A Lack of Customer Advocacy Could Make B2B Buyers Walk Away


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I was interviewing a client’s customer a few days ago for a persona project and something he said made me stop and think. What he said can be paraphrased as:

If there is no buzz about your company online, I won’t consider your product as a viable choice.

For context, this is a B2B SaaS product. It plays a key role in a complex workflow. He also says he reads white papers, does his due diligence, looks for facts and data to back up company claims, and talks to vendors. However, he was adamant that the last straw would be if he couldn’t find people talking about the product/solution online. If there was no customer advocacy, he’d walk away.

I’m starting to hear more and more of this type of sentiment. However, this is the first time I’ve heard it said at this level of importance to the decision being made. There was no wavering, no doubt on his side that it was a deciding factor.

Sure, I’ve heard customers say that case studies and testimonials are important. So is talking to customers to hear the reality from them personally. But what was important to this customer was the holistic sharing of advocacy for a product via online means—whether social platforms, self-motivated testimonials or reviews or some form of organic expression or dialogue about the product and company.

His rationale was focused deeply on the need for transparency—which is also entrenched in his company’s culture. In his opinion, the world is now digital and if your company and product have no online conversation and customer advocacy taking place, there’s something amiss.

When I think back to what I hear a lot from customers during persona project interviews, there are a lot of cultural references. Things like:

  • We chose [the vendor] because they really seemed to “get” us
  • [The vendor] made us feel like a big fish in a small pond – that we’re important to them
  • [The vendor] was willing to put skin in the game

Yes, those cliché’s are alive and well.

If I have to make an educated guess, here’s where I think this shift is coming from. Research on buyer content preferences has found the same complaints for years. Take a look at the last three years of research from DemandGen Report’s B2B Content Preferences Surveys:

In 2015, the top suggested improvements to content:

  • Use more data and research to support content
  • Curb the sales messaging
  • Add more insight from industry thought leaders/analysts
  • Provide more benchmarking data
  • Make content easier to access (shorter lead gen forms)

And – 94% of respondents gave the most credence to peer reviews and user-generated content. While the percentage wasn’t quoted, a high majority of buyers were only somewhat willing to say vendor content was trustworthy.

In 2016, the top suggested improvements to content:

  • Use more data and research to support content
  • Curb the sales messaging
  • Add more insight from industry thought leaders/analysts
  • Provide more benchmarking data
  • Make content easier to access (shorter lead gen forms)

And 100% of respondents place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source, while 83% are overwhelmed with the amount of content available.

Surprisingly, 95% of respondents were open to considering vendor content as trustworthy.

In 2017, the top suggestions for improvement to content:

  • Use more data and research to support content
  • Curb the sales messaging
  • Make content easier to access (shorter lead gen forms)
  • Provide more benchmarking data
  • Add more insight from industry thought leaders/analysts

And – 68% of respondents gave more credence to peer reviews and user-generated content, but 87% of buyers give more credence to industry influencer content.

This year, 75% of respondents placed a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source, but the willingness of buyers to consider vendor content as trustworthy dropped to a low of 34%.

Do you see an alarming, persistent trend here?

B2B Buyers Will Change if Marketers Don’t

Aside from the anomaly of willingness to consider vendor content trustworthy in 2016, the improvements buyers have been asking for in content have remained the same. For three years in a row. And despite the effort B2B marketers are making to roll out more and more content, the impact it’s having with buyers isn’t stellar—in most cases.

This is why they’re looking beyond you to what your customers and peers are saying about you. To guard against the pitches and company-focused chest thumping, buyers are finding ways to plow through the company-generated noise to find level ground. They’re getting smarter about evaluating trustworthiness and more demanding about meaning, purpose and experiences.

I guess what makes me scratch my head is why we’re not changing the way we approach content, as well as how we can improve our brand and customer advocacy programs?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


  1. “Influencer” testimonials can be, and are, bought. Why should they be assumed authentic?

    As for sales messaging: advertising has been getting a bad rap for so long now that a lot of people — 66% in your last study — apparently dismiss it out of hand. Some of it will be baloney, but if they’d look, they might discover there are benefits to buying some companies’ products after all.

  2. It’s true that most prospects tend to do their own research after the sales professional makes contact. If they are truly interested, they will read reviews and look for information on their own to make sure that what you tell them is in synch with what other people are saying. Marketing departments need to be aware of this so that they can help control the story.

  3. Ardath – a brilliant post as always, and on a topic near and dear to my heart!

    One observation – a lot of people think about reviews solely in the context of reputation management for active buyers doing independent research. Given that most complex B2B products are “sold” not “bought”, I think that’s missing the point – that vendors have the ability, or frankly the imperative to start to infuse that content into their own outreach channels. Given the limited attention span of buyers early in their diligence process, and often along the way, I recommend curating the content into digestible soundbites relevant to the person and where they are along their journey.


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