Study: 93% of B2B buyers say reviews drive major purchase decisions

While consumer online reviews may seem only relevant for B2C, a study from The Alternative Board (TAB) shows that those reviews are just as important for B2B marketers. According to the survey, 93 percent of B2B buyers agreed that reviews and analysis drive major purchasing decisions for their businesses.

"Business owners need something tangible they can believe in before making a purchase," said David Scarola, VP of TAB, in a statement. "By interacting with the product or service in advance, they can form their own opinions based on what they experience, and either develop a relationship with the brand or end it before it even begins."

The report, "How Business Owners Make Buying Decisions," which polled 401 business owners, found 46 percent of respondents said getting good reviews from other business owners is by far the greatest single source in influencing buying decisions. Twenty-seven percent said they also value employee feedback, while a mere 10 percent chose vendors as being influential when it comes to purchase decisions.

The report said this may be indicative of a lack of trust: Just 6 percent of survey respondents said they are "very trusting" of information received from vendors, while more than half (57 percent) said the information they receive from vendors is too sales-oriented. But there is hope since 68 percent of B2B buyers said they are more likely to trust a vendor after engaging with an independent review of the product or service. The report urged B2B marketers to consider making their product widely available for review to develop an enthusiastic group of references prospects can tap.

"Third party validation is imperative, when it comes to convincing business owners to sign on the dotted line," Scarola said. "It removes the guesswork and some of the potential risk associated with making a large purchase. A recommendation from a trusted peer adds familiarity to the unknown."

While the study shows that prospects value independent product/service reviews, respondents also turn to vendors for content to help them make buying decisions. When evaluating a new product or service for purchase, B2B buyers learn about it from vendor representatives (46 percent), the company's website (29 percent) and conversation with a colleague (16 percent). Demonstrating that a product or service can increase revenue will also help marketers close the sale. Respondents said that while they most highly prize added value when making a purchase decision (56 percent), increasing revenue (32 percent) was three times as important as reducing costs (12 percent).

To gain confidence in a product or service, the report found 53 percent of respondents chose customer testimonials compared to 47 percent choosing customer case studies. "Vendors should spend considerable time building their database of references, testimonials and case studies. Video testimonials are much more effective than written testimonials," the study said.

The report also provided some good intel on how to initiate contact with a B2B prospective buyer. Forty-two percent of respondents preferred being contacted via email for the first time from a vendor, followed by calling the office (19 percent), a handwritten note (10 percent) and social media (3 percent). Tread lightly, though—26 percent said they'd rather not be bothered by vendors at all.

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