B2B Content Preferences

What B2B Buyers Love to Read (And What They Delete)

Ever open one of those “open immediately” envelopes you get in the mail from your internet provider, auto insurance company, or other service provider you’re already using?

Yeah, me too.

And you know what I see when I open it? Them trying to sell me a service I already pay for.

Seriously.

These are large companies with plenty of resources, and they still can’t figure out customer content targeting or how to effectively speak to me at my stage in the buyer’s journey. (I’m already a paying customer, people!)

And in the world of B2B content marketing, such faux pas will do a lot more than simply *frustrate* the reader. It’ll make them assume you’re incompetent and shouldn’t be trusted to fulfill their business needs.

Eliminate the Guesswork in Your B2B Content Strategy

Not sure what content to produce to meet the content consumption patterns of your audience? Demand Gen Report recently published its 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report, and it has a lot of juicy data we’re going to break down for you, so you know exactly what types of B2B content to deliver & when. The insights uncover the specific types of content B2B buyers are looking for when they start their journey at the top of the funnel, all the way through the middle and bottom of the funnel. (And be sure to read our 2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends post for even more details on the specific content your audience is craving.)

A Brief Recap: The Buyer’s Journey

As you know, before anyone becomes a customer in the B2B space, they typically go through a “buyer’s journey.” This means that for many B2B businesses, almost no one is going to become a paying customer the first time they visit your site… but if you do an intelligent job of delivering the right content at the right time, their probability of eventually becoming a customer will increase.

So here’s a recap of the main three stages of the buyer’s journey:

  • Tofu: Top of the Funnel – Think first time visitors and people who are hearing about you for the first time. The entire point of the content produced for this stage is to be delicious for them to read, and to get them to sign up for a free lead magnet or other opt-in, so you can nurture them to the next stage.
  • Mofu: Middle of the Funnel – These are people who already know who you are, and who’ve said they want to hear more from you. They are looking for specific guidance and may be ready to start a sales conversation. The more you communicate with them, the more ripe they become.
  • Bofu: Bottom of the Funnel – These people are ready for you to engage deeply with them in helping them to make a final decision. The kind of content you share here is more personalized and sales-focused.

Eliminate the Guesswork in Your B2B Content Strategy

Partner with us to repurpose your existing content, create attention-grabbing new content that converts, and optimize your content ROI.


Top-of-the-Funnel B2B Content Wins: Easy-to-Read & Sharable

The goal of the top of the funnel, in theory, is to get as many relevant people in as possible.

Which is why B2B buyer content at this stage in the funnel is all about satisfying the needs and desires of your prospects. And when you do it with bite-sized content that’s easy to share with others, you make your readers happy and bring even more people into the top of your funnel. (Win-win!)

When it comes to reader preferences, 71% say they like to read blog posts and 64% say they like to listen to podcasts at this early research stage…the kind of content that gives them a feel for what you’re about, without asking them to “commit” anything to you. Blogging may not be the shiny new object that the media is focused on these days, but it can still play a central role in a B2B content strategy delivering significant marketing ROI.

In another question in the survey, the same number of people (64%), said they found user-generated and third-party content more trustworthy. Think things like peer reviews, user-generated feedback, and analyses from third-part publications and research groups. It’s why you may want to incorporate this type of content into your own (like we are doing here).

B2B buyers love to share great content with their colleagues, as well, bringing more people into the top of your funnel. Here’s a list of what they like to share, broken down by percentage:

Content Sharing
Source: Demand Gen Report’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report

Middle-of-the-Funnel B2B Content Wins: Webinars Are Where It’s At

According to the survey results, 48% of respondents prefer listening to and watching webinars at the middle stage of their buyer’s journey – in fact, they named webinars as their number one choice for content at this stage of the funnel. Apparently, they see webinars more as a way to gather more detailed information, rather than a “dry run” or as a place to have a sales conversation.

We’d encourage you to work some webinars into this stage of your buyer’s journey, if you haven’t already. Because the really cool thing is that 75% of B2B buyers say they’re ready and willing to share more information to access webinar content. Information you can use to better customize the pieces of content you show them during & after the webinar, and to help you better-qualify them for the next stage of the funnel.

But if webinars aren’t your thing or if you already have an effective webinar program in place, consider packaging your content together based on customer needs. According to Demand Gen Report’s survey, “52% strongly agreed that packaging relevant content together would help expedite the research phase.”

And within those 52%, here’s how they’d like to see that content packaged to better-serve their experience:

  • By Industry: 64%
  • By Business Role: 52%
  • By Specific Vertical: 46%
  • By Organization Size: 18%
  • By Location: 14%

Think “start here” guides, content filters, self-selection by site visitors to choose which content they see, displaying relevant blog posts in the sidebar of each post, deeper topic-specific CTAs in blog posts, etc. You can read further about content packaging and personalization ideas in our post 5 Effective B2B Content Personalization Strategies.

Bottom-of-the-Funnel B2B Content Wins: Engage & Sell

According to the Demand Gen survey, the largest portion of respondents (40%) consume 3-5 pieces of content from a company before they get to the bottom of the funnel and are having a conversation with a sales representative.

In a basic form, that could look like reading a blog post, downloading your lead magnet, and attending a webinar.

Of course, everyone’s journey looks different, but the point is that after people have interacted with 3-5 pieces of your content, it’s time to start pointing them towards a purchase decision.

And for that, helping buyers understand the value of your services is key. A full 48% find ROI calculators to be the number one, most valuable form of content in the late stage of the buying process, with 40% similarly pointing to assessments as well.

In addition, third-party proof (like case studies) does a lot for convincing customers that your company is the one to go with. In fact, 79% of B2B buyers said they read case studies as a form of research while they were making a purchase decision, with 42% naming case studies as the number one, most valuable form of content in the late stage of the buying process.

But in addition to case studies, here are the other types of content pieces they used to help them make their decisions:

B2B Content to Make Purchase Decisions
Source: Demand Gen Report’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report

And with this purchase-decision content, a lot of times, the best rule of thumb is the meatier the better. The idea being that the more information you give, the more you can abate a reader’s doubts and assure them that what you’re selling is a smart investment.

So, a blog post written for people at the top of the funnel would be a lot different than one written for the bottom of the funnel. At the top of the funnel, blog posts are broader in nature, highly optimized for search, and geared towards easily-shared topics. Closer to the bottom of the funnel, they become more detailed, longer, and solutions-focused.

Conclusion: A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Fortunately, implementing Demand Gen Report’s findings into your own content strategy doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch or totally overhaul all the content you’ve already worked so hard on. Instead, you can use the results to guide you in fitting each piece into the appropriate place in the buyer’s journey, create awesome new content to fill in any gaps in the funnel, and create a more valuable experience for your readers.


Generate B2B Content that Converts

Eager to take your B2B content strategy to the next level? Give us a shout!