Last week, IDC’s Michael Fauscette joined us for a webinar in which he debuted research from a brand new IDC study. The study looks at what buyers expect from their B2B vendors during the buying process, and the results are enlightening.
One notable stat: 65% of B2B buyers usually engage a sales rep only after they’ve already made a purchase decision. And how long does that purchase decision take? For 75% of B2B companies, it takes one to six months.
At first glance, this might be pretty demoralizing for marketers. If you’re not engaging prospective customers in the time leading up to their decision, you could be missing out on a six-month relationship-building opportunity. As a result, even if they do decide to purchase your product over your competitors’, you’ll be starting your relationship from square one when they make the purchase. So, how can B2B marketers establish a relationship with their customers from the very beginning without seeming overbearing? One word: trust.
Who B2B Buyers Already Trust
If you think gaining buyers’ trust sounds like an uphill battle, I don’t blame you. Marketers are used to being regarded with a healthy amount of skepticism—but believe it or not, buyers actually trust us more than we might expect. IDC found that 81% of buyers trust vendors’ websites, and 67% trust vendor-sponsored content. The graph below breaks down the levels of trust buyers have in six key sources.
Tip: According to Acquity Group, 83% of B2B buyers check suppliers’ websites during their decision-making process, so building trust with your website is key. Check out our seven dos and don’ts for a trustworthy website.
Leveraging Third Parties to Build Trust
As you can see in the graph above, buyers (unsurprisingly) trust their peers and colleagues more than any other source. Use this to your advantage by using social proof in your marketing to highlight the positive things your customers are saying about your company.
IDC’s survey also asked B2B buyers how important different types of content are when it comes to evaluating different vendors, and the results are striking.
You can see that buyers find third-party content to be slightly more influential overall. If you focus on providing your current customers with the resources necessary to succeed with your product or service, you’re bound to develop a following of brand evangelists who will sing your praises online.
Building Trust Using Content
Lucky for marketers, our prospects already trust us; we just have to prove them right by creating helpful, relevant content focused on their pain points. The IDC study shows that while buyers tend to rely on independent content more than vendor-sponsored content, the gap is actually quite small. In fact, they find vendor-sponsored case studies and white papers even more influential than a third-party blog.
In short, that means people who are evaluating your product or services rely on your marketing content—but it can be a challenge to make sure they’re getting all the resources they need to make a decision. Fortunately, lead nurturing campaigns simplify this process by automatically “dripping” content to leads based on their past activities. For example, if a prospect attends a webinar about your product’s applicability to a specific industry, they can be added to a drip campaign that will gradually email them more industry-specific content and adjust that content based on how they interact with it.
Empowering Your Sales Team
With marketing automation, sales reps don’t have to rely on marketers to tell them how prospects are engaging with the company’s content and website. Instead, they have all that information at their fingertips. This makes it easy to initiate relevant sales conversations sooner with buyers who would normally wait that one to six months to reach out.
Worried about seeming creepy with marketing automation? Don’t be too concerned. 78% of B2B marketers expect sales communications to be personalized based on their online activities. The key to avoiding giving off a Big Brother vibe is simple: just be relevant.
For example, when sales reps use a tool like Salesforce® Engage, they can elect to be alerted when a prospect performs a certain activity, such as viewing your company’s pricing page. Then the rep can immediately follow up with a phone call when they know your product is already on the prospect’s mind. (Note, though, that it’s usually not necessary to mention the activity that triggered the call. Buyers want to have relevant discussions without feeling like they’re being watched.)
What do you think about IDC’s findings? Did anything surprise you? We’d love to hear your thoughts about building buyers’ trust in light of these findings. Feel free to drop us a line in the comments.