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B2B content marketing trendsCustomer content consumption patterns are changing. Marketers who understand those changes will be better positioned to retain customers’ attention and usher them toward conversions.

In an ongoing trend, the days between content requests are increasing, reveals an analysis of more than 4 million downloads. In other words, professionals are taking longer to come back to brands for more content, states the 2019 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report for Marketers from Netline Corp.

Professionals are inundated with content as brands recognize the power of content marketing and its advantages over other strategies. They have less time to return to brands for more information. They may be investing more time reviewing information from competitors. That means content needs to have impact with relevance, usefulness, and readability, the report states. Strong messaging and product differentiation are crucial.

The good news is that the consumption gap, the time between the moment customers request content and when they open it, decreased an average of 6% across all job levels over the past year. The decrease indicates marketers’ growing emphasis on quality content over quantity, according to Netline.

What can marketers do to usher prospects through the funnel and ultimately to purchases. Netline suggests:

Segment audiences for deep analysis. Understand what type of information audiences prefer by analyzing them by position, industry, company size and other factors. Research indicates that people in different positions prefer different types of content. Professionals in some industries may be less inclined to conduct research related to their profession. Executive vice presidents enjoy content with themes such as:

  • Top Interview Questions
  • How to Increase Profitability
  • Product-based Learning
  • Communication & Career Development/

Consider company size. Consider segmenting companies by size based on revenue or number of employees. CEOs at small and midsized businesses may have different needs than those at large corporations.

On-demand webinars. Consider on-demand webinars that address the different stages of the buyer’s journey and require less effort to consume.

Humanize data. Test a more humanized approach to content by integrating B2B concepts with relatable, lifestyle-oriented themes.

Content marketers know they need multiple touches with audience members to transform them into paying customers. Rarely do people hit the purchase button after reading a single blog post or white paper from a company. According to Google’s research, the average consumer needs 18 content touches before becoming a customer.

A Longer B2B Sales Cycle

An increase in time between content requests that the study reveals means that the B2B sales cycle is becoming longer. That’s an unfortunate trend for B2B marketers, says Chad Pollitt, co-founder of Relevance. To respond, marketers need to take content to prospects through content amplification, Pollitt writes in Social Media Today.

“We need to reach them where they hang out online, and do so in a non-interruptive format,” Pollitt asserts.

Powerful targeting capabilities of content amplification driven by artificial intelligence (AI) can help. AI allows content marketers to scale the native ad unit creative, such as headlines, images and copy, by creating many versions of ad creatives, and targeting the demographics and interests of audiences on multiple social media platforms and native ad networks simultaneously.

Understand Audiences to Provide Value

The B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute also cites the need to understand audiences as a key requirement for marketers. By understanding audiences, brands can deliver content they desire.

“In short, if you want your brand to be well-regarded by your audience, give it something valuable,” says CMI Research Director Lisa Murton Beets. “Be consistent. Be easy to find. Give your audience members content they want and need – when and where they’re looking for it. And make it about them, not you.”

Nurturing audiences will likely become even more important if the sales cycle lengthens. Most marketers favor email campaigns and educational content to nurture relationships. Those methods typically succeed, but paying attention to your audience’s changing preferences can help spot new opportunities. “Given the fierce competition in inboxes these days, you might consider experimenting with other channels, such as the blend of email and SMS messaging,” Beets says.

Bottom Line: Times between customer touchpoints are increasing; B2B prospects are taking longer to return to companies for more product information and other types of content. The trend indicates greater competition for customer attention and possibly a longer sales cycle. Marketers can encourage prospects through the buyer’s journey with a deep understanding of their needs and the type of content they desire.