B2B Buyer Survey Reveals Impact Of Social Media On Vendor Selection Process

Published: September 11, 2012

B2B buyers are using a wider variety of sources to research their purchases, and social media continues to play a more important role in the purchasing process, according to the 2012 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyer Survey.

The survey, which included more than 170 responses, was designed to gauge the latest trends in how, when and why B2B buyers engage with sellers, move through the marketing process and consume B2B-focused content. This year’s study also included a number of questions designed to weigh the impact of social media on the B2B buying process.

Below, we’ll offer an exclusive, advance look at some of the findings from this year’s study.

Buyers Turn To Wider Range Of Sources

According to the survey, more than 66% of the respondents now use a wider variety of sources to research their buying options. Nearly half (47%) said they also spend more time researching B2B purchases than they did in the past. And nearly all B2B buyers (94%) view multiple pieces of content from the vendor they ultimately select.

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A significant number of B2B buyers (38%) said they also involve more team members in buying decisions, and around 30% do more detailed ROI/cost analyses of solutions than they did in the past.

In terms of selecting an initial list of solution providers, SEO clearly continues to play a major role: 79% of the respondents said that a Web search influenced their selection process, and the same number said that the content on a vendor’s web site played a decisive role. A significant number said that social media (50%) and downloaded white papers (55%) also played a major role.

Blogs, LinkedIn Top List Of Social Media Influencers

Social media obviously plays a major role in the B2B buying process today, and the survey highlighted several relevant findings:

– Blogs and LinkedIn content are by far the most influential social media sources during the vendor selection process. SlideShare and YouTube were also cited as being influential, while Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest scored lower influence scores.

– More than half (53%) use social media to follow group discussion threads related to their vendor research.

– Smaller, but still significant, numbers pose questions to social media sites as part of their research (22%) and connect directly with potential solution providers over social media (24%).

In terms of how buyers access content, approximately half (51%) say they did not have to log into a vendor’s web site to view relevant content. Close to 30%said they were required to log in once to access content, and a surprisingly large number (15%) said vendors made them log in multiple times to access content.

Social sign-in, which is touted as a simpler way to manage the information-gathering process, has very little traction in the B2B space: Just 5% of buyers said the sites they visited use social sign-in tools, and nearly three quarters of buyers say they aren’t interested in using social sign-in.

Most Buyers Pleased With Vendor Contact Practices

Not surprisingly, 95% of buyers say that vendors used email to stay in touch with them during the selection process, although 84% also said they were contacted by phone. A majority of buyers (59%) said they were pleased with vendors’ choices about how and when to contact them, although 33% said there was room for improvement in this area, and 8% said they were unhappy with vendors trying to contact them too often.

The survey revealed strong demand for content that clearly demonstrates a solution’s value and its relevance to a specific industry vertical. Nearly 63% of the respondents said that case-study examples were at the top of their research content lists, and two-thirds of the respondents said that online product demos turned out to be the most helpful content for making a final vendor decision.

More than 37% of buyers, however, said that vendors failed to provide enough content tailored for their specific job role of industry vertical.

Finally, when asked to rank the major factors influencing their final vendor selection, B2B buyers were most likely to cite the relevance of vendor information as most important, with the quantity of content provided and timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries also having a major impact. Overall, 87% of the buyers surveyed said that the solution provider they chose provided ample content to help them through each stage of the decision-making process.

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