What B2B Buyers Read Throughout their Path to Purchase

49% of B2B buyers rely more heavily on content to research and make purchase decisions than in years pastToday’s B2B buying decision makers are more pressed for time than ever before, so they are increasingly reliant on a diversity of content throughout their buying journey. In the most recent Demand Gen Content Preferences Survey Report that polled roughly 170 C-suite, VP and director-level B2B marketing representatives across multiple verticals, nearly half (49%) said they rely more heavily on content to research and make purchase decisions than in years past.

While buyers have a growing affinity for content, the survey also reveals that they don’t want brevity for the sake of it. Rather, they want prescriptive content that helps reduce the time of their decision-making journey. And that timeframe continues to become shorter. The same study found that buyers now spend five minutes or less reviewing the majority of content formats. This means that buyers are looking for informative content at their fingertips that doesn’t require a heavy lift. And they have a range of preferences in the type of content they want to read (i.e. blogs, case studies, white papers, etc.), depending on the stage of their purchase journey – all of which needs to be accounted for in your marketing team’s content planning calendar.

Let’s break this down further into the different types of content that buyers consult during their path to purchase.

It’s All About Accessibility & Credibility: Blogs, Social & Podcasts in the Early Stages

It’s no surprise that blogs were cited as one of the most consumed content formats, especially in the early stages of a buying journey. An overwhelming 71%of respondents said that they consumed blog content at the beginning of the purchase process – an increase of more than 66% from the previous year.

This isn’t too surprising, as the majority of B2B blogs are typically 1) very accessible and consumable on any device, and 2) written by credible subject matter experts who have a deep understanding of the products and solutions that buyers want.

As for social content, the perception of being a trustworthy source of information is paramount, and the channel seen as the most credible for sharing business content by far is LinkedIn. Fifty-two percent of respondents agree. It’s almost surprising that the figure isn’t higher, but let’s discuss what is surprising: the rise of podcasts.

Between the seamless integration of your mobile device and your car, podcasts are experiencing a renaissance with B2B IT buyers due to the ubiquity of mobile devices. Nearly two thirds (64%) of surveyed buyers see the content as credible. With popular business podcasts like Dell’s Trailblazers Podcast, which covers business transformation, technology and insights, it’s easier than ever before to dial-in to trends at the beginning of the buying journey. In short, podcasts present far more than a single brand message, and that lends credibility to decision makers who need a diverse cross-section of industry perspectives before making a substantial purchase.

Webinars Win in the Middle; Case Studies, While Overlooked, Can Close the Deal

Webinars are highly effective as a lead nurturing tool in the mid and late stages of the buyer’s journey. Why? Because they tend to be more granular in illustrating the applied expertise of industry leaders that buyers are taking into consideration soon before making a purchasing decision. That level of detail typically includes everything from key product features, to examples of ROI from current and former customers.

It’s also one of the few forms of content that buyers will spend more than a few minutes of time with. In the Demand Gen study, more than a third (37%) of report respondents said they spend between 30-60 minutes with webinar content. That’s quite an investment for such time-pressed professionals, and by comparison, only 12% said they would invest as much time in third-party analyst reports. It all goes back to the theme of content credibility, and it’s clear that webinars win at the mid-stage of the buying journey. It also raises questions about gated versus ungated content.

Before making a decision, a buyer may choose to register for gated content. Up until this point in the journey, accessible and credible information is key, but with webinars, buyers are more willing to register their personal details, just as they do for white papers. Three-quarters of surveyed professionals said they would share more information for webinar content.

To close a deal, it’s all about how specific tactics can produce tangible business benefits and ROI, and the often-overlooked case study comes out on top here. LinkedIn conducted research on rethinking the B2B buyer’s journey, which found that case studies are quite effective at demonstrating ROI better than almost any other form of content, which is why buyers often turn to them in the late stages before making a purchase. In the Demand Gen Content study, they were ranked just behind ROI calculators.  

Final Thoughts- You Can’t Control Time, but you can Control How you Plan your Content throughout a buyer’s journey

Time constraints will only continue to overburden B2B IT buyers, but planning content that is shareable, informative and credible throughout the buying journey will potentially help buyers get to a decision sooner. It will also help teams decide on the content to include in marketing planning calendars for the year, tailored for the right stages of the purchasing path.

Want to improve your content calendar as we head into Q2? Download for our checklist to help you get ahead of the curve when planning your content strategy for the next quarter and year.