eMarketer published on August 31st: Does Your Marketing Influence B2B Decision-Makers? — Word-of-mouth is a winner—marketing, not so much.
The article shared important and discouraging insights for B2B (business-to-business) content marketers:
Word-of-mouth is a key driver, with businesspeople looking to friends in the industry and other third-party experts ahead of traditional or digital marketing resources.
Nearly two in five respondents said their professional network was the No. 1 most influential source at purchasing time. Industry experts came in second place, followed by internal influencers. Vendor-supplied content was a distant fourth, with just 14% of responses.
I’ll address the B2B content marketing implications later in this post.
For now, let’s dive into two (2) key issues: (1) A B2B buyer’s professional network important influence in the outcomes of six- to seven-figure business deals / complex sales and (2) LinkedIn’s immediate importance in the B2B buyer journey.
The eMarketer article bases its conclusions on the following International Data Corporation survey: “Selling to the Information-Driven Business, a 2015 InfoBrief from IDC.”
I studied the survey responses from 200 businesses. If you’re a B2B marketer, the IDC data portrays a compelling story. The data reinforces why LinkedIn should be integrated into vital business development tactics and content marketing strategies:
- Identifying the true B2B buyer(s)
- Learning as much actionable information as possible about the B2B buyer(s) and their trusted, professional network
- Educating a prospective B2B buyer about your approach to solving her/his problem(s)
- Publishing mobile-friendly content to educate and engage a B2B buyer during the “upstream segments” or the “buyer’s researching phase” of the buyer journey
1. Use LinkedIn to Identify If The Person Sending The RFP Is the Real Buyer
LinkedIn’s utility in identifying who’s the real buyer(s) in a complex, B2B sale should never be underestimated. Connecting on LinkedIn with the initial B2B contact is critical during the pre-sale process. LinkedIn allows you to map out key players in the B2B buyer journey by unlocking answers to these questions:
- Is the initial contact a lower level team member tasked with coordinating the request for proposal (RFP) process?
- Who are the true / real buyers and decision makers making the purchasing decision?
- What departments does the buyer(s) originate from? Whose budget is paying for this sizable investment?
- Which department heads are impacted by a successful project outcome (or more importantly an unsuccessful outcome)?
If a lower-level team member initiated the RFP process or solicitation, examine the coordinator’s LinkedIn profile to:
- Learn her/his title and department — if the B2B investment is a high six- to seven-figure investment, the likelihood rises dramatically for the involvement of sign-offs
- Map out and informed, educated guesses on the organizational chart of the RFP coordinator’s department and adjacent ones to uncover the real buyer(s)
- Request introductions to the real buyer(s) / final decision makers during a conference call focused on reviewing specific RFP questions before submitting a first volley response*
*My apologies for the tennis reference. I’m a serious tennis player and fan. I couldn’t resist this reference to The U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
2. Maximize LinkedIn’s Advanced Search Capabilities to Learn More About The Buyer and Her/His Trusted Professional Network
After identifying the real buyer(s), carefully study her/his LinkedIn Profile to identify and understand the people within “the trusted professional network” (i.e., professional colleagues / personal relationships). 76% of the respondents said professional colleagues, industry experts, and/or industry influencers impact a B2B buying decision.
The buyer’s select relationships / professional colleagues (usually second degree LinkedIn connections) weigh most heavily in the purchasing outcome (based on 38% of the respondents).
Here’s where advanced LinkedIn B2B marketing strategies come in handy:
- Review the buyer’s LinkedIn Company Page to determine the relevant second degree connections linking you to your identified buyer and the target company
- Fire up LinkedIn’s Advanced Search capabilities to access the profiles of these second degree connections within the target company (and make informed judgment calls on whether or not they can influence your deal’s outcome)
- Uncover any LinkedIn content within its platform and group discussions published by your buyer and her/his company influencers participate in so you understand “how your buyer and her/his trusted professional network think”
- Save your Advanced Search Results for future reference. These queries are gold as you complete the RFP and prepare for pre-sale conference call discussions
- Find creative ways to gain access to and connect on LinkedIn with these second degree connections you saved from the Advanced Search Results. Why? Along with helping you map out comprehensive organizational charts to identify buyers, these connections may also become important referral sources for future RFPs from this company (direct quote from the IDC survey):
83% of respondents appreciated being approached by the vendor as long as they are relevant and contextual.
83% expect their professional network to provide introductions to new prospects, vendors, and sales professionals that they know might be of interest to the buyer.
3. Let Your LinkedIn Content Educate a B2B Buyer On “How You’d Think” About Solving Her/His Problem
IDC’s data states that a B2B organization’s marketing content like a vendor blog or independent blog has the lowest importance during the purchasing decision phase.
So, this data point validates blogging is dead (and an inherent waste of company time and resources). Right?
Are You Kidding Me? Puuhleeeeaaase …
Vendor content carries zero weight at the late stages of the B2B buyer journey because the buyer already made the purchasing decision before contacting you and your company. Don’t believe me?
Here’s another direct quote from the IDC’s survey:
When asked about their buying processes 65% of the respondents agreed that “We usually engage a vendor sales professional only when we have made a purchasing decision.”
That’s why publishing helpful, educational LinkedIn content (like blog posts) will differentiate you while the B2B buyer conducts her/his online research. Helpful, educational LinkedIn content accomplishes two (2) crucial business development and content marketing objectives for a B2B buyer initiating the buyer journey:
- Finding you and your company during the online research phase
- Understanding how you’d approach solving her/his problem(s)
During the Researching Phase of the B2B buyer journey, a vendor’s website and content rank higher than the input of the B2B buyer’s professional network. IDC’s data reports how the following information sources influence the B2B buyer (ranked from highest to lowest importance):
- Influencer / Expert Recommendation
- Vendor Web Sites
- Professional Network (on and offline)
- In-Person / Live Tradeshows / Events
- Internet Search
Here’s where content marketing wields enormous power and influence. These LinkedIn publishing tactics open up competitive advantages so a prospective B2B client finds your content and concludes how you’ll solve her/his problem:
The Bottom Line: Give people concrete reasons to learn and understand “how you think.” When a prospective B2B buyer is conducts research, she/he wants to know learn how you’ll approach solving her/his problem.
Publishing helpful content on LinkedIn gives the B2B buyer reasons to trust you (and provides reassurance why your approach won’t put her/his job at risk by hiring you).
4.Take Advantage of How LinkedIn Optimizes Marketing Content for Mobile Platforms
Furthermore, publishing mobile-friendly content optimized for smartphone viewing matters more than ever (not just because of Google’s algorithm changes). But, because we live in a mobile, one-screen world. The one in the palm of our hands.
LinkedIn mobile-optimizes our content especially for smartphone and tablet viewing. Publishing on LinkedIn automatically makes your content mobile-friendly. Here’s LinkedIn’s mobile apps download page in case you need it.
According to IDC’s data, a B2B buyer invests significant time researching your firm (and content) on a mobile device during the Researching Phase (direct quote from the IDC article):
When researching purchase decisions online, how often are you on a mobile device?
- 37% said 50% to 75% of the time
- 31% said 10% to 49% of the time
- 19% said more than 75% of the time
- 13% said less than 10% of the time
Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from you. I’m here to read, listen, and learn from YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Comments are open. So let’er rip!
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