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Why content is more vital than you think

More B2B buyers are turning to free content produced by potential business partners to help inform purchasing decisions.

3 min read


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In 2020, giving is what it takes to receive. More B2B buyers are turning to free content produced by potential business partners to help inform purchasing decisions.

Two-thirds of respondents to the 2020 Content Preference Study say they rely more on content — white papers, blogs, infographics, etc — to drive their B2B purchases, than they did in 2019. Half said they read at least three pieces of content before ever speaking with a salesperson. For 30%, it was at least five pieces. The study, conducted by Demand Gen Report, doesn’t say why content plays such a key role in the B2B purchasing process, but SmartBrief Group Publisher Chris Warne has a theory. 

“With so much business conducted remotely, buyers are becoming more self reliant when it comes to educating themselves. They want to get reliable market intel before they are ever pitched for a product, especially when the decision requires a lot of research,” said Warne, who leads the Energy & Chemical publications at SmartBrief, a digital media publisher of targeted business news and information. “The Demand Gen Report results may actually underestimate the importance of custom content for 2021 because the survey was conducted in early spring of 2020, before the full extent of the Covid 19 pandemic was known.”  

Content comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, nearly half of the custom content created for SmartBrief clients in the first eight months of 2020 was either e-books or white papers, which are often used to generate fresh prospects and provide potential buyers with detailed analysis. The rest of the custom content produced by SmartBrief consisted of smaller pieces like executive Q&As and infographics. These shorter content formats, which are often used to position a firm as a thought leader, were preferred by 43% of those surveyed by Demand Gen Report.

Custom content pieces can be distributed across multiple channels, including direct marketing. For the energy sector, SmartBrief email campaigns featuring customized content had a 140% increase in response, compared to more transactional emails to the same audiences. Customized content advertising shared in SmartBrief’s Energy & Chemicals newsletters enjoyed 40% higher engagement rates than traditional advertising. 

Peer-to-peer sharing plays a key role in maximizing the ROI of custom content. Strong content pieces are often shared among industry peers, which is an increasingly popular way to gain market intel. It enhances trust in the content, and, by association, its author.  

Results like these explain why 70% of marketing managers surveyed by HubSpot for its Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2020 said they are actively investing in custom content in their campaign strategies. 

To learn more, download the interactive infographic.