Buyers Take a “Trust But Verify” Approach to Vendor Content

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TrustRadius recently published The 2018 B2B Buying Disconnect report, which provides several important insights regarding how business technology buyers research potential purchases, and how they view their vendors.

The report is based on the results of two surveys. One was a survey of 438 individuals who played a key role in a significant business technology purchase during the previous year. The second was a survey of 240 individuals who worked for business technology vendors in a marketing or sales capacity.

A primary focus of this research was to identify what sources of information buyers used to support purchase decisions, and which sources they deem to the influential and trustworthy. TrustRadius provided survey participants a list of 15 sources of information and asked them to rate each source in terms of use, influence, and trustworthiness. The following table shows the five most widely used sources of information according to surveyed buyers.



Unfortunately, the TrustRadius research contains rather sobering news for B2B content marketers. When surveyed buyers were asked about the influence and trustworthiness of each source of information, vendor-provided sources of information scored as the least influential and trustworthy. The following table shows the four most influential and trustworthy sources of information identified by surveyed buyers.

And the next table shows the six sources of information ranked least influential and trustworthy by surveyed buyers.





















Things May Not Be Quite As Bad As They Seem

These survey findings paint a fairly bleak picture for B2B content marketers, but there are reasons to believe that things aren’t quite as bad as the survey results seem to indicate. The TrustRadius report contains several quotes from surveyed buyers. Here are just a few examples.

“Salespeople, no matter how honest, will always have a strong bias and be the least objective voice in the process.”

“Websites can be helpful for finding objective facts like technical specs, etc., but at the end of the day, they’re a marketing tool and therefore not going to give you the full picture.”

“. . . The [vendor provided] use case studies typically do not get into the details of what was involved with implementation and are not tailored for the specific use cases we are looking to tackle.”

The quotes contained in the report provide context for the survey findings, and what they indicate is that most business technology buyers are unwilling to rely solely on vendor-provided information.

In some cases, buyers view vendor-provided information as biased (but not necessarily deceitful), and in other cases, vendor-provided information just doesn’t adequately address some of the specific issues that buyers are concerned about. In addition, the quotes and the survey results show that today’s buyers want direct experience with a product (via demos and free trials) whenever possible.

Trust, But Verify

In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan made extensive use of a Russian proverb during nuclear arms negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev. The English translation of the proverb is “trust, but verify.”

The TrustRadius research indicates that many of today’s B2B buyers have adopted President Reagan’s mindset. They expect vendors to provide information, and they will use that information in their decision-making process. But they also want to confirm important points via first-hand knowledge or experience, and/or via information sources that are independent of the vendor.



It’s important, of course, for B2B marketers to provide potential buyers with content and information that is credible and trustworthy, and I discussed how to make content more credible in this post. But we also need to recognize that many of our prospective buyers will want to access independent sources of information, and we need to make such sources of information an integral part of our marketing efforts.

Top illustration courtesy of opensource.com via Flickr CC.

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