An overwhelming 91% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers use content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
Businesses produce content online to engage potential customers, who increasingly read and refer to online content as part of their purchasing process.
Clutch surveyed more than 380 employees who have read business content online in the past week. In this report, we refer to our respondents as "B2B audiences."
The survey found that most B2B audiences frequently encounter business content through search engines and social media.
In addition, B2B audiences read business content to stay informed about industry trends. Depending on the topic and type of content, however, many look to online content to research a company and make decisions about whether to purchase its products or services.
Overall, our findings underscore the importance of strong content marketing and SEO services for businesses that want to engage customers who are interested in business-related content.
Businesses can use this report to understand how B2B audiences interact with business content online. With this understanding, they can better design their content and SEO strategies to engage potential customers at opportune moments.
- B2B audiences most recently consume content about technology (45%), ahead of content about small businesses (24%) or workplace/personnel (21%).
- One-third (33%) of B2B audiences read blogs or articles about business-related topics. One-fourth (25%) read reviews most often.
- B2B audiences most frequently encounter business-related content through search engines (87%) and social media (85%).
- Audiences consume business content to stay informed about business and industry trends (45%) the most. They also consume B2B content to research a company’s products (19%) and decide about whether to purchase a company’s products or services (20%).
- An overwhelming majority of B2B audiences (88%) consume business-related content online at least once a week.
Technology Is the Most Common Online Content Topic for B2B Audiences
The most recent online business content that B2B audiences read was most likely about technology.
The number of respondents who read business content online about technology (45%) nearly doubles the number who read content about small businesses (24%).
Fewer read content on workplace/personnel (20%) and marketing (12%) topics.
Technology impacts most B2B audiences, regardless of their job or industry, said Brian Carter, CEO of the Brian Carter Group, a digital marketing agency.
“Technology is more relevant as a topic than small business — everybody needs technology,” Carter said. “When you write stuff that’s more relevant to everybody, you’re going to get a wider audience and more interest.”
Content about small businesses, workplace, or marketing, on the other hand, may only be relevant to those who work in or are familiar with those industry segments.
B2B Audiences Mainly Consume Blogs and Articles About Business Topics
Business audiences mainly consume online content in traditional article format. However, they also read content specifically formatted to help them research companies and determine the value of their products.
B2B audiences are most likely to consume online business-related content in a blog or article (33%).
The abundance of blogs and articles online is one reason they are so popular among B2B audiences. According to TrackMaven, the number of blogs companies published increased over 800% from 2011-2016. This high number of blogs makes it easy for audiences to find their content of interest.
B2B audiences also seek online content that informs them about a specific company’s products or services through reviews (25%) and product descriptions (16%).
Businesses can respond to diverse B2B audience preferences by creating a broad content portfolio. Mike Theodore, digital marketing manager for Digital Third Coast, an internet marketing and SEO company in Chicago, said a diversity of content can accomplish a broad set of goals for a business.
“We produce a wide range of content, whether it be social media or content for our own website,” Theodore said. “The goal is to drive organic traffic to our company and service offerings, to be seen and heard as industry leaders, and to build a level of credibility with prospective employees, clients, and strategic partners.”
If your business produces content in the formats B2B audiences favor, you have the ability to engage with and make a positive impression on multiple target audience groups, including clients, employees, and industry peers.
B2B Audiences Encounter Business Content Through Search Engines and Social Media
B2B audiences find business-related content using the 2 of the 3 most popular websites in the world, Google and Facebook.
An overwhelming majority of B2B audiences frequently encounter business content through search engines (87%) and social media (85%).
The amount of people who encounter content through search and social media supports existing industry research and illustrates how important it is for businesses to have and maintain a visible brand presence on each channel.
Since Google and Facebook alone influence approximately three-fourths of internet traffic, achieving visibility on these channels provides an opportunity for brand exposure.
Audiences With Higher Purchasing Intent Encounter Content Through Company Websites
B2B content readers also commonly depend on company websites to read business content. Three-fourths (75%) frequently engage with business content on company websites.
This group tends to be more intent on purchasing a company's products or services, Carter said. B2B buyers today do not blindly purchase products or services. Instead, they read content about products or services before making a purchasing decision.
“Can you imagine B2B purchasers not reading a company's website at some point before buying from it?” Carter said.
This finding demonstrates that B2B search audiences are willing to engage with content on company websites.
B2B audiences, however, need to be able to find a company’s content in order to engage with it. To do this, companies need to invest in SEO.
SEO Services Help Businesses Engage B2B Audiences
To drive B2B audiences to your business’s content — whether through search, social media, or your company's website — your company needs strong SEO services.
This is particularly important given the role of search engines in the B2B buying process: 89% of B2B buyers begin their purchasing process through search, according to Google’s own metrics.
This data matches our finding that 87% of B2B audiences encounter business content through search engines and emphasizes the importance of having your site appear for search terms that relate to your business.
Comprehensive and effective SEO increases the chances that readers encounter your site when they search terms relevant to your business or industry.
To accomplish this, one SEO service that your business can invest in is producing high-quality content that addresses your target customers’ concerns and needs.
Kim Moutsos, vice president of editorial for the Content Marketing Institute, a content marketing strategy and research firm, said this process emphasizes not only optimizing content for keywords relevant to your target audience, but optimizing for your audience itself.
