A major shift in buying behavior is occurring. If you are not on top of it, you may be the last to find out what people as buyers are saying about you. And, you may have your assumptions about how you stack up against competitors shaken.
The struggle with content marketing ineffectiveness may mean buyers want something else. The something else may be just around the corner.
What is going on?
Our thinking about B2B Marketing and Sales can be changed forever if buyers adopt technology, which allows them to openly share opinions and reviews. What is looming on the horizon is the “consumerization” of buying. Using technology and services similar to Amazon, Yelp, and Trip Advisor. Where consumers share their opinions and reviews of products. It is already here.
Two companies making this possible in the business software and technology sector are G2 Crowd and TrustRadius. What makes each unique, is business users are willing to make their opinions known and have their trusted online identities known. Another words, their reviews and opinions will not be anonymous.
I became aware of these two companies through an excellent article, The future of business purchasing will look a lot like Yelp, by reporter David Yanofsky (@yano) on Quartz, the digital news outlet owned by Atlantic Media Company. David’s well written article highlights how these two services are attempting to disrupt business purchasing. For more details, please read this article as well as see glimpses of G2 Crowd screenshots.
Disruptive New Development
The implications for B2B will be significant if this type of service and technology further evolves. Which, I believe it will – just as Amazon evolved during the past decade. It will be disruptive to marketing and sales. If you are a senior marketing or sales leader not getting this on your radar screen, it can disrupt you personally. Here are my perspective and recommendations on how you can be ready for this disruptive new force:
The Rise Of The User In Marketing and Sales
My prediction is the user will become more prominent as a voice. While the user has often been considered for product development, they have been an elusive thought in marketing and sales. Marketing and sales will now have to think in a broader context of how to engage users in buying and the path-to-purchase.
Rethinking Content Marketing
There has been a meteoric rise in the use of content marketing. From my perspective, marketing itself and not buyers or users primarily fuels the rise. This may account for why there continues to be a struggle with ineffectiveness. Buyers simply may distrust content marketing – especially if it is product-centric and makes non-credible claims.
Competitive Landscape Expands
Be prepared for buyers and users to become more aware of what and who comprises the competitive landscape for your industry. For example, G2 Crowd uses a grid showing leaders, contenders, high performers, and niche. In the article referenced, this considerably opened up the field of players in marketing automation for full view. With buyers being able to learn more about contenders and niche players from such review services, this will further level out the playing field.
Acceleration of Buying Behavior Shifts
Each new introduction of digital technology and services has an impact on buying behavior. The shift towards the “consumerization” of B2B buying will accelerate if open opinion and review sharing based services grow. The starting point for both marketing and sales, in terms of dialogue as well as engagement, will be further moved downstream of buying processes as well as the paths taken to purchase. Increasing expectations to deliver value – in the manner described through open opinions and reviews.
In my estimation, these four trends will continue to evolve. As I have written before, organizations are becoming flatter with technology allowing more participants into buying decisions. The advancement of transparent reviews will accelerate new rules of purchasing within this context.
B2B companies will be faced with tough choices. One of those is whether to embrace this new digital technology service – or not. Despite the uncomfortable transparency involved, it may be one which not embracing can send the wrong signal to customers. Mike Volpe (@mvolpe) who is CMO of Hubspot and interviewed for the referenced article, summed it up best by saying – “What our customers want is exactly the information that is there.”
(Changes are happening rapidly. Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you understand how these changes impacts you. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on this latest development. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to respond before it is too late.)
You’re right Tony. The consumerizaton of BtoB buying behavior is occurring. And as you indicated, marketers have a ways to go before buyers begin to trust their content marketing tactics. Coupling their content marketing tactics with technology that allows buyers to openly share opinions and reviews is one option to help this evolution. Another option is for marketers to couple their created, original content with curated content. That is, bringing the most relevant insights from across the web to their customers in an ethical manner, while providing their (marketers’)own insight and opinion to that content. Here’s an example of one company that has done this successfully using Curata’s content curation software: http://bit.ly/Curata_Aternity_MSherpa (MarketingSherpa case study)
Tony – thanks for bringing attention to this trend and for mentioning my company TrustRadius. I concur with many of your key messages.
A point I’d like to however emphasize is that there is one key difference between B2B and B2C which has heavily influenced our approach – that is that most B2B purchases (e.g. business software) are highly considered. They are often expensive, and have significant ramifications on staff and sometimes career. As such, we’ve placed a huge emphasis on not just mirroring the B2C model but adapting it significantly for B2B.
In addition to authenticating reviewers, we screen every review before it’s published to make sure it’s complete, comprehensible and balanced. Our research indicates that B2B buyers are not going to make decisions on pure star ratings or rankings on a grid. They are much more interested in substantive insights that they can verify are like them – in roles where they are primary product users and at companies of similar scope and scale.
Grids and star ratings are fine for commodity products which have limited differentiation. For more complex, considered purchases, determining which product fits a specific use case in a harder problem to solve and one we’re attempting to address.