The way B2B buyers consume content has changed significantly in the past two years. No surprise there. But fascinating new research quantifies those changes, and points the way forward for B2B content marketers.
Previous research detailed here found that:
- When live events first shut down in the spring of 2020, B2B marketers quickly shifted the majority of planned event budgets to online events and content development, followed distantly by search advertising and paid social media.
- IT purchasing budgets weren’t cut (generally) but were shifted different priorities, accommodating remote work and accelerating digital transformation initiatives.
- B2B tech buyers most highly value product demos, factual product information, and free trials. They hate excessive emails, particularly if not personalized to their needs.
- Faced with marketing budgets cuts, CMOs planned to spend less on live events (obviously) and online advertising, and relatively more on content marketing and online self-service.
- As marketing budgets are restored, marketers plan to spend more on marketing technology, particularly in areas like virtual event platforms, AI tools for marketing and sales, personalization, and chatbots.
- And finally, that “The tech spending outlook for 2022 is even more optimistic than it was coming into 2020 (before the pandemic),” which is great news for B2B marketers.
Now, a new report from PathFactory, the Content Engagement Report 2021, sheds more light on how B2B buyers are consuming content and how B2B marketers may want to adapt in 2022. Here are six key findings from the report.
Buyers are spending more time with content.
“Engagement times increased substantially in 2021, with average session time up by 46.6% and average view time by 62.6%.” Compared to 2020, last year saw more B2B buyers visiting vendor sites, more sessions, more pageviews, and more time spent per visit.
Clearly, with so many employees still working at least partially remotely, they are spending more of the time that they aren’t spending commuting or in (in-person) meetings researching vendor offerings and consuming business content.
Familiarity breeds intent.
Known visitors spent on average twice as long viewing content as unknown visitors. According to the report, that finding “shows the effectiveness of hyper-relevant, personalized content
experiences specifically tailored for different buying groups, as increased account visibility typically correlates with prospects moving deeper into the funnel.”
For B2B marketers, it means focusing on conversion rate optimization (CRO) in order to turn more anonymous visitors into known contacts, and continuing to create compelling content for all stages of the buying funnel.
Vendor content is attracting more visitors per account.
Per the report, “The average number of known visitors per account grew by thanks to increased focus on ABM.” It’s also indicative of the increasing size of corporate buying teams.
For marketers, that means making the business case, from multiple perspectives, is even more important today for web copy. It also means understanding the “known” prospects in your CRM or marketing automation system and customizing content based on role (as well as everything else you know about the individual).
Something old, something new…use metrics to drive content strategy.
B2B marketers are creating more content than ever before. Still, roughly a third of assets in the average organization’s content library is three-plus years old. The report authors speculate that this may indicate marketers aren’t removing or taking down old content which may be obsolete.
No doubt there is some of that happening. In most organizations, it’s simply not humanly possible to keep every piece of existing content up to date while also creating new assets.
But it may also reflect the value of “classic” content that Google loves and which is reasonably evergreen. Blog posts about marketing technology, for example, tend to have a limited shelf life, as technology evolves quickly. But posts about basic business concepts and strategy can remain fresh and timely for far longer.
It also points out the value of updating older posts where possible instead of just taking them down. One example is the continual updating of the web presence optimization (WPO) model.
Longer content rules.
In terms of content distribution, long-form content like presentation, guides, and white papers saw the biggest gains last year. The biggest drops were in short-form assets like brochures and data sheets.
On the plus side for marketers, this reflects the increasing time buyers are spending consuming content before making purchase decisions. On the down side, it can also mean longer sales cycles.
High-quality content is getting more expensive.
Like gas, groceries, and pretty much everything else, the cost of professionally produced content is rising. Here are key stats about four of the most popular types of B2B content, from the report:
- White papers account for 6.2% of content distribution (up 15% from 2020), cost $8,279 on average (+31.5% from 2020), and have an average view time of 6:18 (the longest view time of any content type in 2021).
- Articles account for 5% of content distribution (up 14%), cost $2,854 on average (+23.8%), and have an average view time of 2:04.
- Video is the most popular content type, accounting for 14.9% of content distribution (up 14%), with an average cost of $8,448 (the most expensive, and up 18 from 2020), and have an average view time of 2:22.
- Blog posts account for 12.8% of content distribution (up 1.5%), cost $1,959 on average (up <1%), and have an average view time of 3:02.
Those costs do look a bit high, and the report doesn’t detail how that data was collected. But the gist of the data—that high-quality content is costly and getting more so—is inescapable. The best practice for marketers is to repurpose content wherever possible: turning videos into podcasts, mining white papers for blog content, and combing edited blog posts into eBooks.
The six findings above barely scratch the surface of the findings. Download the full report from PathFactory to get all of the details about trends in content distribution, consumption, and binging. For marketers, success lies in knowing your buyers, understanding their problems, and being able to articulate and develop compelling solutions.