Business-to-business (B2B) buyers are acting more like consumers, according to a new report. The white paper “The New BtoB Path to Purchase” summarizes the results of the DemandGenReport ‘Inside the Mind of the Buyer Survey’, which polled over 230 business buyers and got some interesting results.
• 83% of the B2B buyers surveyed said they start their purchase process with informal research
• 41% said they engaged with a sales representative only after their own initial research was conducted
• 25% said they engaged with sales after a preferred list of vendors was established
• 53% of small businesses said their first contact was made with the supplier sales team only when they asked that supplier for information via their website
• Less than 7% of buyers said they connected with vendors via a cold call
• 41% said they contacted the product or solution vendor directly themselves
The main message from these responses is that buyers are leaving it until much later in the process before they engage with vendors – in some cases after they have drawn up their vendor short list. Prior to initiating contact they are using the web to educate themselves about the options available and the abilities of the different vendors in the market. This underlines the importance of making sure your company is easily found on the web and that its web presence compares favourably to your competitors.
The survey also asked buyers what kind of information they found most useful when trying to make a purchase decision. Demos and product overviews came in first place at 71%, with white papers and case studies coming in at second and third place.
One of the most surprising results was the decline in importance of social media in a typical purchase. In the 2010 survey 65% of B2B buyer respondents said they used social media in their purchase process, but this dropped to just 35% in the 2011 survey. With a survey size of more than 230 respondents this seems significant, but it also flies in the face of current conventional wisdom. I guess that the proof will be in testing this with your own particular target customers – are they actively using social media and social networks as part of their information gathering prior to a purchase? Are they using LinkedIn, Twitter and other media to do research?
Even if social media does not play as strong a role in the buyers’ decision process, it should still form an important part of your marketing – for example, using LinkedIn to learn more about your prospects.
The survey results are published in the DemanGenReport white paper “The New BtoB Path to Purchase”, available here