2019 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report for Marketers

This is a guest post by David Fortino, SVP of Product & Audience at Netline.

Every year, we dig into our vast repository of content consumption data. A product of billions of buyer-oriented content recommendations, across 300+ industries, we analyzed four million downloads and consolidated that data in a way that has real meaning for B2B marketers.

While we all enjoy the occasional survey of other marketers, these reports tend to lack prescriptive powers of data-backed research. The 2019 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report articulates meaningful insights that can impact downstream ROI on a content marketing strategy.

NetLine is uniquely positioned to serve up this report annually—as a wholly owned and operated platform, the data is exclusively first-party and has been provided by in-market professionals actively consuming content across our 15,000+ web properties.

So, let’s start digging, shall we?

What’s Inside: By the People

Lest the prospect of 17 pages of data feel kind of intimidating, we design the report to appeal to the marketer’s keen visual sensibility and preference for context. (We’re marketers, so we totally get it.) We did all the heavy lifting and interpreted the value behind statistics like, how long it takes for users to return for additional content, or how many hours pass between content request and actual consumption?

On that same note, we’ve found an interesting negative correlation between return activity and initial engagement. This chart depicts the increase in the number of days before users returned for additional content. Clearly this is on the rise and paints an interesting picture when paired with Consumption Gap.

 

Consumption Gap is our term for the measurement of time between when a user requests a download and when he or she actually consumes the content they receive. We focus on this stat year to year, particularly by job level, to evaluate the appetite and prescribe a realistic window of time before sales follow-up. We all know how awkward it can be to receive an email or phone call asking how we enjoyed “XYZ eBook” when…yeah…didn’t open it yet.

 

For the eager salesperson, the minimum wait time we can suggest, based upon data, is at least 24 hours before outreach.

Overall, every job level saw an improvement in that window of time which is very exciting for marketers looking to accelerate pipeline. Combined with the days between content requests, we can propose a few theories:

  1. Marketers are becoming increasingly savvy with their targeting and filters on their campaigns, reaching more precise, engaged audiences that are receptive to their messaging.
  2. Marketers are developing content that speaks more clearly to the buyer’s journey and optimizing titles, formats, and flow to cater to busy professionals.
  3. Professionals are becoming more discerning “content customers” and only downloading that which they believe will most expeditiously solve a problem or answer a question. With that, they’re more satisfied with less points of engagement.

Every year, we focus some attention on C-Suite behavior; this is usually of particular interest to marketers whose ambition is to capture engagement of prospects with the most buying authority. Historically, C-level employees tend to take the longest amount of time to consume content they request. And from that, we assume bandwidth and other concerns get in the way. From this data, we typically recommend marketers focus on lower-level employees who are showing high engagement, bandwidth, and scale of audience size. However, this year was quite different.

C-Level saw an 11% improvement in Consumption Gap, taking an average of 29 hours to jump into content. Executive VPs showed a 25% improvement clocking in just under the 24-hour mark. In a reversal, perhaps thanks to our influential 2018 Report (we can dream), Managers and Senior Managers showed an increase in time to consume requested content. It’s possible that marketers shifted their strategy heavily towards positions lower in the org chart who then became inundated with content and lost bandwidth. Again, simply speculation in that regard as the 2018 Report made strong recommendations towards Manager targeting.

Regardless the explanation, the overall narrative to emerge from this data is clear: gone are the days of quantity over quality. Many B2B marketers recall the days of flooding the web for backlinks and keywords and have since applied an SEO mindset to long-form content. Those days are over as professionals become more discerning and as marketers roll out more sophisticated content that’s aligned to personas and stages of the buyer’s journey. The competition have upped their game.

What’s Inside: By the Company

For more theorizing about what C-Suite are up to when it comes to content, we turn to company level insights. An interesting bit of data to emerge reveals that a large cross-section of the audience identifying as C-Level are from companies with less than 100 employees.

 

This suggests a few considerations for marketers to take under advisement when targeting their campaigns. As one can generally assume, company size and company revenue are positively correlated. Reaching a C-Level executive may sound thrilling for those wishing to bypass a buying committee, but marketers should consider their product or service against potential needs of their business. Will a small business need or have budget for enterprise software? Conversely, for those whose products or services or either ubiquitous or in-budget for smaller companies, the vast amount of C-Level at smaller size orgs bodes extremely well for accelerating pipeline.

What’s Inside: By the Industry

As an industry-agnostic platform, our reach helps target over 300 industries and sub-industries. Of those industries, the top 10 include:

  1. High Tech
  2. Education
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Retail
  5. Software
  6. Financial Services
  7. Medical, Pharma, Biotech
  8. Hospital, Clinics, Doctors’ Offices
  9. Advertising/Marketing/PR
  10. Government/Federal

This diversity in industries creates more cross-sections of data to evaluate against other filters. For example, we compiled a breakdown of job areas and sub-industries which are generally secondary filters on campaigns; the goal is to dig deeper into the concerns and needs of the audience in order to create content that speaks directly to them.

 

From the industry breakdown, we pose a few questions for marketers in the Report. A few examples of food for thought:

  • Are professionals in some industries more inclined to conduct research?
  • Do some industries require certifications or training on products?
  • Can your solution or product span industries?

Based on your brand, some of these questions have inflexible answers; but for those who can be creative with targeting, these insights can help with developing content that speaks directly to an individuals’ interests or areas of concern.

What’s Inside: Trending Content

In the Report, we provide a glimpse of the words that made up the top 100 downloads. Popular content types included eBook, Whitepaper, and Guides. Some title tips include the “listification” of content such that it’s faster and more organized to read.

Examples include numbered lists like “10 Tips to Improve” or “How to” oriented content. This has become a well-known structure that marketers and their audiences have come to prefer; simpler to create than essay-style content while making it a quick read for busy professionals.

The Report also dives into the Executive VP audience which showed one of the largest improvements in Consumption Gap (25%). When considering “Why did this job level see such improvement?” we turned to the content itself to see if there was a recipe worth replicating and much of the top content reflected the overall trend shift towards listicles, how-to, and career development content. More on that is inside the Report.

Humanizing B2B to Engage Buyers

When talking “buyer engagement” it’s easy to reduce the human on the other end as being nothing more than a financial objective. To avoid making content too algorithmic and contrived, we suggest balancing with the more B2C side of content.

Our audience data goes beyond data captured from downloads. The Report provides perspective on what types of people make up our vast audience. So no, these are not professional attributes, rather things that interest people outside of work, such as:

  • Sports & Fitness
  • Green Living
  • Technology
  • Media and Entertainment

This list proves the obvious overlap in professional and personal search behavior as much of our top content focused on technology or mindfulness and productivity. By weaving in themes that speak to authentic personas beyond the workplace, marketers can entice prospects to take interest in ways that resonate more deeply.

Why does NetLine give away so much of this info?

While we do feel altruistic in divulging so much of our precious data, the notion of sharing this data supports our overall approach to content marketing and lead generation technology:  all marketers should be able to give their content a voice. We often say we’re “democratizing lead gen” because our platform helps marketers drive a content-centric lead generation strategy on their own terms. Paying only for leads that fit campaign criteria, marketers can customize filters and upload virtually any form of content to engage with the right in-market buyers.

From that activity, we’re able to provide unrivaled data to help marketers do even more with their content and drive pipeline for their businesses. Unlike many companies that harvest user activities for their own good, we put it back into marketers’ hands for their own benefit.

To get your free copy of the 2019 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report, click here

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