B2B Study: Impact of Social Media and Industry Analysts on B2B Technology Sales

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The long discussion whether Social Media impacts sales in the business-to-business (B2B) space gets some new basis. According to the Technology Decision-Maker Study by Hill+Knowlton Strategies, many executives and IT managers are in exchange with their peers when it comes to making B2B technology purchases. The study shows the increasing role Social Media plays in driving revenue and reputation for technology companies. Although traditional media is still leading the bunch in tech, word of mouth drives B2B technology revenues in terms of comments from peers and experts.

The research conducted by Research+Data Insights (RDI), a division of H+K Strategies, interviewed 813 IT purchase decision-makers in the US and UK. The basic intend of the study was to understand which communications channels had most impact on purchase decisions, and tried to figure out how much participation theses decision makers put in Social Media, and what makes them contribute content and opinions online.

These were the main findings from the respondents…

– The top two drivers of technology purchase decisions are word of mouth from peers and industry analyst commentary.
– Financial analyst reports, corporate web sites and traditional media sources (both online and offline) followed close after.
– 48% responded that word of mouth from peers frequently changed their decisions about their business priorities, not just their purchase decisions.
– 76% said they actively post opinions and comment on what they read online at least a few times per month, with 49% saying they actively comment at least weekly.
– If marketers want to generate most effective online commentary from B2B decision-makers, the best option is to publish a thought-provoking question related to current events.
– Most impact on final purchase decisions have analyst commentary and consultations.

„We’re seeing a change in how technology purchases are being influenced. Word of mouth from peers and industry analysts has grown in influence significantly since the 2009 study, and social media is the carrier signal for that influence. These findings lead us to strongly recommend communications programs for B2B tech companies that integrate reputational research, social media, analyst relations and traditional media.“ Joshua Reynolds, Executive Vice President, H+K Strategies.

Study: European B2B Buyers use Content Marketing & Social Media for their purchase process, process complex though

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The „2012 Buyersphere Report“ conducted by The Base One Buyersphere Team interviewed 800 B2B customers in the France, Italy, Germany and the UK. The study reports that B2B buyers in Europe are actively using supplier-produced content and Social Media in order to speed up their purchasing decisions. It defines the importance of combining content marketing with inbound marketing tactics like (social media, search, or PR) for revenue generation.

The study concludes that B2B buyers find most whitepapers (86%) and blogs (71%) via web search. However, seminars and videos (44%) get recognition via e-mail. Still, search (71%) is the most important purchasing information sources, followed by word of mouth (55%) and Social Media (20%). However the general use of vendors’ web sites (73%), articles in the trade press (47%), supplier e-mails (39%), and downloaded white papers (20%) suggests that the world has not massively changed in the last two years.

Nevertheless, for the B2B world, face-to-face is again a key element in the influence process. Offline events and webinars get more and more influence on the information gathering and purchase process.

Mobile is on the rise: Accessing information from mobile devices is increasing. 13% are using their tablets and smartphones to access buying data. The way information is shared is still quite traditional though: 90% emails and 44% company intranet. Seems it is still a long way to become social.

In terms of Social Media the study made clear that B2B buyers are more selective when using modern media. LinkedIn generates half of the social media mentions with an increasing trend. When using Facebook for business only 5% were using the platform in 2012 compared to 15% last year. For the under 30 year olds Social Media was more useful than word of mouth. The report suggests that Social Media is WOM to this group which I would fully understand as well.

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In the buying process B2B buyers use different information sources at different stages, the study reveals. First they are relying on white papers, industry press articles, and press advertising when they are defining the demand. When it comes to detect suppliers, web search, Linkedin and supplier websites become important. And when the final supplier is selected, supplier emails, Twitter, Facebook and word-of-mouth lose their importance. Interestingly enough, the importance of communities are almost stable in their influence throughout the purchase process. The study makes clear how important a multi-platform communication and clever content marketing strategy becomes in the future.

Nielsen study: People trust in peoples‘ word of mouth

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Now, I have used this Nielsen graphic in seminars and conferences for two years and always wondered when the next study is going to be published.

Finally today, I came across the latest Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report. And again, the results are similar to what they where back in 2009. People still don’t trust advertising. Well, let’s say… at least not as much as they trust recommendations from people they know like friends, family and peers. However, it is still somehow scary to bear in mind that people trust consumer opinions expressed online… very often without verifying who say what in which scenario and which stage of life.

According to the Nielsen findings, which surveyed over 28,000 Internet people in 56 countries, 92% of the respondents said they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. This equals an increase of 18% compared to 2007. Consumer opinions posted online come in at the second place of most trusted source. Of the consumers surveyed globally, 70% indicated they trust messages from online platforms. This makes up an increase by 15% in the last four years.

Publishing houses and platforms still get a lot of trust from their users. Editorial content (58%) finished in the thread place, just before branded websites (58%), and opt-in emails (50%). The traditional platforms for advertising like print, television, and radio are significantly lower from a trust point of view. The drop in value since 2009 goes down by 24%.

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The results show the importance of content marketing carrying the truth about your company, brand or products. Openness, authenticity and transparency are still rated very high amongst your customers. They want to „know what they get“. They want to engage with you but also being told the truth if there is something bad or uncertain to say about brands and their development. And above all they want you to respond to their input. They want you to give them some attention, some feedback, some credit for the time they spend. Then you will earn their trust, and then they will share your voice.

82% of word of mouth conversations are face-to-face

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The word of mouth and research company Keller Fay Group and Google have collaborated to understand the effects of the Internet and Internet enabled devices on word of mouth conversations about brands – and the Google Business Youtube channel published some findings now in a video.

In the US there are 2.4 billion conversations involving brands on a day, and the question is what role do various types of media play in this process? The study -based on 3.000 responding adults- comes to the conclusion that the vast majority of word of mouth conversations still happens face-to-face (82%).

However, the internet is the leading source of information motivating conversations. TV is already number two media to trigger word of mouth conversations. Google searches directly inform 146 million brand conversations a day, says the video. Are we surprised? Well, I wasn’t…

Obviously, Google would not publish it, if search wasn’t the main initiator in conversations as the study claims. According to the study, search is also said to outperform social media when it comes to credibility and likelihood to purchase decisions.

The study video concludes to mention the importance of search which is the leading source that inspires and informs, and thus triggers word of mouth brand conversations, followed by e-commerce with 7%. Social Media and branded websites are coming in at the same level.

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The findings illustrate the importance to connect offline and online brand activities. Although search definitely has a major impact on our purchase behavior these days, and especially Google with all their opportunities and different service offerings, I would definitely stress that brand advocates also have a major impact on word of mouth conversations when using them to empower social media capabilities. The study did not use these special people as „online channels“ of course. However, think about brand advocates and how you could leverage your brand with them.

PS: The full video can be seen here…