Baseone, the London based B2B Marketing Agency, released its 2nd annual Buyersphere Report 2011 this month. The Basone Buyersphere Report surveys approximately 1,000 businesses, heavily comprised of UK and European firms and ranging from small to multi-national enterprises, on the steps they take in making purchases. The annual report is aimed at surveying the changing B2B buyer behavior.
While this second report highlights the continuation of the changes noted in the 2010 report, there is definitely a “more of” aspect that is revealed and a few surprises. There are several components of the report that stands out in terms of providing clues to how B2B buyer behavior is changing:
Information: as noted in the report – “one of the biggest changes in buyer behavior is the growing appetite for more information” – this is expected as we move from traditional outbound models to inbound models of marketing. I happen to like the term “appetite” for it serves as an apt description of the search mentality B2B buyers may be exhibiting.
Channels: the report indicates that we should be careful about throwing the baby out with the bath water. The report revealed that 68% of buyers checked their supplier’s websites and that 65% used search engines to research the information they needed to support their purchasing process and decisions. All those who have clamored about social media and social technology dominance, hold on to your seats. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs, and other social media ranked near the bottom. Yes, Facebook usage nearly doubled compared to last year but it still does not have anywhere near the usage levels that traditional channels have when it comes to B2B purchasing.
Influence: This is where the report gets a little interesting. Blogs, WOM, Twitter, and Direct Mail were all ahead of Facebook in terms of influence. What was the King of Influence in this survey? Believe it or not the findings point to Offline Events and Seminars. What we are seeing in the numbers is that although Offline Events ranked the highest, people attending fell by half compared to 2010 and webinars nearly doubled. However webinars still ranked fairly low in terms of influence.
Company Website: the report findings indicated that the closer a buyer came to the actual decision; the more influential were company websites, web searches, and industry press. In need identification, supplier identification, and final supplier selection stages, this pattern continued to hold true. In terms of both influence and usage, company websites were still at the top of the list.
Social Media Significance: the report, although indicating growing usage of social media, does not affirm soundly that social media influence has grown significantly. The report questions the perception versus the reality about social media.
Sharing Content: the report does indicates that buyers are reluctant to provide data capture information to receive content and are more likely to download content if data capture is not required.
Reflecting on this report, a few things come to mind:
- Buyer’s appetite for information continues to grow. This supports recent observations I’ve had about buyers self-directing their buying cycles and it makes sense as they shift to this behavior the need for more information becomes essential.
- Companies should still pay utmost attention to their websites and maximizing web searches to their site. While social media is the shiny new object and resources should be devoted to evolving, it should not be done at the expense of keeping the company website up to date.
Facebook, while a wonderful personal and consumer social platform, remains questionable as a B2b marketing and selling platform in my mind.
- Offline events are still king in the B2B world. It is in my mind the ultimate “social” event. I’ve had a gnawing feeling about webinars that this report pokes at. Attending a few and participating in a few, I had always been left with a void feeling about webinars from this angle: does anyone really listen to them? The report may provide some evidence to put offline events back in the budget.
- There is still a healthy degree of skepticism amongst B2B company leaders about the usage and influence of social media. I think we need to keep in mind that we are in the infancy of a burgeoning new social buyer economy and that in time both usage and influence will grow. I heard the same degree of skepticism when the Internet first came into play in the mid-‘90’s. Business leaders then in B2B felt that it would not amount to being a big influence in their B2B businesses. I’d love to talk to a few them again now!
- In terms of sharing content – okay I get it!
I wish to express many thanks to the Baseone Buyersphere Team for their efforts in this valuable report. Although I believe there may be differences between the U.S. and Europe, perhaps even significant ones, the report gives us an important global look at the changing B2B buyer behaviors.
To download the report, go directly to the Baseone Buyersphere download site here: http://www.baseone.co.uk/About/Buyersphere/Buyersphere-2011/