B2B Buyer Behaviour–Reflections on A Dozen Insights


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The Impact of Economic Uncertainty, Increased Appetite for Information and Social Media: Analyzed in the BUYERsphere Report 2012

B2B buyer behaviorI’d like to start this post by saying thank you to Irving Frydman who shared with me this interesting study. The BUYERsphere Report 2012 is an annual survey of changing B2B buyer behaviour by UK-based agency Base One. The report collates findings based on a survey of 800 B2B decision makers in 4 key markets of Europe—UK, France, Germany and Italy.

The reason I found the report interesting is because although the survey was conducted in Europe, one can relate many of the key findings to the North American market. Most importantly, the report does not rely on the opinions of the decision makers who were the survey respondents; it also surveyed their actual activities. The overall aim of the study was to analyze changing B2B buyer behaviour in the light of three key factors: economic uncertainty, the increasing appetite for information and the impact of social media.

You can read the full report at your leisure, but I’m happy to summarize the dozen findings contained in it along with my reflections on the same. Hope you find this useful.

  1. 71% of buyers use web searches to get information and advice before making a business purchase. Not that these searches do not include social media sites. In fact, in comparison, only 21% of the respondents said they used social media channels in their decision making process before buying a product or service for their company. So for those social media zealots who insist that B2B lead generation is all about your social media strength, I’d say—consider these statistics.
  2. Word of mouth wins hands down. It’s one thing to know what channels buyers use the most, but the more important question is which one they find the most useful. In this study, personal word of mouth and web searches came out on top. The ratings for social media channels were in the lowest quadrant. There’s no denying it, your trusted, knowledgeable sales people are still better than Twitter and Facebook—a lot better. So give them the right conversion tools and they will get you the likes and fans that matter; the kind that bring more sales.
  3. Valuable, shareable content should be integral to your marketing plan. I wrote a few weeks ago on my blog about how to create value, build engagement and be creative with content marketing. Let me reiterate that content marketing is no longer simply a good-to-have component of your overall marketing initiatives. It is an essential part of the B2B demand generation strategy. Here are some revealing figures from the study—”Respondents working in IT were particularly likely to have downloaded whitepapers (36%), read blogs (28%) and also attended offline events (26%).
  4. Numbers don’t matter, quality does. I keep harping on this fact. Similar to how traditional advertizing agencies used to get clients excited about media reach by spending big bucks, the so-called social media “gurus” are canvassing more fans, more tweets, more likes…more madness. See what this study is telling us—word of mouth and web searches are the most influential sources of information that help buyers make a purchasing decision. Engagement is critical and less is more.
  5. Buyers in the B2B world are hungry for meaningful and relevant information. And the more you feed them, the greater their appetite, the bigger their engagement quotient with your brand. Investing in sustainable content development and marketing with an established thought leadership strategy to guide you will pay off. Buyers are most likely to find you via search engines, according to the Buyersphere 2012 report. And you know what search engines look for, right? Not keyword stuffing and careless link traffic but information-rich, unique content that delivers value to their users.
  6. B2B buyers are reaching social media burnout. What started out as a frenzy of social media activities across multiple channels is starting to taper off. “Business use of Facebook has dropped from 15% to 5%, while use of Twitter amongst B2B buyers has gone from 10% to just 3%“, as shown in this report. If the bulk of your target customers are in their 20s, you have no choice but to dominate the social media channels. But for the majority of B2B organizations, this is not the case. It is an older age demographic we are dealing with in the marketplace and those 31 to 40+ year-old buyers have neither the time nor the inclination to live on the Facebook or Twitter planet. They are earthlings and need organic content to capture their interest (and their business).
  7. B2B buyers do use certain social media channels more than others, but they have specific reasons for that. I had mentioned in an earlier post that LinkedIn is probably one of the most useful social media channels for B2B, if used in the right manner. This study confirms that “B2B buyers are more likely to use LinkedIn for conversation than for just finding articles. This is less true of Twitter.
  8. Depth of information is important in early stages of the buying cycle. We have always known this fact, yet it is one of the easiest ones to forget because as marketers we clamour to get into a potential buyer’s shortlist of vendors too early, too fast. The early stage is when a buyer is still working at identifying the complexities of their business challenges and defining the scope of the solution they will seek out. In this study we see that whitepapers are seen by buyers as the most useful tool providing them with relevant content.
  9. A hand-raiser is not a qualified lead. I keep restating this fact in one way or another. As marketers we are often easily excitable and jump on to a prospect that makes the effort to get in touch. It is not correct to assume that when this happens, the prospect is already in the later stages of the decision making process. Today, because it is so easy to do so, particularly online, many buyers will ask for more information by contacting a vendor quite early on. They may still be in the process of understanding and defining their requirements. They may or may not be close to making a buying decision. On the contrary, they are usually still far from it, as shown in this study.
  10. Mobile is growing, but the PC/laptop still rules the information-seeking phase. I thought this was very interesting—”B2B Buyers still access 85% of purchase-related info via a PC, while only 6% and 7% by smart phone and tablet respectively.” I don’t know how different these figures might be for North America or even the Asian markets. What are your thoughts?
  11. When it comes to making a sizeable purchase, printer beats Twitter! That one was easy and didn’t surprise me at all. It’s easy to tweet or post on Facebook about the US Presidential debate or why you loved the meal at the country diner last night. Can’t say the same thing about sharing information with your group of decision makers about a vendor and the solution you are looking to purchase. Finding from this study—”11% of B2B buyers say they share information by Twitter. 34% do it via the printer.
  12. Social media usage patterns vary in different countries. According to this study, usage is highest in Italy and lowest in France. So when you hear figures about how many millions or billions use a particular social media channel, you need to ask where those users are located. And is that your market?

To conclude, I think when it comes to B2B social media marketing, the hype still has some ways to go before it meets the results curve. Smart companies recognize this and adopt a blended approach. The percentage mix of traditional and social marketing activities will invariably change over time but right now, we have to be very careful to ensure a good balance.

Without exception, we all struggle to understand and recognize buyer behaviour. I encourage you to read the full report and it would be great if you share your thoughts about it on my blog.

(image used under licence from Shutterstock)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


  1. Great article. The most valuable information marketing can deliver to sales is related to a prospect or customers’ propensity to buy specific products. B2B Purchase Behavior Data–what companies buy and how their behavior changes over time–is the most reliable indicator of a prospects’ intent and/or capacity to buy. Fortunately, B2B purchase behavior data is now available and is rapidly becoming a highly-valuable corporate asset.


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