"SEO remains an important way for B2B audiences to find content," Moutsos said. "Don’t forget, though, that it involves optimizing content not just for search engines, but also for the people behind the queries."
"Don’t forget that SEO involves optimizing content not just for search engines, but also for the people behind the queries." – Kim Moutsos, Content Marketing Institute.
If your company can effectively optimize for its audience by producing high-quality content that speaks directly to their concerns, you can create long-term value for your company by sparking a positive SEO feedback cycle.
Specifically, high-quality content attracts readers to your site, keeps them on your site and makes them more likely to share your content. This, in turn, improves your SEO, which makes it more likely that searchers encounter your content when they search terms relevant to your business.
Audiences Read Business Content Online to Study Industry Trends, Research Companies, and Make Purchasing Decisions
B2B audiences primarily read online business content to stay informed.
Nearly half (45%) say their primary reason for reading business-related content online is to stay informed about business and industry trends, more than twice as much as any other reason.
The remaining respondents read business content online with more purchasing intent: to further research products or services that can help their company (19%) or to decide whether to purchase products or services from a company (20%).
B2B audiences’ reasons for consuming business content online reflects their stage in the conversion funnel.
At each stage of the funnel – awareness, interest, decision, and action – B2B audiences consume the type of content that corresponds to their level of buying intent.
Businesses that want to engage B2B audiences through producing content can use the conversion funnel to identify "buyer personas" to target at each stage. Theodore, for example, uses personas associated with each stage of the conversion funnel to inform and design Digital Third Coast's content strategy.
"We’re very conscious of the content we produce for our clients based on their different stages of purchasing. We’re always conscious to write to the best 'persona.'"
Since each stage represents different buyer personas, to engage each, your business needs to produce different forms of content.
B2B Audiences in the "Awareness" Stage Read Blogs and Articles
B2B audiences who read content to either stay informed about business/industry trends (45%) or to learn more about how to approach a business challenge (16%) likely fit into the “awareness” stage of the conversion funnel.
Customers at this stage are interested in learning about an industry or general service, rather than the providers of that service.
Given their general level of interest, this group is more likely to consume the most general type of content: blogs and articles. Over 40% of respondents in this stage read blogs or articles about business content the most.
Businesses that want to engage customers at this stage need to produce blog content that discusses general business or industry topics.
Businesses can use this type of content for brand awareness among their target customers. Even if this sort of content is not solely focused on your products or services, it at least provides an opportunity to introduce your company and products to potential customers, said Lisa Shepherd, owner of The Mezzanine Group, a B2B marketing company based in Toronto.
“If content marketers can produce content that appears as a general business or industry trend piece, they have a much better shot of introducing their product, service or company to new prospects,” Shepherd said.
Even if it doesn’t guarantee conversion, introducing potential customers to your company and products is incredibly significant: How can they purchase your products if they don’t know who you are or what products you provide?
B2B Audiences in the “Interest” Stage Read Product Descriptions
B2B audiences’ content consumption habits change as they advance through the conversion funnel.
For example, those who read business content online to research a company’s products or services (19%) likely fit in the “interest” stage of the conversion funnel.
This group may have interest in your company but still wants to learn more about it before investing or making any sort of commitment.
As a result, they read product descriptions (28%) more than reviews (27%) and blogs or articles (18%).
B2B Audiences in the “Decision” and “Action” Stages Favor Reviews
B2B audiences who read content online to make a decision about whether to purchase products/services (20%) are at the “bottom” of the conversion funnel: the “decision” and “action” stages.
These individuals are close to making a final decision on whether their company needs a certain type of product or service and if they do, which provider is the best fit.
To find the best partner for their firms, this group reads reviews (32%) the most to compare service providers and determine which aligns the best with their needs, goals, and budget.
B2B Audiences Are Frequent Content Consumers
B2B audiences read business content online on a regular basis. Nearly all (88%) read business content at least once a week.
Theodore thinks that this number is possibly underreported. Because of the amount of content online, he thinks that audiences don’t always realize when they encounter about business or that is produced by a business.
"I think people are consuming so much content, whether it’s in their social or business lives, that they fail to realize the volume and the number of different sources," Theodore said. "It’s almost impossible for them to keep track of all that."
The frequency of which B2B audiences consume content also underscores how important it is for businesses to have strong SEO: Over 90% of audiences who consume content at least once a day encounter it through search engines.
Investing in SEO increases the chances that you are visible to this broad swath of business readers, which expands the potential customer base for B2B companies.
SEO can be especially impactful for audiences who consume content less often, who are more selective about the B2B content they read.
B2B audiences who consume business content less than once per week are the most likely to read product descriptions (24%) and reviews (31%). Because this group is likely toward the bottom of the conversion funnel, engaging them through your content can potentially lead to acquiring new customers.
B2B Audiences Engage With Business Content Online to Fit Their Purchasing Intent
B2B audiences read online business content that is easy to encounter and applies to their place in the conversion funnel.
Nearly twice as many B2B audiences consumed business content about technology than any other topic in the past week.
B2B audiences mostly read blogs or articles about business content to stay informed about industry trends. However, many also read product descriptions and reviews as part of their buying process.
Nearly all readers of online B2B content encounter it at least once per week, most frequently on search engines and social media. Many also encounter content on company websites.
B2B audiences’ content consumption habits make it clear that businesses need to produce high-quality content and invest in SEO in order to engage business audiences, which can ultimately lead to a sale.