If a white paper falls in a forest and no one is around to read it, does it make a difference?

economistPeppercomm recently partnered with The Economist Group for our second, in-depth examination of content creation and consumption in the B2B world. In this instance, we took a deep dive into generational similarities and differences.

Since I’m not particularly interested in similarities, I thought I’d share the disconnects.

But, first, let me tell you who we surveyed:

– 400 global B2B executives with up to 10 years of professional experience (i.e. Generation Next)
– 300 global B2B executives with more than 10 years of experience (i.e. veterans)

Our goal: To determine if there are generational differences that marketers need to factor in when it comes to their content creation and consumption.

We surveyed the two assemblages mentioned above across various geographic regions and industries. Here are the generational disconnects:

– There was a significant difference in importance placed on research reports and white papers. Sixty-five percent of the grizzled veterans rely on them, while a scant 30 percent of Generation Next executives pay attention to them. So, if 70 percent of your up-and-coming target audience is ignoring your research reports and white papers, methinks it’s time to re-assess one’s content creation.

– More and more Generation Next’ers prefer video content (21 percent) while an embarrassingly low percentage of veterans do (12 percent). The opposite holds true for infographics. We old-timers prefer them by a two-to-one ratio (24 percent to 12 percent). While the video percentages may seem small, Ted Birkhahn, president of Peppercomm and one of the survey’s co-creators, stressed that the importance of video to Generation Next executives will increase dramatically in the years to come. In fact, Generation Next executives are more than twice as likely to open videos compared to their more senior contemporaries.

– There’s a seismic shift underway in trust. Forty-one percent of veteran executives care about a company’s reputation while less than one-third of Generation Next’ers do (28 percent). The latter rely more on a colleague’s recommendation than they do on reputation indices, company self-promotion, etc. Clearly, credible word-of-mouth is becoming ever more important.

As I noted earlier, there are just as many similarities as disconnects between the two age groups, but these glaring gaps should be a wake-up call for ALL B2B marketers.

Listen to your two audiences, create tailored content and use the proper channels to reach each. Or, risk losing both to one of your more astute competitors.

Note: There will be a Twitter chat this Thursday, September 17th  at 1:00 pm EDT with the Economist Group; hashtag  #ContentSurvey.

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