formats more likely to be associated with instant purchase decisions” include:

  • Test software
  • Survey reports
  • Best Practices
  • Special Reports
  • Manuals
  • white papers
  • Webinars (live and on demand)

Signing up for a webinar is a clear indication of intent to buy, according to the NetLine report:

  • Users who register for live webinars are 22% more likely to be associated with a purchase decision within the next three months.
  • Users who register for on-demand webinars are 50% more likely to invest within the next six months than users who choose other formats.

Plus, says NetLine, “White paper registrations continue to be a great indicator that a user is in the late stages of a purchasing decision.” And it adds that while newsletters were not in the top 10 content formats, “newsletter signups increased a whopping 307.2% year-over-year. It is clear that this format is becoming increasingly popular across the board.”

NetLine says that newsletters “specifically offer added value (ie simplicity, email access and audience data) that other content formats cannot currently match. See if this figure continues to rise as more creators turn to the format.

There are also content formats that are less likely to be associated with an immediate buying decision. Some of these may surprise you.

  • Courses
  • Tips and tricks
  • reports
  • Guides
  • Control lists
  • Trend Reports
  • cheat sheets

But Strong warns that just because a particular content format doesn’t lead to an immediate purchase decision, some of these formats are “probably feeding the top-of-funnel. B2B marketing leaders must invest in the full cycle of content that attracts, converts and retains customers. If the content in the ‘attract’ categories dries up, eventually the number of prospects in the ‘convert’ stage will also dry up.”

Popular B2B Topics

The 10 topics that attracted the most customers:

  1. 33.1% Information Technology (IT)
  2. 8.2% Marketing
  3. 7.6%. Human Resources
  4. 7.4% Finance
  5. 6.6% operations
  6. 6.0% management
  7. 4.8% turnover
  8. 4.2% production
  9. 3.8% Healthcare and medical
  10. 2.8% Engineering

The consumption gap

NetLine defines the “consumption gap” as “the time between when content is requested and when it is opened for consumption.” And, it says, “After consecutive years of increased consumption times, consumption times in 2022 have decreased significantly. That is a very good thing.”

Last year, the consumption gap “collapsed” by 4.6 hours, from 33.3 hours to 28.7 hours – an improvement of 13.8%, mimicking the pre-pandemic years. In 2021, during the pandemic, the consumption gap was the longest on record. But the consumption gap of 28.7 hours in 2022 is close to the 28.5 hours in 2019.

Interest in small businesses is on the rise

C-suite level consumers of companies with 100 employees or fewer were requesting 96% more content in 2022 than in 2021. NetLine advises companies looking to find more B2B customers to:

  1. Find their niche.
  2. Understand what customers are most interested in.
  3. Be ready to execute.

If you do, it says, you’ll probably find it [segment] of the market ready to buy now.

About the author

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBusinessCurrents.com and has been dealing with small businesses and entrepreneurship for over 30 years. Get a better understanding of business trends by signing up for her free currents newsletter.

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