Last fall, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published the findings of their latest annual B2B content marketing survey. This eagerly-awaited research covers a wide range of issues pertaining to content marketing, including content marketing usage, the overall effectiveness of content marketing, what specific tactics and channels marketers are using for content marketing, and how marketers rate the effectiveness of each channel or tactic.
The 2016 edition of the survey generated 1,521 responses from B2B marketers in North America. By design, therefore, the CMI/MarketingProfs survey addresses content marketing from the marketer’s perspective, and it does not attempt to capture the attitudes or behaviors of B2B buyers regarding content consumption or content preferences. There are, however, several other firms that provide buyer-focused research. Three of the resources that I particularly like are the annual content preferences survey and the annual B2B buyer’s survey by DemandGen Report, and the annual B2B technology content survey by Eccolo Media.
Research like the survey by CMI/MarketingProfs is important because it provides insights on the “state of content marketing” from the perspective of B2B marketers. But it’s equally vital for marketers to understand how business buyers are using content to research purchase decisions and what types of content they prefer.
A new study by Blue Nile Research provides some interesting data points regarding the behaviors and content preferences of B2B buyers. The Blue Nile study is based on an online survey that produced 528 responses from individuals located in the United States. The survey respondents included both consumers and business buyers, but I’m focusing only on the findings that relate to B2B buyers.
Here are three of the major findings of the Blue Nile survey:
B2B Buyers Prefer “Hard” Information
When researching purchases, B2B buyers strongly prefer content that features data and statistics. When survey participants were asked what types of content in search results would make them most likely to click on a link, 46% of respondents said data and statistics, 18% said a blog post, 18% said video content, and 10% selected infographics. While this survey question specifically referred to content in search results, other research has shown that B2B buyers find content that includes strong supporting evidence to be particularly persuasive.
B2B Buyers are Multi-Channel Creatures
Seventy-six percent of B2B survey respondents said they use three or more channels to interact with a brand before making a purchase decision, and 26% of B2B respondents said they use five or more channels. This finding demonstrates the importance of providing high-quality content via multiple communication channels.
Search and Brand Websites are Preferred Research Channels
When survey participants were asked what channels they use when researching a purchase, eight out of ten B2B respondents chose online search and the brand’s website. These two channels were much more popular with respondents that the other choices included in the survey – customer reviews/case studies (54%), blog posts (25%), social (20%), and mobile (14%).
This finding suggests that social and mobile are still playing a relatively limited role in B2B buying. However, the authors of the Blue Nile study report point out that this question relates specifically to the research phase of the buying process and that the responses may not reflect how much social and mobile channels are used earlier in the buying process.
Image courtesy of Jorge Franganillo via Flickr CC.