How B2B Buyers Actually Consume Content

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Over the past fifteen years, content marketing has become one of the most widely-used techniques in B2B marketing. Today, virtually all B2B companies are using content marketing in some form. But ironically, the popularity of content marketing has made successful content marketing more difficult to achieve. As companies produce more and more content, the total volume of content available to potential buyers increases exponentially. And so does competition for buyer attention.

In this highly competitive environment, understanding how business buyers actually consume content is critical to success. The 2020 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report for Marketers by NetLine Corporation provides valuable insights on this important issue.

NetLine operates a content syndication platform, and this report is based on data about millions of content downloads that occurred on the NetLine platform in 2019. This research is particularly valuable for two reasons:

  1. It captures the actual content consumption behaviors of B2B business professionals. The data used for this report was not derived from a survey or interviews, but from real engagements with B2B content.
  2. The report is based on first party data. The business professionals who use the NetLine platform share information about themselves and the organizations they work for in exchange for access to the content resources provided by NetLine’s clients.

The study produced a wealth of information about content consumption behaviors, and I recommend that you download and review the full report. Here are a few of the report’s highlights.

The Best Times to Offer Content

NetLine found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays were the best days to reach B2B audiences in 2019. Together, these two days accounted for just over half of the days on which NetLine users requested content. It’s important to note, however, that Mondays and Thursdays accounted for 40% of the most active consumption days. So in reality, Friday is the only day that you should avoid.

Most Requested Content Formats

eBooks, white papers, and guides were the three most popular content formats in 2019. Collectively, these three types of content represented about 56% of the total content requests on the NetLine platform.

On-demand webinars were the eighth most frequently requested type of content on the NetLine platform in 2019, but this lower ranking does not accurately reflect the value of webinars as a marketing tool. The time required to consume webinars is likely the primary reason they were requested less frequently than other types of content. Most eBooks and white papers can be read – or at least scanned – in a few minutes, but viewing a webinar can require as much as an hour.

Webinars have been growing in popularity for the past several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a dramatic increase in their use this year. ON24 recently indicated that the number of webinars hosted on its webinar platform jumped by more than 330% in March. Given the widespread cancellation of trade shows, conferences, and other in-person B2B marketing events, 2020 will likely be a record-breaking year for webinar consumption.

Measuring the Consumption Gap

One of the most useful insights provided by the NetLine report relates to the consumption gap. NetLine defines the consumption gap as “the time between the moment content is requested and the moment it’s opened for consumption.” This data point is important because it should be used to guide the timing of follow up contacts with potential buyers. After all, it makes little sense to contact someone about a content resource they’ve requested before they’ve actually reviewed the resource.

NetLine found that the consumption gap for almost every job category in an executive or leadership role increased by 8%, on average, in 2019. This means that, on average, executives and other business leaders took 5.7 hours longer to open and consume the content they requested in 2019, compared to 2018.

The report also provides the absolute consumption gaps for fourteen job categories. In 2019, the five job categories with the longest consumption gaps were:

  1. Contractors – 44.2 hours
  2. Owner – 40.3 hours
  3. Consultant – 39.2 hours
  4. C-Level – 34.7 hours
  5. Senior Vice President – 27.6 hours

The average consumption gap for the remaining nine job categories was 23.7 hours in 2019.

The NetLine report also provides data about what job categories most actively requested content in 2019, and it breaks down some data by company size and industry vertical. As I indicated earlier, this research provides several valuable insights, and I recommend that you review the full report.

Image source:  NetLine Corporation


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