B2B marketers churn out more content today than ever before. Yet a recent TrustRadius Buyer Survey reveals it may just not be the right type of content to best influence buyers. According to the survey, vendors use an average of 8 tactics to help buyers along their purchase journey including demos, blog posts, case studies, and marketing collateral; however, buyers only find about 40% of it useful. Of the tactics vendors use, many of them are created and managed in-house and don’t necessarily inspire the most trust.
So, how can vendors build much-needed trust with their buyers? To answer this question, TrustRadius outlines the biggest disconnects in the buying journey and identifies some key opportunities to help vendors get on the same page as their buyers.
Key disconnects in the buyer’s journey
1. Vendors focus on providing material that buyers don’t find very useful or trustworthy
On average, buyers use about 5 different sources of information when researching a large purchase.
While product demos were the most-used resource, the top 3 most influential and trustworthy resources are:
- Free trials
- Product demos
- User review
Though vendors are using product demos often, they are also relying heavily on their company website and marketing collateral, both among the least trustworthy and influential sources for buyers.
Clearly, buyers are craving more impartial sources and hands-on experiences with products. They are doing more independent research than ever and prefer to cross-reference multiple sources.
As one buyer surveyed says:
“salespeople, no matter how honest, will always have a strong bias and be the least objective voice in the process.”
Consider making it easier for prospective buyers to find everything they are looking for by packaging both your own and third-party content together to save them the legwork. They will thank you for it in the long run.
2. Buyers don’t trust all vendor claims, nor do they expect to
There’s a general sense of mistrust among buyers as they know vendors will always be biased. That’s why they tend to seek out third-party advice from analysts, consultants, and other customers.
Not only are these third-party sources considered more trustworthy, they can also flag other potential issues and questions the buyer may not have thought of.
Scaling, in particular, seemed to be high on most buyers’ radar. As one surveyed buyer puts it:
“[We] searched for user reviews, industry reports and video content. It was incredibly important to understand the limitations to know what could prevent the team from using the product and scaling it as we grew.”
3. Vendors see their role as strategic, yet most buyers said the vendor played a pragmatic role
Based on the survey findings, buyers are playing the long game. Meaning, they are looking for vendors to play a more strategic role in the buying process.
For example, both vendors and buyers agree on most factors that are important to focus on during the buying process except for one: Adoption. Buyers rank ‘quick adoption’ as the 4th most important factor in the buying process, whereas vendors rank it 7th most important. There’s a clear disconnect here.
Buyers are interested in knowing how quickly they can be on-boarded to the new product and see results, whereas vendors are currently prioritizing other, more pragmatic things, like customer support, integration with tech stack, and budget before how quickly the product will be adopted.
Key opportunities for B2B vendors in 2018
1. Buyers want hands-on experience with the product and insights from customers
Never underestimate the power of product demos–buyers crave them. 88% and 81% of buyers find product demos more influential and trustworthy, respectively, than any other tactic.
There is currently pretty good alignment as product demos are the second most used tactic to educate and enable prospects; however, it might be time for vendors to take some focus off other, less-desired tactics like marketing collateral and blogs and redirect it towards others like demos and online reviews.
Have you ever considered a review strategy? If not, now’s the time! 37% of your customers are willing to write an online review (twice the number that have already done so, on average). Online reviews are among the most shareable and scalable forms of word-of-mouth marketing.
2. Vendors have an arsenal of satisfied customers they are not leveraging
Your best customers are your fastest path to annual recurring revenue and advocacy. And based on the survey, most customers are untapped sources of advocacy for brands. Based on Net Promoter Score Definitions, 42% of paying customers are currently promoters (gave brands a 9 or 10) and 90% plan to renew their contract, according to the survey.
A whopping 84% of B2B customers are willing to do more… vendors just need to ask. Seems simple enough, right? Yet only 20% of customers are currently involved in any sort of advocacy program.
Considering referrals are among the most trusted and influential sources for buyers when researching products, it’s worthwhile for B2B vendors to consider leveraging their customer advocates.
3. Strategic vendors are in the best position to influence buyers.
To really win with your buyers, it’s important to be forward thinking. If you foresee any limitations for your buyers, it’s essential to be upfront and honest about it. 56% of buyers found vendors who were more forthcoming were much more influential in their buying process over ones that avoided discussing any product drawbacks.
Most vendors already think they’re doing this (85% of them!); however, only 37% of buyers feel they succeed. B2B vendors need to get very honest with themselves to bridge this gap in the buying process if they really want to see their best prospects move along their path-to-purchase.
When vendors are transparent, they end up playing a much more active role in the entire buying process and are able to use more tactics overall. Influential vendors use an average of 5 tactics, such as working with the buyer on packaging, answering questions about the RFP, and presenting a standard demo and/or list of product features. On the flip side, vendors who were only considered as having average influence by vendors used an average of 3 tactics, according to the survey.
The big differentiator is that very influential vendors help set their buyers up for success. They do things like:
- Provide additional learning opportunities
- Connect buyers with customer references
- Help buyers understand ROI
- Help buyers sell the product internally
In order to address the buyer disconnect in 2018, it’s clear B2B vendors need to focus more on providing a transparent journey. Remove any barriers for potential buyers to have authentic, hands-on experiences with your product (or at least in-depth product demo videos). Leverage customer advocates, provide information to third-party sources and help customers find the balanced feedback they need to build trust with your brand and make an informed decision.