If you’re a business technology buyer, there are a lot of choices available to you. There are thousands of vendors and products to explore, regardless of the type of tool you need. You even have a choice around how you engage with brands: via their website or social media, form fills and chatbots, or attending an in-person or virtual event.
You also have numerous places you can turn to for information to help you make the right decision about the products you’re researching. There are vendor websites, third-party sources, peers and colleagues, and social media and other professional networks.
All of these choices can present a problem for many B2B buyers: Complexity.
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Nevertheless, business technology buyers often consult multiple sources of information in their product and vendor research.
The 2023 IT Buyers Survey from TechnologyAdvice asked 203 buyers to consider their last B2B purchase experience when answering survey questions. When respondents were asked to identify the sources of information they used during the purchase process, two sources stood out.
Third-party websites and newsletters and vendor websites, user groups, and communities were cited by virtually the same number of respondents. Personal relationships with current and former colleagues were cited by nearly one-quarter of respondents. Social media and professional networks were the least cited source of information.
These finds aren’t terribly surprising. Third-party sources of information will provide an objective view. Vendor sources will provide many of the facts around features, capabilities, and integrations. Personal relationships are more trusted than social media or professional networks where you may not know the members as well as the people in your own network.
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Which Sources of Information Influence B2B Purchases?
Where things get more interesting is when you ask business technology buyers about the elements that have the most influence over their purchase decisions.
The most influential factor isn’t actually a source of information. It’s familiarity with the vendor’s brand.
This makes a great deal of sense. When faced with an overwhelming number of choices, B2B buyers turn to the brands they are most familiar with. In most cases a familiar brand injects a level of trust into a complex purchase process.
I know this brand. I know people who use them. I’ve seen their messages before.
That level of comfort is why B2B marketers invest in building a brand. It mitigates risk and complexity in the eyes of the buyers.
Information from third-party sources also ranked fairly high. Buyers see third parties as delivering objective information. They know that vendor information is slanted toward the vendor that created it.
They know that information from social media sites is created by people they don’t know well or trust deeply, and the motivations and relationships behind the scenes might be unclear. Their current and former colleagues carry some influence over purchase decisions, but they aren’t always going to be dealing with the exact same use case or might have different budgets available to them.
That leaves vendor-created content and sales interactions. If you look at the bottom of the graph above, which indicates less influence than the top of the graph, you see the longer green line for vendor-created resources and sales interactions. That’s a problem for vendors.
When you look at the weighted average of the influence of these information sources, it looks like this:
Overall, vendor-created content and sales interactions have the least influence on purchase decisions, according to the B2B buyers in the survey. And that’s bad news for vendors for a number of reasons, but most importantly because they invest in sales and marketing in order to influence purchase decisions.
What This Means for B2B Marketers
The B2B buyers who took part in the 2023 IT Buyers Survey said vendor-created content and sales interactions had the least amount of influence overall on their purchase decisions. So where do B2B marketers go from here?
Don’t stop creating content, but take a look at what you’re creating. Is it informative or educational? Does it answer common questions for your audience? Do you help your audience understand how you can make their jobs easier? Meet their goals? Look like rock stars in the eyes of their leadership team?
Build your brand with buyers before they’re buyers. Only a small percentage of your audience is in market at any given time. Yes, it’s great to hook these leads and deliver revenue. But most of B2B marketing is a long game. Investing in your brand by providing educational and informative content and being present where your audience spends its time.
Work with third-party sources of information. When your buyers move in market, third-party sources of information are where they go to do research. Attach your brand to trusted, third-party sources so your message appears in front of your buyers in the right place, at the right time.
The specific tactics you use to build your brand, distribute your content, and reach buyers on third-party sites will depend on a number of factors, including your budget, your product, and what’s worked to drive business in the past.
By positioning your brand as a partner, a solver of problems, and a trusted resource, you’ll be putting your best foot forward with buyers in market today and the buyers of the future.