Peers are Becoming More Critical to Attracting Buyers: Research from Sirius Decisions
I've been attending Sirius Decisions 2010 Summit this week, and getting up to speed on the art of building demand for your products and solutions. In their 2010 survey of B2B buyers, here are some striking results on the question of what sources of information they value most duing the buying process.
In particular, they looked at the most valued sources of information in all stages of the buying process:
-- early, educational phase
-- middle, assessing vendors phase
-- late, the purchase decision phase
The importance of information from peers in all buying stages is significantly up. For example, the importance of peer referrals in the early (educational) stage of buying was up from 31.2% to 51.1%.
Also, the importance of information from vendors is going up, particularly in the middle evaluation phase, from 3.5% to 11.4%. And the perceived importance of social media is falling.
What does this mean? When prospects are thinking of buying, they want, most of all information from their peers, particularly those who have a similar problem or issue to theirs. They want this information more than info from analysts, trade publications, consultants, etc.
The decline in trustworthiness of social media may be due to the increasingly excessive "noise" coming from that area. Social media sites that provide good content are still going to be valuable influencers of buyers.
As for vendor information--the information your firm is providing--when buyers get to the middle (evaluation) stage of buying, they are becoming more open to information from vendors, but it must be useful info. Not the usual marketing verbiage, but information that can really hep them decide. In addition to information from your existing customers, white papers and other thought leadership content can be very valuable here.
Also your firm should be investing in recognizable thought leaders from within your firm who can provide frank and honest information buyers need. Take this self test: select an important product or solution category that you're firm is placing a lot of emphasis on. What search terms are buyers using to get more infomration about this area? Do a google search of one of those terms, followed by the phrase "thought leadership." For example, "cloud computing thought leadership." Here's the test: does any blogger from your firm come up in the top 5 search results (not counting paid advertisements)? Does a blogger from your competitor?