Commentary

B2B Buyers Favor Trust and Responsiveness In Vendor Relationships

According to a recent study by LinkedIn, buyers crave information, but the information they’re getting from marketers and salespeople is not necessarily the most useful and effective content in the buying process. The research shows that buyers want detailed product information as they perform their own online research, craving technical details about products and how they work. In identifying the three types of content they preferred, buyers most often selected “product info, features, functions” (35%), followed by “demos” (31%).

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The content buyers say they want differs from the content marketers and sellers believe is effective, says the report. For instance, only 24% of marketers believe product info makes for effective sales content, which is 11% percentage points lower than the opinion of buyers. Similarly, just 18% of marketers say that demos are effective, which is 13 percentage points lower than buyers. Salespeople are more in alignment with buyers: off 4% percent age points on product info content and 8% percentage points on demo content.

Marketers know that they generate massive downloads from thought leadership and educational content, so it’s clear that buyers do want this kind of upper funnel content from their vendors. The bottom line is that buyers want both product information and thought leadership content, says the report.

As Marketing Charts reports on the “The State of Marketing,” almost half of B2B buyers believe their relationships with vendors are getting either stronger (15%) or slightly stronger (33%) over time. Based on the LinkedIn survey of more than 6,000 buyers, marketers, and salespeople from mid-size or enterprise companies across 7 countries, the study reveals that trust (52%) was the top-cited reason for strengthening relationships, with personal relationships (45%) and responsiveness (45%) next.

Notably, while responsiveness was a key reason for stronger relationships, lack of responsiveness figured even more prominently in the list of reasons given for weakening relationships. Of the 3% of buyers who reported weakening relationships, 31% pointed to lack of responsiveness, followed closely by financial terms (30%) and speed of delivery (28%).

Why B2B Buyers Report Stronger Relationships with Vendors

Relationship

% of Respondents Reporting Stronger

Trust

52%

Personal relationships

45

Responsiveness

45

Quality improvements

43

Value for the money

38

Source: LinkedIn, February 2016 (Lack of responsiveness top cited reason for those reporting weakened relationships)

When it comes to the most important factors for buyers’ willingness to engage with a vendor, the report shows that knowledge is key, with 4 reasons tightly bunched at the top, says the report:

  • Understands my company’s business model (26%)
  • Is a subject matter expert/thought leader (25%)
  • Provides valuable consultation, education or tools (25%)
  • Knows my company’s products/services (25%)

That aligns with research contained in a MarketingCharts report on B2B digital marketing, in which buyers said that salespeople are most likely to earn their trust by demonstrating high levels of knowledge about their products and services (74%) and the buyer’s organization (52%).

 

As content marketing is important in the context of thought leadership, the LinkedIn study indicates that for buyers, product info, features and functions are considered the most effective type of sales content, followed closely by demos, ahead of best practices, and case studies.

Most Effective B2B Sales Content Types (top 3 for each group)

 

Group Reporting

Type of Content

Buyers

Sales

Marketing

Product info/features/functions

35%

31%

24%

Demos

31

23

18

Best practices

20

18

13

Case studies

19

24

27

Expert opinions

18

19

18

Product ratings/reviews

16

23

18

Source: LinkedIn, February 2016

In terms of the content channels used by buyers, information sharing across the organization was the preferred channel buyers use across all stages of the funnel. It was joined at the top by social usage only at the awareness stage. The report notes that social media usage tends to dwindle as buyers progress through the stages of the funnel:

  • 67% use during the “awareness” stage
  • 48% during the “scope” stage
  • 42% during the “plan” stage
  • 41% during the “select” stage
  • 32% during the “implement” stage

Finally, in other results from the LinkedIn study:

  • Buyers who use social media were considerably more likely than those who do not to say their relationships with vendors have grown stronger over the past year (55% vs. 34%)
  • Similarly, buyers, marketers and salespeople knowledgeable about sales process technology were more likely than those not knowledgeable on the topic to report strengthening relationships with each other
  • 86% of marketers reported aligned relationships with sales, though almost 40% of sales people said that marketing does not provide enough quality leads.

For additional information from the LinkedIn report, please visit here.

 

 

 

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