The State of B2B Buyer Preferences in 2024:
The Great Content Marketing Disconnect
How we conducted this survey
Scribewise surveyed 123 B2B marketing leaders and 204 B2B buyers and budget owners in a double blind study. Our goal was to identify the most effective sales and marketing efforts in a changing B2B landscape. The margin of error for this study is +/- 6% with a 95% confidence level.
It’s no secret that B2B buyers are in charge of the buyer-seller relationship, and in 2024, they are asserting more control over that relationship.
They gather information when and where they want to.
They compare solutions through a lens of their choosing.
They decide what matters and what doesn’t.
The best marketers understand this reality and cater to the way buyers think. But with more than enough on their plates, many in-house marketers lose sight of evolving buyer behaviors.
This is creating a growing disconnect between their strategies and how buyers buy, leading to diminished success.
What worked before doesn’t work as well anymore, but many are still running the old playbook, often because of a lack of time, education, buy-in or resources.
To better understand where B2B marketers are hitting (or missing) the mark, we surveyed marketing leaders and B2B buyers from various industries to identify what’s working.
In this report, we identify evolving attitudes among B2B buyers that B2B marketers must be aware of to help their organizations succeed. Read on to learn more about current trends and how you can use your content marketing to connect (or reconnect) with your buyer.
Where Marketers Focus Their Efforts
There are a hundred different ways you can engage your buyers—with short videos, long-form webinars, designed social media posts, interactive infographics (or Story Streams, as we like to call them) and traditional written content.
When we asked marketers what forms of content they were producing most, written content dominated, with video following closely behind.
The amount of written content produced every year seems high, especially since most internal content marketers agree it isn’t how much content you’re producing but how effective that content is. If your content isn’t influencing buyer decision-making, it’s mostly wasted effort.
Buyers agree, saying they prefer quality content over quantity. While marketers understand this, they’re still not making the shift.
Why? It might be because they’re still busy answering these questions:
- What are our customers looking for?
- How can we help them?
- What content should we create?
- How should we deliver this content to our customers?
As marketers, it’s our job to know these evolving answers and to reset how we’re doing our jobs.
Where should you start? Let’s dive in.
The Big Debate: Written Content or Video?
We all know video content can be more engaging than written content. Of course, it depends on how you use it. Short, bite-sized videos work best for generating awareness with top-of-funnel prospects who you want to gain a greater understanding of your business. Longer-form videos or webinars help convert your qualified, bottom-of-funnel leads.
Whitepapers and eBooks can also convert, but when 56 percent of buyers feel overwhelmed by all of the content available to them, do they still read long-form content?
Yes, but our survey shows that marketers are putting too much emphasis on whitepapers and eBooks.
While 86 percent of marketers prioritize whitepapers in their marketing strategy, only 27 percent of buyers find them as helpful when compared to other formats like webinars, interactive content, case studies, infographics and videos.
And while the majority of B2B content is still written, 50 percent of buyers prefer video over written content like whitepapers. In fact, according to buyers, webinars, videos and interactive content are among the most helpful when it comes to making decisions about budget.
However, according to marketers, only one-quarter of B2B marketing budgets go toward video.
You have to earn a prospect’s trust before they’ll give you their time, whether that’s reading a long whitepaper or watching an in-depth video.
Written content still works, but it needs to be concise, differentiated and energetic in this attention-starved world.
Buyers, which types of content are most helpful or influential when making a purchasing decision?
What does this mean for your strategy? If you’re like other marketers, you might be reallocating your budget. Sixty-nine percent of B2B marketers said they would increase their investment in video in 2024, followed by thought leadership content (53%), in-person events (47%) and other tactics, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 14th Annual Content Marketing Survey.
Half of buyers prefer video over written content, but just one-quarter of B2B marketing budgets go toward video.
The Shift Away from SEO
Marketers, do you think SEO is less important than it used to be?
Keyword-stuffed content has no place in your strategy, and marketers are getting hip to the game—54 percent say search engine optimization (SEO) is less important than it used to be.
And yet, according to our survey, a whopping 96 percent of marketers routinely release content that is search engine optimized.*
*Many marketers still look at technical SEO and write SEO-optimized headlines and subheads, which is fine. Keyword-stuffing is not.
Marketers, do you usually release content that is search engine optimized?
But many marketers are still dedicating significant chunks of their budgets to SEO—about 16 percent.
16% of budgets are dedicated to SEO.
In a world where artificial intelligence (AI) is integrating with (or replacing) search engines, does SEO still have a place? Maybe, but it’s diminished.
High-quality content and thought leadership provide the right information at the right time and influence buyers’ decisions. According to a multi-national survey of B2B buyers, 86 percent said content has accelerated their purchase decisions, and 64 percent said content has led them to request a demo.
You’re almost certainly wasting money on SEO. While basic, technical SEO is important, it doesn’t move the needle for most B2B businesses.
A long-consideration sales process requires many touchpoints, not one website visit. Additionally, buyers are increasingly skeptical of search engine results.
Fifty-nine percent of buyers say they want content that empathizes with and provides solutions to their specific pain points. AI cannot provide the care and human intuition required to create this difference-making content, something that some brands are already finding out the hard way.
That doesn’t mean you have to throw your SEO strategy out the window—63 percent of buyers include an internet search in their vendor selection process. But remember that it’s authentic thought leadership that builds trust and moves them down the funnel.
To Gate or Not to Gate
An ongoing debate among content marketers is whether you should gate your content, i.e., make someone provide their email address before they can download the piece. For 15 years, this has been the foundation of the inbound marketing playbook.
Today, however, buyers don’t seem very willing to provide their email in exchange for content. Our survey shows that less than half of buyers—48 percent—are “very willing” to provide their information in exchange for content.