April 14, 2022
A couple of years before the pandemic, Forrester Research came out with an alarming stat about B2B content that seemingly flew under the radar: More than 60% of B2B buyers can finalize selection criteria or vendor list solely on digital content.
This percentage has certainly grown since the pandemic forced everyone to digital channels and empowered the self-service consumer. All of which has led to a B2B e-commerce bonanza where marketing at the top of the funnel takes on a larger role while salespeople take on a lesser one.
Want more proof? Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company published an article, Busting the Five Biggest B2B E-Commerce Myths, which stated that two-thirds of corporate customers intentionally reach for digital or remote in-person engagement when given a choice. And they’re doing so at every stage of the purchasing journey.
B2B e-commerce isn’t just for selling simple widgets, either. More than one-third of corporate customers say they’re willing to spend $500,000 or more on a single transaction on digital channels, while 15% say they’re comfortable making purchases worth more than $1 million online. Configure-price-quote software helps self-service customers work through these complex purchases online.
There’s no question B2B e-commerce transactions are fueled by great content aimed at top-level executive buyers. The C-suite is full of content consumers. A hot-off-the-presses report from NetLine says C-level consumption rose nearly 16% from last year. Overall, B2B content consumption increased nearly 10%. According to FocusVision, as many as 13 pieces of content are required before a purchase decision is made.
Related: Check out CMO Council’s report NextGen Events: Optimized For Outcomes
Netline’s report goes deeper into the formats and style of content. When executives register for webinars, for instance, they’re nearly 30% more likely to make a purchase decision within six months. Here are the top 10 content formats: eBooks, tips and tricks guides, cheat sheets, white papers, guides, reports, research reports, articles, on-demand webinars, and live webcasts. (Oddly, B2B marketers continue to promote more white papers than eBooks.)
“B2B pros couldn’t get enough how-to guides, step-by-step walkthroughs, and 101 content for subject matter outside of their profession,” NetLine says.
Other B2B content trends from the NetLine report include a sharp rise in interest in lifestyle and career focused content; a need to shorten and simplify content without talking down to the audience; more patience and persistence from marketers in nurture programs.
“Marketers mistakenly believe that consumers are clamoring to engage with everything we do,” NetLine says.
Certain content formats also play better in different stages of the buyers journey. In an Intentsify blog post, Breaking Down the B2B Buyer Journey: How to Market to Each Stage, Stephanie Fornino connects content type with the three buying stages (i.e., awareness, consideration and decision).
During the awareness stage, content should be easily digestible and perhaps highly visual. In the consideration stage, gated content such as eBooks and white papers works well. Keep in mind marketing should refrain from overly promotional content in these two stages. For the critical decision stage, marketers should create case studies, testimonials, detailed vendor comparison guides, and product-centered white papers.
“At this [decision] stage, you can — and should — talk about your brand and product as much as you’d like!” Fornino says. “In fact, link your product or service to the solutions and challenges you’ve discussed in Stage 1 and Stage 2 content.”
The right executive-level content at the right buying stage can build toward a vendor shortlist, a call to a sales rep or even an e-commerce conversion. Given what’s at stake, getting B2B content right has to be a top marketing priority.
Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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