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Today I'm going to share results from DemandGen’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, and talk about how companies can take advantage of these findings:
Fifty-three percent of B2B buyers relied on peer recommendations. That’s up from 19% in 2012.
Wow. In two years the percentage of B2B buyers who relied on peer recommendations almost tripled. I think the prime reason for this is two-fold: A peer recommendation means more. For example, my friend Dan Beaulieu says the PCB industry’s on-time delivery rate is 83%, but I have yet to see any manufacturer claiming less than 98%. A peer will let you know the reality, not the hype. The other reason I think that this percentage has increased is the availability of peers through social networks, especially LinkedIn. A member of a LinkedIn PCB group has thousands of peers they can query about vendors.
Takeaway: Customer testimonials offer tremendous leverage for manufacturers. A company that can get a customer to go on record about their positive experience gains credibility. Note the operative phrase there is “on record.” Testimonials from “R.L.” or “automotive industry executive” do not add credibilit, they look made up and make the company relying on them look foolish. A prospective customer will not take an anonymous testimonial seriously.
Fifty-eight percent of B2B buyers spent more time researching, up from 48% in 2012
Note the increase here. What does that mean? It means that buyers are finding the information they need and that finding that information is helping them in their decision making process.
Takeaway: Are you a target in your buyers’ research process? Getting lots of phone calls from prospects? How about getting lots of hits on your website? And lots of interaction with prospective customers on social media? If the answer is “no,” it's likely because you're not offering the type of information buyers are looking for.
Seventy-two percent of B2B buyers used social media to research purchases.
Why social media? It’s fast and accessible, and it’s social--the buyer’s peers are there. They can talk about problems, solutions, and offer opinions on vendors. And a couple of other interesting points here: Top executives preferred LinkedIn and non-executives preferred blogs.
Takeaway: If a company wants to have an impact and build credibility with executive management at prospective customers, LinkedIn is the place to do it. If a company wants to have an impact and build credibility with non-senior management, such as engineers or designers, a blog is the best way to do it.
Thirty-seven percent of B2B buyers spent more time researching purchases on social media, up from 20% in 2012.
In two years the percentage of buyers using social media for research on prospective vendors almost doubled. Why? Obviously, because it works. B2B buyers can find the information they are looking for on social media.
Takeaway: Go where your customers are going and if they're going to social media, you should go there too. B2B customers are going to social media armed with questions and the smart manufacturers are taking advantage of this trend by being there waiting for them.
Okay, so those are some general trends indicating that B2B buyers are making more use of social media. But what specifically are they doing on social media?Twenty-two percent of B2B buyers use social media to ask for recommendations.
One out of every five buyers is out there asking for recommendations. I read a statistic that people are six times more likely to trust the advice of a stranger than to trust the claims of a vendor.
Takeaway: Customer service is king. I would much rather have someone saying a company’s prices are a little high than have someone say the prices are fine, but the service is awful. In an era when any dissatisfied customer has a bully pulpit from which to air his opinion, customer service is going to become more important.
Twenty-two percent of B2B buyers use social media to connect with potential suppliers.
Quick question for all the vendors out there: How many prospective customers have asked you to connect on LinkedIn in the past month? This is a good proxy for your impact on LinkedIn.
Takeaway: Prospective customers will connect with vendors they think have answers to their questions and can help them with their problems. They won’t connect to someone they think will just want to sell them something. Which are you?
Twenty-three percent of B2B buyers use social media to seek expert advice.
I see this every day on LinkedIn in LinkedIn groups. I see salespeople that aren’t acting like salespeople offering technical advice to anyone who asks. They are not in the group flogging product, they are there acting as a resident expert on their specialty and they never, ever, talk sales in the group. The group is there for one thing: To establish and build their credibility as an industry expert.
Takeaway: You are an expert. But what good is it if you never share that expertise and demonstrate it for others?
Fifty-seven percent of B2B buyers browse discussions on social media to learn more about a topic.
This is the 90% of the iceberg that no one sees. I know from running my own LinkedIn groups that 10% of the groups members participate in discussions, but the other 90% are just there to monitor what's going on.
Takeaway: Companies need to be where their prospects are, and they need to show these prospects that they have the answers they are seeking. Even better, companies should host their own forum such as a LinkedIn group to provide those answers.
How to summarize all this data? The trend is your friend. More buyers are doing research, more buyers are relying on peer recommendations, and more B2B buyers are turning to social media for both.
Takeaway: You need to be there with the information your prospective customers need--not the promotional info about yourself you think they need. More on that topic next week.Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in social media and especially LinkedIn. He has over 25 years experience in high-tech sales and management. He can be reached at email@example.com or through his profile on LinkedIn.