Your Marketing Content Doesn’t Cater To New B2B Buyers

The age of the customer has shifted buying power to your customers and fundamentally changed B2B buying behavior.[1] Your once rational, loyal B2B customer has been replaced by a less loyal, more emotional decision-maker, who prefers to remain anonymous and self-directs much of their purchase journey — more resembling a B2C consumer.

Our recent pulse survey brings this proposition to life. In September 2020, Forrester Consulting launched a study with 544 global decision-makers responsible for buying technology at their organizations.[2] Focusing a lens on Europe, we found that European B2B buyers embody this new behavior, as they:

  • Want content that addresses their situations.

By shutting down business travel and in-person meetings, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated how buyers, sellers, and marketers engage virtually. B2B buyers now expect content not only to provide them with relevant, valuable information but to show how your solution can specifically help navigate these precarious times (see Figure 1). More than three-fourths (76%) of European decision-makers told us it’s important for vendors to deliver content that shows how their solutions and services benefit buyers during economically uncertain times and how they address pandemic implications on their industry or role.

  • Expect you to change how you communicate and engage with them.

European buyers expect their business purchase experiences to mirror some best-of-breed experiences they enjoy as consumers.[3] For example, 65% of European buyers expect to consume business content on their phones, so they require mobile-friendly vendor material. They increasingly prefer self-service options, the ability to research and compare online before buying, and the chance to explore new digital buying options such as marketplaces.

  • Find most B2B content is useless.

The pandemic has made business buyers more impatient and demanding; it shortens their attention spans and decreases their willingness to dig through mountains of content to find what they need. Most of our European survey respondents feel vendor materials lack pandemic-specific context (56%) or predate the pandemic with information that is not currently relevant (48%). This also makes European B2B buyers less forgiving than ever before: Over half told us that vendors give them too much material, the material is more focused on style than substance, or it’s extraneous because they prefer to get their information from other sources.

Figure 1. Vendor Content Misses The Mark.

Base: 232 European managers and above responsible for technology buying at their organizations
Source: Forrester Content Objectivity Study, September 2020


Engage Your B2B Buyers With Empathetic Content

Whether it’s the switch to virtual events or the increased hours in front of a screen, B2B buyers are overloaded with online content. How can European marketers capture their customers’ increasingly fragmented attention? It comes down to empathy. Forrester’s research shows that customers don’t buy a product; they buy into an approach to solving their problem. To reach them, marketers can’t continue producing content that focuses on what they do but instead should focus on showing customers that they understand their problems and can help solve them.[4] Findings from our study show that you can win over B2B buyers by:

  • Giving them content authored by experts.

When asked to rank the formats they find most useful to get information to make a technology purchase decision, European B2B buyers were more likely to put technical expertise at the top of their list (see Figure 2). The lack of peer-to-peer, human interaction increases the desire for human-driven content. This means buyers are relying on presentations, webinars, videos, and social content more during the pandemic than prior.

  • Personalizing your message and content.

Communicating with empathy to buyers requires more than expressing sympathy or reinforcing your philanthropic efforts. Meaningfully supporting and creating value for your customers during uncertain times starts with crafting an outside-in message that focuses first on what buyers need and want.[5] Our survey results show that European tech buyers are more interested in content tailored to their role, industry, or department. They also prefer content that shares how other buyers have been successful through case studies and peer examples.

  • Ensuring the content is empathetic.

Successful content starts with an empathetic mindset. To achieve it, B2B marketers serving European decision-makers must anchor their content creation efforts in three primary objectives:[6]

    • Be human. Understand the emotional, motivational, and nonrational drivers of your buyers. Adding a human element to content such as peer case studies creates a narrative that leaves a lasting impression.
    • Be helpful. Produce problem-solving content that shows you put customer outcomes ahead of closing a deal. When content adds value, it makes buyers want to further engage with your company.
    • Be relevant. Buyer needs are influenced by context, so personalization is key to engaging them. Marketers must develop content that is modular so it can be easily customized to individual, buying team, account, or industry needs.

Figure 2. “Thinking about the content you rely on to get informed/make a technology purchase decision, which elements make that content worthwhile?”

Base: 232 European managers and above responsible for technology buying at their organizations
Source: Forrester Content Objectivity Study, September 2020


See examples of how your peers have applied empathy to their content: Empathetic B2B Content During The Pandemic: Client Stories.


[1] Source: “What B2B Buyers Crave,” Forrester, May 4, 2020.

[2] Source: Forrester Content Objectivity Study, September 2020.

[3] Source: “Make Your B2B Business A Digital Business,” Forrester, January 29, 2021.

[4] Source: “Credible Empathetic Content Wins Over Elusive B2B Buyers,” Forrester, April 30, 2020.

[5] Source: “Messaging In The Time Of COVID-19,” Forrester, June 16, 2020.

[6] Source: “Empathetic Content: The Key To Engaging B2B Buyers,” Forrester, March 13, 2017.