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B2B Content Consumption is “Directly Correlated” with Intent to Buy

Image via DALL-E, “a diverse group of professional men and women, dressed in business attire, eating pages from various reports, articles and white papers in the style of van Gogh”

A study including behavioral data and a poll of 38,000 B2B professionals finds the more B2B content your “audience consumes, the more likely they are to be closing in on a purchase decision.”

B2B content and buyer intent are two of the hottest topics in B2B marketing – and a new study offers some details as to how these are linked.

NetLine captured behavioral data from some 5.4 million B2B professionals that downloaded and engaged content on its syndication and leadgen platform. In the process of downloading content, the company also polled 38,000 respondents to ask about the buying process throughout 2022.

As a side note, it’s worth noting NetLine is owned by the UK-based publisher Informa, which also owns the Content Marketing Institute.

Here are three findings from the report that stood out to me.

1. B2B content consumption continues to grow

Despite concerns over “content shock” and content fatigue, demand for B2B content continues to grow. The NetLine study says content consumption grew about 19% in 2022. Overall, demand for content is up a whopping 55% since 2019.

NetLine is able to break out this consumption by some 400 “distinct job functions.” This provides some detail about who specifically is consuming this greater volume of content, including the following:

  • 69% increase in content consumption among business professionals;
  • 37% increase in content consumption among human resources (HR);
  • 15% increase in content consumption among executives; and
  • 7% increase in content consumption among c-suite leaders.

Regular readers know this blog has covered many studies over the years (i.e. here, here, here, and here) that all continue to find B2B buyers are consuming ever more content.

Why do we need more content?

I have a few observations.

First, a lot of content in B2B is weak. It’s written to please executives rather than to connect with buyers. It’s really hard to argue their salesy approach to content isn’t going to land with prospects, so you have to let the content fail in order to create a learning opportunity.

Second, content goes stale. Things change faster and faster, so new content has to be developed to stay fresh. Consistency of matters more than frequency.

Third, not everyone learns the same way. When I was in grade school, I struggled to understand Algebra, and I slid by with a C. The next year I had a new teacher who explained things in a different way, and it clicked for me and got me caught up. That happens with B2B content too.

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Demand for B2B content continues to grow. The NetLine study says content consumption grew about 19% in 2022. Overall, demand for content is up a whopping 55% since 2019.

2. B2B content consumption is tightly linked to purchase decisions.

“In the seven years we’ve been producing this report, there are a handful of things we’ve learned,” NetLine wrote in the introduction. First among them is that “content consumption is directly correlated with future investment.”

Study: “The more your audience consumes, the more likely they are to be closing in on a purchase decision.”Click To Tweet

When you get to the section in the report that elaborates, NetLine makes a stronger statement:

“Content consumption is directly driving investments within the next 12 months,” according to the study. The more your audience consumes, the more likely they are to be closing in on a purchase decision.”

There are a whole bunch of pundits that say the reason content consumption has gone up, is that people justify their decisions after the fact. The NetLine study challenges that viewpoint.

About one-third (33%) of the 38,000 respondents that answered the survey questions – as they were downloading content – said they planned to make a purchase decision within the next 12 months.

That’s a pretty incredible statistic, but it gets better: nearly one in five (19%) said “they were looking to make additional investments within the next six months.”

It’s Q2 right now – so take a good look at your downloads. If this study is a benchmark, and it seems robust enough to merit that label, then ~20% of them aim to make a decision before the year is closed out.

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About one-third (33%) of the 38,000 respondents that answered the survey questions – as they were downloading content – said they planned to make a purchase decision within the next 12 months. That’s a pretty incredible statistic, but it gets better: nearly one in five (19%) said “they were looking to make additional investments within the next six months.”

3. The format of the B2B content being consumed signals intent to purchase

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if marketing could figure out which content registrants were close to a decision?  The study offers some clues.

NetLine says there is a “clear connection between a user’s choice in [content] format and their readiness to buy.”

More specifically, “content formats more likely associated with immediate buying decision” include:

  • software trials (i.e. product led growth/PLG);
  • survey reports;
  • best practices;
  • special reports;
  • how-to-guides;
  • white papers; and
  • webinars (both live and on-demand).

Further, the study says:

“Users registering for live webinars are 22% more likely to be correlated with a purchase decision within the next three months.”

And:

“Users registering for on-demand webinars are 50% more likely to make an investment within the next six months compared to other formats.”

Finally,

“White paper registrations remain a tremendous indication that a user is in a late stage of a purchasing decision.”

The study also found there are certain “content formats less likely associated with an immediate buying decision.” These include the following:

  • courses;
  • tips and tricks;
  • reports;
  • guides;
  • check lists;
  • trend reports; and
  • cheat sheet.

I’d add a word of caution that formats that aren’t tied to an “immediate buying decision” are probably fueling top-of-funnel. B2B marketing leaders have to invest in the full cycle of content that attracts, converts and retains customers. If the content in the “attract” categories dries up, so too will the number of prospects in the “convert” phase eventually.

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NetLine says there is a “clear connection between a user’s choice in [content] format and their readiness to buy.” More specifically, “content formats more likely associated with immediate buying decision” include: software trials (i.e. product led growth/PLG); survey reports; best practices; special reports; how-to-guides; white papers; and Webinars (both live and on-demand).

* * *

There’s a lot more detail in the full report that’s worth a read. It is available for download with registration here: 2023 B2B Content Consumption Report.

>>> Looking for help with B2B marketing and PR? I’m a seasoned consultant that can both bring big ideas and execute; I’d be glad to speak with you about your needs. Here are some useful links: about, backstory, services and contact.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
It’s the Subscribed Audience! B2B Marketers are Missing the Point of Content Marketing

Image via DALL-E, “a diverse group of professional men and women, dressed in business attire, eating pages from various reports, articles and white papers in the style of van Gogh

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