The annual B2B Buyer Behavior Study from Demand Gen Report is the touchstone for understanding B2B buying behaviors, practices, and preferences. Understanding buyer motivations is the key to improving sales and marketing strategies and netting successful demand generation results.
This year's 2022 B2B Buyers Survey Report does not disappoint. It’s full of helpful information that manufacturers and other B2B businesses can use to enhance buyer relationships, a particularly important focus as the typical buyer’s journey shifts to self-service models.
Several factors are helping to shape B2B buying behaviors, and B2B sales and marketing teams need to be well-informed to foster proactive and valuable relationships, according to the latest research report.
6 Key Takeaways on B2B Buying Behaviors and Preferences
We’re digging into six of the best findings from the 2022 B2B Buyers Survey to provide some takeaways that you can use to improve your B2B buyer operations from a sales and marketing perspective.
1. THE LENGTH OF THE B2B PURCHASE CYCLE HAS INCREASED OVERALL
According to the B2B Buyer Behavior Study survey, a little more than one-third say their purchase timeline stayed the same. More than half (55%) of buyers, however, indicated that the length of their B2B purchase cycles increased compared with a year ago, with 20% saying it was a significant increase.
Sales and marketing teams can come alongside prospects and customers with practical ways to address lags in purchase cycles. Consistently providing relevant content to your potential B2B buyers makes your product or service easier to buy — and that means gaining an advantage over your competitors.
Why is the timeline taking longer? The majority of B2B buyers (59%) report that there are more than three stakeholders involved in their purchase process. It begs the question whether a company’s playbook needs to expand on the number of buyer personas it targets.
A buying committee may include several members across all departments. In fact, nearly one-quarter of buying committees involve seven or more individuals.
Arguably, having more people involved can slow the process and potentially muddy B2B buying decisions. However, larger teams can also provide manufacturers and other operations with opportunities to customize the experience to very well-defined needs.
With this broad committee structure, make sure to have marketing content and messaging tailored to a range of target personas since there will be input from a number of internal voices. This basic step will help you develop a strategy that makes it easier for your decision makers to get a purchase agreement from all parties.
3. SOCIAL & PEER REVIEW SITES INFLUENCE B2B BUYERS
The top resources that inform 88% of buyers continue to be online web searches and vendor websites. These findings stress the importance of ranking in SERP, delivering a frictionless experience for website visitors, and continually improving your website. Having a strong online presence will provide additional ways for buyers to research your organization and decide whether they want to buy.
For 2022, however, there's been a stark increase in the number of B2B buyers who point to social media and online review sites as credible sources. While these methods are far from the top influences, it should be noted that they only brought in miniscule numbers in past surveys. For 2022, review sites brought in 26% of the vote, while social media followed closely behind at 24%.
Could this be a nod to how B2B buyers’ research methods are melding with their personal online shopping habits? There certainly could be a strong link, so don’t underestimate the power of testimonials on your site and requesting reviews from your happy customers.
4. THE DECISION STAGE MAY OCCUR PRIOR TO OUTREACH
B2B buyers can be a sneaky bunch. There’s a good chance they may have already selected an ideal vendor without the vendor even realizing it. Anonymous research and developing prospective vendor lists ranked #1 and #2 in the buying process, respectively.
This points to how buying groups want to determine whether a vendor can meet all their needs before even initiating a conversation. So, if a buyer is anonymously determining a potential vendor list, what information are they basing that list on?
It’s critically important to make sure your content and competitive information is not only easily found but speaks directly to your expertise in their industry. This stresses the continual need for relevant, timely, and easily accessible content marketing that speaks to your buyers needs.
5. FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY ARE VITAL WHEN CONSIDERING SOLUTIONS
There are a number of potential solution providers available to B2B buyers, but not everyone will be an ideal partner. To narrow the choices, shrewd buyers also narrow the criteria. Not surprisingly, topping the list of "must-haves" is pricing, at 82%.
Customers value transparency and don’t want to jump through a lot of hoops to understand what kind of investment they’ll need to make. It may prompt a B2B company who has kept pricing information close to the vest to loosen their grip, or at least provide more insights into how pricing structures are developed.
After price, reviews and features/functionality are most important. Prospects value what actual customers have to say about a company more than what that company might have to say about itself. What prospects really want to know is whether a company will deliver on its promises. To get the kinds of reviews that wow prospects requires a heavy emphasis on the delight stage of the B2B buying journey.
6. SALES TEAMS MUST DEMONSTRATE DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF BUYERS' INDUSTRIES
Despite the above findings combined with a perception that online connectivity marginalizes their roles, sales teams remain instrumental in B2B buyers' purchase decisions.
What might be a revelation for sales teams, however, is that demonstrating knowledge of their own company and its products isn’t what tops the charts for buyers. For all the emphasis on ensuring a prospective customer knows and understands a vendor’s capabilities, there’s an equally if not more important expectation that the vendor knows and understands their prospects.
More than two-thirds (68%) cite “knowledge of our company and its needs” as the top reason for choosing a winning vendor over others. Not far behind is high-quality content that speaks to their pain points, demonstrates knowledge, and shows potential ROI.
Content remains king and helps guide buyers toward an initial outreach. From there, sales rep communication must meet additional criteria, according to several write-in responses from respondents. They state that sales reps should:
Respond more quickly to requests
Open a dialogue with buyers instead of pitching to them
Share pricing information up-front
Better educate themselves on company-specific problems
Respect each buyer’s timeline and don’t rush them through the journey
Overall, the behaviors of B2B buyers are trending toward being more consumer-like, perhaps now more than ever. Some of this is due to greater influence of outside voices echoed on review sites and word of mouth exchanges, as well as more input from internal committees about purchase decisions.
Additionally, the impact of COVID-19, supply chain disruption, inflation, and other factors cannot be denied. Purchases at all levels are becoming more involved and highly considered — an increasingly prevalent norm born out of the "new normal."
Buyers want to be educated via content, and they want a personalized experience that is relevant and valuable at every stage of purchase consideration. Mapping the buyer's journey has taken on added importance, and is made easier using our Buyer's Journey Worksheet and Template. Be sure to download it today to help your marketing efforts more closely align with buyer preferences.
Posted by Nicole Mertes As Weidert Group's lead salesperson and business development strategist, Nicole heads up the agency's new business strategy and provides sales consulting services to clients.
Prior to her role at the agency, Nicole was an advertising manager at Gannett, one of the nation's largest media companies. With 10+ years of experience in advertising sales, she understands the complex relationship between marketing and sales within organizations.