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Content Marketing Minds: What Do B2B Buyers Really Want or Need?

Today’s article is about the finicky B2B buyer (not the Canadian Tuxedo). Apparently, there’s a discrepancy between what buyers say they want and what they really need in B2B markets. I hate to compare B2B buyers to toddlers, but it’s kind of like dealing with toddlers. Three-year-olds say they want candy, but what they really need is protein.

In the B2B world, the buyer says they want a glitzy, interactive video, but what they really need is a whitepaper.

According to a Demand Gen Report, 2014 B2B Content Preferences Survey, 78% of B2B buyers use whitepapers when researching their purchasing decision, compared to only 28% of buyers who used interactive presentations. However, buyers also declared video content is 50% more important to them than last year, and infographics 43% more important (8% to 58% and 9% to 52%, respectively).


Therein lies the discrepancy: the buyer is using whitepapers for decision making, but also saying they want to receive more interactive materials.

But Isn't “Interactive” the Next Big Buzzword? 

This news comes on the tails of many marketers squeaking and squawking that we need to create more captivating, visual, entertaining, and interactive content to flirt with buyers and move them into our sales funnel.

For instance, here is how Ion Interactive recently described the state of the modern marketing / buying ecosystems: “It all revolves around the theme of static content just not being enough anymore and how important it is to break through the clutter with innovative, INTERACTIVE, and engaging content (duh!).”

(And, oh yeah, that was me a couple of weeks ago doing the squawking.)

It also comes on the heels of other reports suggesting that marketers are fighting like cats and dogs for buyer’s attention as:

  • Attention spans shorten (studies shows that Americans actually have shorter attention spans than goldfish)

  • Content creation explodes

  • And “content marketing” becomes the common strategy that the most advanced marketing teams employ.

So what’s the confusion, and, realistically, what’s the solution?

Figure Out What Exactly Buyers Need.


In part, it can be said that the confusion lies in how the research phase of buyers is understood.

Buyers are convinced that they interact more frequently with fun, interactive content like infographics, or interactive features. Research supports this belief, and some studies have shown interactive content is twice as powerful at static content at converting leads. 

These findings aren’t surprising. Buyers are humans. They like to engage with fun stuff on the web. Who can blame them? Fun stuff is fun!

But then why are buyers ALSO pointing to whitepapers as the most important content when researching purchasing decisions like this study found? Because the line is blurred. Buyers can’t necessarily tell what part of their day was influenced by marketing.

When making decisions on behalf of their business, buyers need to be able to point to well-researched, relevant content that helped them come to those decisions. But really, much of their day is spent in a more lackadaisical “research” mode: reading, clicking, social media-ing…(what did they call in in the 90s...”surfing?”)... the web. It’s during this time that marketers vie for the buyer’s attention. And the more visually engaging or downright interesting the content is, the more likely the company will win over the buyer’s attention.

Now of course, from the buyer’s perspective, maybe they didn’t officially start “researching” until the content became bland, data-heavy, and whitepaper-y.

But from the marketer’s perspective, we’ve been milking that lead for months. We look into modern marketing analytics tools like content scoring (a tool that tracks every piece of content a buyer has interacted with along their buyer’s journey) and have proof that the buyer has really known your company for some time. Their research mode, while not declared outright, really started with the first engagement with the infographic.

Nate Purpura, director of content marketing at eHealth.com, agrees it has to do with where your buyers are at in the sales funnel. “The right headline item from your white paper, delivered to the right audience at the right time, ultimately drives people to dig deeper,” he says. “And that is where a whitepaper wins over an infographic or a video."  

Solution: Create Both Professional Stuff and Engaging Stuff.

So the buyer likes the interactive stuff, but needs the more professional whitepaper stuff to justify his business decision. So what’s more important to build? A glamorous interactive infographic that rivals Wes Anderson for best new flick? Or a data-heavy whitepaper that creatives cringe at?

The answer is likely BOTH. Marketers must give buyers both what they want and what they need.

We need to create fun and engaging content that seduces buyers to our products and services, and then nurture them with progressively product-centric content to empower them as decision makers. With lead scoring, email nurturing software, and a whole heck of a lot of content, this process is a very natural occurrence, leaving the buyer feeling like he or she is empowered and knowledgable.

The Studies I Referenced for this Article

Do You Have Both Dull and Glam Content?

And if you have one more moment, here’s a great little thing: This is an online tool that gives content marketers a free “content audit” by crawling the entire web space. Use it to discover if your content needs are met.

Thanks for reading.

Please comment and share this post, or write directly to me: @Jeanwrites

Content Marketing Minds is a Social Media Today column that appears every other Monday.

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