2020 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand [Marketing Report]

B2B content consumption report for marketing
B2B content consumption report for marketing

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

Creating a report that has real meaning for B2B marketers is challenging. With trillions of data points and millions of quotable stats available within a few keystrokes or the tap of a finger, producing something of relevance and value gets harder every year.

Of course, this is easier to accomplish (and we mean easier, not easy) when you’re working with fully-permissioned, first-party data. NetLine just so happens to be uniquely positioned to serve up a report such as this. With this unparalleled first-party data, we’re proud to announce The 2020 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report.

By analyzing more than 4 million downloads, the 2020 Content Report reveals significant observations of the B2B buyer market, leading marketers to make more informed content marketing strategies with tangible downstream Marketing ROI. The data that we collect and interpret is exclusively first-party and has been provided by in-market professionals actively consuming content specific to their business and technical challenges, putting NetLine in a one-of-a-kind position to deliver this report annually.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Knowing when people consume your content after downloading it is critical to determining when to reach them with relevant offers.
  • Those who work in the IT industry consume the most content, given the sheer volume of change in the sector.
  • By nurturing more influencers within your organization, you’ll be able to build deeper connections with your audience and customers.

Now that I’ve set the table, let’s sink our teeth into some juicy insights.

By the People

Getting to know your audience means actually knowing which people you’re trying to reach. Having reliable first-party data makes accomplishing this task more predictable and much easier to achieve.

But reaching your target buyer is only half the battle. You need (and obviously want) your target to open and consume the content you’ve created. This time between a user’s request for content and when they actually consume the content is something we call The Consumption Gap.

In order to evaluate the appetite for content and prescribe a realistic window of time before sales follow-up, we track this stat year over year, particularly by job level.

B2B Marketing content consumption times

Beyond the Consumption Gap, we study how long it takes for users to request additional pieces of content. All in all, the average time between the first and second request was 19.4 days. 2019 saw Senior VPs, Individual Contributors, and Senior Employees all take less time between their second request, while Managers remained flat year over year. On the other hand, the C-Level and EVPs each saw a 16% increase in consumption time.

B2B Content Marketing Consumption Days and Job Level

Why is this data point valuable? Well, we all know how awkward it can be to receive an email or phone call asking how we enjoyed “The Guide to ABC” when we haven’t even opened it yet. This information should be more than useful for your sales team (and save them from what essentially amounts to a lukewarm cold call).

The C-Suite Gets Engaged

In 2018, we observed that the majority of C-Level users came from companies of between 1-20 employees. In 2019, the C-Level represented 16% of NetLine’s total audience, a 2% increase year over year. Of that 16%, the overwhelming majority came from organizations between the 1,001-5,000 org size, a big shift from the year prior.

While this is nearly a complete reversal of the trend from 2018, companies of 1,000 employees or less still represent 38.3% of all C-Level activity, although this flip might explain the rise in quality leads delivered in 2019.

B2B Content Marketing C-Level

Considering the C-Suite’s increased engagement with content, marketers must be aware of the fact that Executives are taking a greater interest in the topics impacting their business.

In addition to Executives being more interested and personally invested in content marketing, marketers must also be aware of an internal group inside of each company known as The Buying Committee.

This group, as identified and labeled by Gartner, is a group of up to 10 individuals within a company who have influence over key business decisions. The Buying Committee, along with the growing interest of the C-Level, highlights the need to have content which addresses the needs of multiple members of the organization at each stage of your content funnel.

Most Active Industries and Job Areas

By generating close to 800k leads through nearly 10k pieces of content across our platform, we have the ability to secure exclusive insights on the most active B2B industries. After reviewing all of our 2019 data, here are the 10 industries and sub-industries that consume content most actively:

  1. Information Technology
  2. Education
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Retail Information Technology – Software
  5. Financial Services
  6. Medical – Medical, Pharma, Biotech
  7. Hospitals – Hospital, Clinic, Doctor Offices
  8. Telecommunications
  9. Advertising/Marketing/PR

We also review which Job Areas are the most active, too. Given the sheer volume of change in their industry, we’re no longer surprised when we see IT at the top of any of our annual lists. Seeing Human Resources dominate the Job Areas by Job Level did, however, elicit a collective, “whoa”, from the team. This just goes to show that audience appetites and behaviors are ever-evolving, further emphasizing the need for content marketers to continue to do the same.

B2B Content Marketing Consumption Report Job Areas

When it comes to researching industry-based consumption trends for your own industry, we challenge marketers to ask three specific questions:

  • Which industries or niche audiences does your B2B product or solution target?
  • How active are the industry professionals you’re targeting in conducting research related to their profession?
  • Do some professionals require routine certifications or education on products/software?

Finding the answers to these questions can be made much simpler by using our proprietary real-time interactive buyer engagement tool, Audience Explorer. If you like what we’ve shared about the report thus far, you’re going to love Audience Explorer.

Trending Content

Let’s talk about some of the content specific trends we observed in 2019, how they’re translating to 2020, and where we believe it will evolve from here.

Combined, ebooks, whitepapers, and guides accounted for 56% of the total downloads last year. That’s not a huge surprise.

B2B Content Consumption by Format

What was a delightful surprise, however, was that webinars were in the Top 8 in terms of content requests. This is significant from our POV, as our partners at ON24 shared that 76% of marketers say that webinars allow them to drive more leads.

Add in the changes to business that have been brought about by COVID-19 and it shouldn’t surprise us that as of the end of April, our friends and partner ON24 shared with their customers that they have seen a massive upswing in webinar usage. As more and more B2B marketers have transitioned their in-person event strategies and other content pieces to webinar and video-based platforms.

Better Connecting with Our Audiences

The most successful content breaks down useful knowledge and sets clear expectations. The businesses who best combine these elements often find themselves breaking through the noise and reaching the buyers they can best serve.

So how do other businesses build meaningful connections with our audiences? Considering the length of B2B sales cycles, this is a crucial question in B2B.

What we’ve learned, both from the data we’ve published in the report and from our own experiences as consumers, is that buyers don’t want brands to be human. Instead, what they want is to engage with the humans behind the brands. This means that relationships play a major role in buying behaviors. Seeing that the best relationships are built on a 1-to-1, first-party scale, this certainly puts NetLine in a very sound position moving forward — one that B2B marketers should certainly pay attention to.

With the above in mind, it’s important to consider pivoting your campaign executions and focus towards the influencers, the diverse composite group of professionals within the buying committee, including Individual Contributors—that drive internal consensus and adoption. By building a deeper level of influence within the organization, you can effectively expand your knowledge footprint beyond senior leadership and target the professionals that actually advise them. This deeper influence will directly build greater credibility, an often underestimated attribute associated with the vendor selection process.

#ImADataMarketer (And You Can Be Too!)

Joking aside, we sincerely do mean that. Our approach to content-centric lead gen is one of democratization; that it should be available for every business regardless of budget.

With tools like Audience Explorer and our flagship Consumption and Demand Report, we do what we can to follow through on this promise to help you say, with confidence, #ImADataMarketer.

To get your free copy of the 2020 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report, click here.

David Fortino is the SVP of Audience and Product for NetLine Corporation. David is responsible for the strategic direction and management of NetLine’s audience, publisher, and client facing technologies, platform, and product development roadmap. Prior to NetLine, David served as Director of Audience and Business Development for VerticalNet.

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